Flirting With Functional Medicine
I wrote this in 2018, still just flirting, but still very interested...
“I used to brag that I was taking all those medications so I could keep eating anything I wanted. I guess that isn’t working anymore”, said the rotund sixtysomething man in front of me.
I had never met him before, but I have seen plenty of people like him. His Hemoglobin A1c had been rising steadily over several years, and now his diabetes was way out of control and his copays for all the newfangled pills and shots he was taking were crippling his retirement lifestyle just as much as his obesity and neuropathy were.
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I delivered my usual, miniature plain talk monologue, aided by my personal iPad. I have a table of what happened to another patient’s numbers in one year following such an intervention.
I call this person my “flex fuel man”, because, just like many cars, our bodies can run on different kinds of fuel, but most people are hesitant to switch fuel even though what they’re using now clearly isn’t working anymore.
I tell my diabetic patients that I agree with the notion that a balanced diet is generally best, but that their diet so far has probably been unbalanced enough to completely stress their carbohydrate burning system. It is as if they have already had their lifetime supply of carbohydrates and they now need to correct that imbalance.
The man in front of me became enthusiastic and said he would stop eating processed, carbohydrate rich foods and eat more like our ancestors, more similar to my own post-vegetarian diet (more on that here).
Thinking more deeply about these conversations that I am having more and more often, I guess I am steadily moving closer to what has had many names and permutations but has now become known as Functional Medicine.
Chronic disease is crippling our people and our healthcare system. Like the man said, many medications, blockbuster drugs, are developed and promoted so people can keep doing what is obviously hurting them. This is true for diabetes, hypertension and countless chronic disease processes we know to be linked to inflammation, gut bacterial imbalance and more or less subtle nutritional deficiencies and toxin buildups.
Functional Medicine is about addressing these root causes of disease.
I, for one, am starting to devote a few of my precious fifteen minutes with patients to the conversation starter “There is another way to handle this”.
My experiences with curing diabetes have nudged me toward a new journey.