What is functional medicine?

What is functional medicine?

It is a new approach to medical care which seeks to find the underlying root cause of symptoms and treat those symptoms “upstream” by removing the root cause other than treating the symptoms “downstream” by simply masking them with medication. It also represents a shift in the traditional Western medicine therapeutic encounter from a disease centered approach to a patient centered approach by viewing the patient as a whole person rather than as an isolated group of symptoms. Think of a sink that is overflowing and there is water all over the floor; the drain is clogged and the faucet is still running full blast. While western medicine focuses primarily on mopping the floor it does very little to stop the sink from overflowing and thus often times treatments and medications are but a part of vicious cycle that rarely actually treats the issue. You can never stop mopping the floor. Functional medicine focuses on shutting off the faucet and unclogging the drain, while at the same time supporting the immediate issue with mopping the floor as needed. The goal however is to eventually get rid of the mop.

Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.

Functional medicine is also a collaborate effort where the doctor and the patient are a team and the patient is empowered to take control of their own health. This is in contrast to the traditional doctor/patient relationship where often times the patient has no control or at least FEELS that way.

Functional medicine views each patient as a unique individual with different genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors all of which play a role in disease development. Treatment plans are personalized for each individual, not lumped into a category by disease as is the tendency in western medicine.

Functional medicine is science based, updating with all of the latest research. It is deeply rooted in the basic physiology of the body, viewing it as an integrated complex system that cannot be treated in terms of isolated organs or disease. Understanding the relationships of the different biological systems and how they interact with each other is key component to functional medicine that is regularly absent from the traditional medical approach.

Functional medicine sees the body as an incredible and powerful system that has a built in ability to heal. Most of what functional medicine practitioners do is to help you restore your body’s own ability to heal rather than relying on medication; and when provided with the right information from you diet, lifestyle and environment your body will reach a point of vitality where chronic disease will not even develop.

Functional medicine considers all aspects of a persons story when treating a patient and is centered around mind body spirit approach. Wellness isn’t just the absence of disease or physical symptoms but is a feeling of vitality with not only a healthy body but an equally healthy mind and spirit. Just as the biological systems of the body cannot be treated as an isolated issue, the body cannot be treated isolated from the person as a whole.

Finally, functional medicine places an emphasis on equipping the patient with the tools they need to facilitate the changes required. Rather than simply telling a patient to “lose weight”, functional medicine providers spend more time with patients and or provide health/life coaches to help patients navigate the difficult but very doable process of change.

Why do we need functional medicine?

Western medicine is quite good at acute care issues. For example, injury or infection.
However, western medicine has not done a very good job at treating chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even less thought of entities such as auto immune disease and mental illness. Chronic disease is becoming a world wide epidemic. Despite all the advanced medications and treatments Western Medicine has developed over the years, chronic disease is increasing at an alarming rate and there is no end in sight. Functional medicine, by looking at the underlying root cause of chronic disease is better equipped to not only stop the progression of chronic disease by removing the underlying causative factor (such as ongoing chronic inflammation) but can actually reverse it and is most effective when it comes to preventing the development of disease long before it is a clinical problem. In contrast, much of Western medicine is reactionary – meaning it waits until disease has developed to act by treating the patient and rarely reverses or stops the disease, it merely slows it.

Who is functional medicine for?

Anyone who is willing to take control of their life and health and partner with someone dedicated to making them not only healthy but well. Whether you are suffering from a chronic disease and looking for an alternative or you are healthy but looking to stay that way, functional medicine has something to offer. As part of the therapeutic process however, patients must be willing to change. Diet, lifestyle and environment modifications are generally the first line treatment plan.

