21st Century Medicine
Integrative and Functional Medicine Introduction
Integrative Medicine: An Introduction
In the early years of the 21st century, various alternative forms of medicine have gained increasing popularity as physicians begin taking a more holistic approach to treating their patients, no longer simply concentrating on treating a disease. One of these approaches, used by Dr. Engels in her practice, is Integrative Medicine.
Integrative Medicine can be defined as a holistic medical discipline that takes into account the lifestyle habits of the patient and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing. Rather than treating just the disease, the physician works to treat the whole person. The body, mind and soul of the patient are taken into consideration to promote healing and well-being.
Further, Integrative Medicine combines the latest conventional medical treatments with alternative therapies that are carefully selected and known to be effective and safe. Non-traditional therapies might include modalities such as acupuncture, yoga and massage therapy. This approach to treatment also focuses on the nutritional and exercise habits of the patient to reduce factors related to obesity and disease.
Physicians who practice Integrative Medicine essentially believe that poor lifestyle choices are the root cause of many chronic diseases, that the patient and the physician should be equal partners in the healing process, and that preference should be given to natural and less invasive procedures.
In her approach to the use of Integrative Medicine, Dr. Engels offers a number of modalities including:
- Nutrition counseling
- Micro-Needling Facial Rejuvenation
- Stress management
- Sleep optimization
- Micro-Needling Hair Restoration
- Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy
- Weight loss programs
- Supplement recommendations
- Genetic testing
- IV nutrition therapy
- Personalized nutrition plans
In addition to Integrative Medicine, a similar but slightly different approach to medical treatment gaining in popularity is Functional Medicine, also used by Dr. Engels in her practice. Functional Medicine is sometimes referred to as “upstream medicine” because it seeks to find the root cause of illness before it becomes chronic disease.
The Functional Medicine approach centers around the idea that one condition can have many causes, or conversely, that one cause can lead to many conditions. As an example, a patient’s depression might be caused by a combination of Vitamin D deficiency, low thyroid and antibiotic use. Or, a patient could be suffering from a combination of depression, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, all stemming from inflammation somewhere in their body.
In commenting on the treatment of her patients, Dr. Engels says, “I obtain a very detailed history from the patient, and I try to identify possible triggers to the illnesses and imbalances that they are suffering from. I also do necessary lab testing to try to get a clearer picture of what is going on with them.”
In her practice at WeCare Frisco, Dr. Engels uses a combination of these two approaches as she believes that both are needed to provide optimal care, treatment and recovery. Both Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine seek to provide patients with different options for treatment that avoid surgery and medication overload.
Each approach to your treatment can benefit your life in a different way, and you’re invited to contact WeCare Frisco to schedule your initial consultation with Dr. Engels.
When people ask me, what is Functional Medicine? I say it is the science of creating health.
Instead, what most of us experience today is conventional medicine, which focuses on diagnosis and treatment. It is what I, and all other doctors in practice today, learned in medical school. The goal in modern medicine or conventional medicine is to diagnose illnesses based on symptoms and geography. If you check enough boxes of the right symptoms, you get a diagnosis.
For example, if you have pain and inflammation in certain joints and abnormal lab tests, you receive the diagnosis Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). That’s the end of thinking in conventional or modern medicine. You name the disease and then are told that Rheumatoid arthritis is causing your joint pain. It is not the cause, but simply the name. The causes could be many. In fact, anything that causes inflammation could trigger RA—Lyme disease, gluten, leaky gut, or mercury toxicity.
Naming the disease tells you nothing about the cause. We call it the naming and blaming game. Then most doctors treat the downstream symptoms instead of the upstream causes. Since RA is an inflammatory disease, patients are given powerful drugs, including steroids, chemotherapy drugs, and powerful immune suppressants called biologics that shut off inflammation, all with terrible side effects.
Wouldn’t a better approach be to find the cause and remove that?
Don’t get me wrong, conventional medicine is absolutely necessary in the face of emergencies and life-threatening illness, but what is missing is the science of prevention and creating optimal health. What is missing is the fundamental understanding that our body is an interconnected system and that all of our daily inputs (food, exercise, joy, etc.) influence our health status.
The best example of a discovery that completely disrupts our old notion of disease is the microbiome, which wasn’t even discussed or named as a thing in medicine twenty years ago. The microbiome breaks the old idea of single cause, single disease, single drug model. Changes in our microbiome have been linked to cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autism, depression, dementia, asthma, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease, allergies, skin disorders, and much more.
We need a different model to explain these discoveries. Just as Einstein turned physics upside and challenged Newton’s paradigm, so too Functional Medicine overturns our outdated understanding of biology, human health, and disease.
Functional Medicine focuses on the root cause. The approach to restoring health is simple. Take out the bad stuff. Add the good stuff. The body’s natural intelligence and healing mechanisms do the rest. We start with removing the cause (or causes) and then replace what the body needs to thrive. There are only a few causes that result in almost all disease (other than dominant inherited genetic diseases like Down’s Syndrome). They include toxins, allergens, microbes, poor diet, and stress.
These triggers of disease interact with your genes and all your basic biological networks. In addition to these triggers, there are necessary ingredients for health – real food, nutrients, hormones, light, water, air, rest, rhythm, sleep, movement, love, connection, meaning, and purpose.
Disease occurs when you have too many triggers and not enough of the right ingredients. Creating health is simply a matter of identifying and removing the triggers and replacing the necessary ingredients for health.
My goal is to spread this message far and wide so that preventative medicine becomes the norm, and we live in a society that is thriving rather than crippling under the epidemic of chronic disease.