Various forms of alternative medicine, such as functional medicine and integrative medicine, have been quickly gaining popularity in the 21st century. Both disciplines are highly regarded by world-renowned health care practitioners such as Drs. Deepak Chopra, Mark Hyman and Dean Ornish. Many believe functional and integrative medicine are the future of medicine. Physicians are beginning to take a more holistic approach to treating patients, no longer just concentrating on treating a disease.
Although functional medicine and integrative medicine have similarities and overlap in several areas, there are a few factors that make each discipline somewhat unique. What are the key points to living a healthy life? Here are some tips from a Functional Medicine approach, which looks at systems, not symptoms. Functional medicine is concerned with how everything in the body communicates and works together, and how symptoms are often the result of a breakdown in that communication. Functional medicine practitioners consider such factors as nutrition, environmental influences, unsuspected food reactions, and the role of lifestyle and stress on ultimate health.
In other words, it’s medicine as it should be practiced. “Western medicine looks at how to treat a symptom for a population,” says Dr. Steven Masley. “Functional medicine looks at how to optimize the health and function of each person.”
1. Food. First, says Masley, make sure you’re getting at least 30 grams of fiber per day. Then throw in “lean and clean” protein and lots of healthy fats. You don’t have to avoid saturated fat, but you should steer clear of damaged fats-such as oils used over and over in restaurants-as well as too many pro-inflammatory omega-6s (found in most vegetable oils). And cut man-made trans fats from your diet.
2. Exercise. “You can’t be healthy without exercising,” Masley says. “If I know your fitness level, I have a good idea of the amount of plaque in your arteries.” Masley is a fan of interval training. “The fitter you get, the more interval training you can do and the less time it will take.”
3. Heart healthy supplements. Masley recommends fish oil and vitamin D (“a significant predictor of plaque”), magnesium, vitamin K, and coenzyme Q10.
4. Managing stress. “Get enough sleep, go for a workout, do some meditation, or look at the Heart Math program.”
5. Fabulous flavors. “If it doesn’t taste good, people won’t eat it,” says Masley. He encourages the liberal use of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory spices such as chili powder, curry, garlic, and ginger.
Follow a holistic approach to keeping well, you will only need to see a doctor when you are sick.