The Rebel: Loving Yourself, part II


I recently wrote a blog about loving myself. I mentioned several things that loving myself has done for me including increasing my capacity for joy and fun. Another thing I have noticed is that how I treat myself has dramatically changed. Not only in my thoughts and how I talk to myself but in how I treat my physical body as well.
I used to be very self critical and my head was constantly full of negative thoughts that put myself down. I’m fat. I’m ugly. I’m slow. I’m stupid. I’m lazy. The list goes on and on. If it is negative, I have likely said it to myself sometime over the last 40 plus years. Someone once asked me if that is how I would talk to a dear friend and of course the answer was no. Or, would you remain friends with someone who constantly talked to you that way? Also probably no. I know personally If I had a friend that was always telling me I’m fat and stupid I would probably stop hanging out with that person. But yet for a long time I allowed myself to talk to me like that. Over the last year or so I have come to understand the wisdom in that analysis and as I have evolved into a self loving creature, I find the negative thoughts have decreased and I now talk to myself in a more endearing way – one in which I might talk to a good friend. After all, we are all our own best friends right? I try to think nurturing and kind thoughts. If I do something that might not be the best decision, I allow myself space for mistakes and tell myself I’m human and doing the best I can rather than “I’m stupid” or “I have no discipline”, etc. It really makes a difference in how I feel on a daily basis. In the spirit of total honesty, I have numerous moments still in which those negative thoughts creep in – in fact I have a name for the altar ego. More than one name actually. But now, as I become more aware of these thoughts I am able to recognize when that altar ego is trying to emerge and I am better able to tell her to sit down and shut up. Sometimes I’m not as successful as others, and it’s a work in progress – but every time I hear that voice it gets a little easier to ignore it.
On a physical level, as I evolve into someone who genuinely cares for her own self, I find myself much more interested in doing things that promote my physical health (and avoiding things that are detrimental). It’s much easier than it used to be to avoid junk food, alcohol, etc. When you don’t love yourself the tendency is to abuse yourself. Mentally AND physically. Overeating, alcohol, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep, etc. For me, it was eating too much of the wrong foods, drinking too much alcohol and not moving. I just didn’t care about my health because why care about something you don’t like? Now that I love myself I find myself eating better, exercising and even making sure I get enough sleep. I treat my body like a precious commodity. Do I have moments where I give in to cravings or imbibe a bit? Yep. Absolutely I do. But there is a difference between those indulgences now versus in the past. Previously I did it mindlessly – it was automatic and habit. It was a subconscious way of keeping myself in a space that “deserved” the negative thoughts. Now, those indulgences are mindful and intentional deviations for the purpose of an occasional pleasure. It’s also only an occasional event as opposed to a full time occupation and it’s done with self love in mind as opposed to self sabotage. After all – having a piece of cake or a social drink on occasion is pleasurable when done from the right place and allowing pleasure is a way of expressing self love. The work I have done over the last year has allowed me to get to a place where I can recognize the difference and before indulging I stop to think just a bit about the intent. Yes, there are times when I sense the intent is not for pleasure. But those are getting much less frequent as I travel this path. And when I do have those moments, I go back to allowing myself space for mistakes. As I allow myself that space, I find that I make far fewer of them. Another distinction in my relationship with food is that in the past I was able to diet and eat well but the intent behind it was “dieting” because I needed to lose weight in an attempt to get that “I’m fat” voice out of my head.  It was a form of punishment for being less than perfect.  However, eating now is for the purpose of being good to my body and being healthy.  It’s not a punishment, it’s a desire to treat my body with respect and to live healthy.  I am also much more physically active again.  There is a difference in mentality there too.  In the past, the exercise was again, a punishment of some sort for not being good enough – a necessary evil for needed weight loss.  Now, it’s an activity I enjoy because my body likes moving and being active and it likes to be in shape for things I find pleasurable, like hiking mountains and doing triathlons.  I also find myself grateful for the opportunity and ability to participate rather than resentful that I HAVE to do it.
These changes would not be nearly as easy – or even possible really – without a look inside and a shift in mindset from self abuse to self love. I now have a mindset that I am absolutely worth the effort it takes to treat my mind and my body in a loving caring way and take the steps necessary to maintain my health – mentally and physically.  And as a result, I am much more amazed at what I am actually capable of than I have ever been before.  In closing, I look at the picture of me as a child below and I grieve slightly at how poorly I had treated her for so long.  Not anymore.  kim1

Accept Yourself; Now Get Better?!

Note:  This was originally written before I started my “transformation journey”.  I had periods in my life prior to that where I had glimpses of where I was headed and this was written during one of the periods.  But it still fully applies to where I am now, so I am publishing this on my blog because it is as true today as it was when I wrote it several years ago.


Self acceptance. Some argue it’s the key to happiness, and from my own personal experiences, the lack of it can certainly lead to a lot of misery and frustration. I have spent years learning to accept myself for who I am, and I have finally reached some success in that regard. But what I have found along the way, is that it is a slippery slope from self acceptance to complacency, and with complacency comes stagnation -in some cases even regression. It’s a very fine balancing act to accept who/where I am and yet stay motivated to become better. It is difficult to not mistake desire to get better/improve in any area with self dissatisfaction/self hate. If there is complete self embrace, it is difficult to channel desire/motivation to get better. For me, my struggle is with body weight and fitness level. I find myself having to balance being ok with the extra weight or the slow bike time and yet maintain the drive it takes to stay motivated over the long haul to achieve results in these areas. The ultimate self love would seem to just say you are perfect the way you are, in which case there would be no need to watch the diet or exercise. The ultimate self hate would seem to say that you are very imperfect and will never be any in which case there is no need to diet or exercise. The balance is to accept the now but strive for better.
I think there are two keys to this balance act. They are confidence and patience.
It is easier to accept where you are if you are both confident in where you are ultimately going and have the patience to allow yourself the time and grace to get there. If either one of these is lacking, then that balance slips to one side or the other of the beam.
Having the confidence of self allows you to know that whatever or wherever the goal is, you can and will achieve it. For me, I have struggled with my weight my entire life. It is only when I learned to accept where I was but KNOW that I had the power to and eventually would lose weight that I was able to actually achieve it. The self acceptance moves beyond the frustration of the now and enters into a place where you feel empowered and at peace knowing that the “now” is going to change.
Most things, losing weight and becoming fit included, take considerable time. Not much happens overnight. I tend to be an instant gratification type person and well, when weight loss didn’t happen dramatically overnight I became frustrated and dissatisfied with myself in my efforts and was less able to accept the now. It was when I learned that it is a process and allowed myself the grace and time needed that I was able to succeed. Patience here refers to not only temporal patience but also patience with yourself. Not all days are good, and some will seem like setbacks or disappointments in terms of the ultimate goal. However, when you are patient with yourself, there is room for mistakes and even failure. In patience, these setbacks don’t reflect on the person in the now – only delay the inevitable success.
With the confidence and patience needed, I can accept who I am because I know that I will always strive for and ultimately get better and I have the patience to allow myself however long it takes to get there.