Americans are not living longer, healthier lives. Can functional medicine change that?
Despite incredible advances in modern medicine including research breakthroughs and life-saving medications and devices, Americans are not actually living longer, healthier lives. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy has actually been falling over recent years. In fact, this is the first time since the 1918 flu pandemic that Americans have experienced a loss in years of life. Experts say that this decrease cannot be attributed to one single problem, but numerous factors including increased rates of suicide and the opioid epidemic.
If you have a common health concern like high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, mental illness, arthritis or asthma and visit your doctor, you are likely offered medication as a primary part of your treatment plan. It is no secret that the causes of many common health problems stem from lifestyle factors such as diet, inactivity and stress, however our health care system doesn’t strive to identify and ameliorate these root causes of chronic illness. If you are seeking out a lifestyle approach to better health that focuses on prevention, functional medicine may be right for you.
Functional medicine takes the science of medical training and a systems-focused medical approach to identify and better understand the underlying causes of disease. Functional medicine practitioners see themselves as patient-centered, treating the individual, not the disease. In functional medicine, the healthcare plan is personalized and unique and practitioners spend more time educating and counseling patients.
At a recent event entitled Food as Medicine at The Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn, Chef Jeffrey Zurofsky and Dr. Robin Berzin of Parsley Health discussed the popular diets – Paleo, Keto and Vegan for better health and vitality. While they didn’t recommend one specific diet above others, they did suggest that we are all different and need a nutrition plan that meets our own unique needs. Overall, they recommend a plan that includes a variety of plants and minimizes highly processed foods. They highlighted the important role of nutrition in health promotion and healing.
At Parsely Health, a healthcare company with offices across the county, doctors offer primary care services that combine modern medicine and technology with a functional, whole body approach. These doctors focus on nutrition, exercise, genetics, and mental health as major factors impacting well-being. Functional medicine doctors will refer their patients to specialists, such as cardiologists or dermatologists, as needed.
Unlike unqualified health coaches or those who earn quick online certificates, functional medicine practitioners are doctors or other medical professionals practicing evidence-based health care using modern diagnostic testing. If you are interested in incorporating functional medicine into your health care, it is important to seek services from a qualified provider. Check the credentials of providers and go with a qualified professional including a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathic medicine, nurse practitioner, doctor of chiropractic or a doctor of naturopathic medicine. If you have a medical condition, seek a provider who specializes in your condition.
As health care costs are rising while Americans are not achieving better health outcomes, functional medicine couldn’t be gaining attention at a better time. Preventative health care services that address causes of illness and educate and empower patients to live healthier lives are the future. If we can shift from a society that puts its resources into treating the symptoms of disease to a society that considers the social, economic and environmental origins of health problems, we can make additional strides to live longer and better lives as a whole.
LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, provides nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and businesses. Send LeeAnn an email at RD@halfacup.com.