In 2001, Dr. Sharp, our functional medicine doctor, was introduced to Functional Medicine, which provides a biochemical framework for viewing health as the intricate and interconnected function of our physiological systems. This helped bring a scientific basis to the Traditional Chinese Medicine he had studied in the late ’90s for an acupuncture course, where the causation of symptoms is understood in the context of connection and interrelatedness of systems. Under both of these paradigms, the assumption is that properly nurtured, the innate wisdom of the body can both defend itself against ‘invasion’ by pathogens and right itself when an imbalance occurs.
Since then, his practice has been primarily this:
- To understand illness and unwellness as a disruption of the innately balanced function of our interconnected metabolic processes
- To address imbalance and dysfunction by nurturing those processes back to health
The process is often a fascinating task of detective work – a functional medicine doctor working with the client to understand the complex chronology of events that led to the illness and developing a working hypothesis regarding its source and treatment. The more complex the illness the more useful this approach can be. Most people with complex illness innately understand that the gastrointestinal, mood, and pain symptoms, for example, are all related but when discussing their illness with a conventional medical specialist the specialist is only interested in the system of their specialty.
Sometimes we undertake biological testing to gather more data; other times we start with targeted nutritional supplements and therapeutic lifestyle changes. Pharmaceutical medication is sometimes a necessary tool in this approach to recovering balanced function, though rarely as a first course.
In our practice, functional medicine is a process of discovery and as such is often slower than a primarily pharmaceutical approach. Our functional medicine doctor believes it ultimately offers much more promise for achieving and sustaining wellness and prolonging life, than the symptom-suppression of pharmaceutical medicine alone.