“I am so happy, I am so grateful I came to Dr. Roach for treatment. My hair was falling out; my nails were dry and brittle and breaking; I was lethargic…. When I was filling out the questionnaire, I realized that this was an indepth analysis and I would get to the root of my symptoms…. And I feel so much better in four weeks! I’ve lost 11 pounds; my hair is no longer falling out; my nails are growing. I am just elated with how much better I feel.” —Linda B., Charlotte NC
How does Functional Medicine differ from Traditional Medicine?
Traditional Western Medicine is best at treating acute physical trauma (from accidents or life-threatening illnesses) through operations, pharmaceuticals, and hospital care. Physicians trained this way, though, are often poor at helping people with chronic illnesses that last for years.
Patients with chronic conditions—related to a low-thyroid problem, to diabetes, to sex-hormone imbalances, to adrenal exhaustion, or to hidden food allergies—often see expensive specialists and get little real help.
Functional Medicine doctors treat the whole patient rather than symptoms alone. The real underlying CAUSE of chronic trouble is found only by looking at entire body-systems (endocrine/hormonal, nervous, immune, and gastrointestinal). Even if two patients have the same disease or weakness, each person is as unique as fingerprints. In his practice, Dr. Steven Roach considers the whole person, including lab results, lifestyle, emotional stress, and a detailed patient history.
In a traditional medical office, physicians who ignore a deeper analysis of low-thyroid symptoms, for instance, are failing their patients by just writing prescriptions for thyroid medication and dismissing the fact that these patients are often suffering as much as they were before taking thyroid hormone.
How does Functional Medicine approach low-thyroid symptoms?
There are many reasons why a thyroid-hormone blood test might yield a “normal” TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) result and yet the patient continues to suffer with hypothyroid symptoms:
- The body is having trouble converting the inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) to the active form that can be used (T3). The kidneys and liver need to be healthy, because most of the conversion of T4 to T3 happens there. The GI tract needs to have enough good bacteria, too.
- Too much cortisol (from stress) can shut down the pituitary’s ability to produce anough TSH to signal the thyroid gland to produce more hormone.
- There is enough active thyroid hormone available in the body, but hormone receptor sites in the cells are not receiving it properly.
The above is just a small list of the many possibilities that a Functional Medicine doctor, like Dr. Steven Roach, considers.
Does Functional Medicine ever support pharmaceutical use?
It does, but in a very limited way. The goal is to work with the body, to bring healing naturally; therefore, pharmaceuticals with side effects are avoided, unless they are absolutely necessary to sustain wellness. A Type 1 diabetic, for instance, would continue to take insulin; however, a Functional Medicine doctor would seek to minimize damage from bad blood-sugar regulation and from other imbalances caused by this endocrine problem. Though remaining a Type 1 diabetic, this patient would have a better chance of avoiding troubling complications from her illness.
What does Functional Medicine treatment involve?
Treatment might involve pharmaceutical-grade nutritional and herbal supplements for a time, to bring genuine healing to the root of the problem. Pharmaceutical-strength, natural supplements are produced in health labs with very stringent purity standards and are sold to Functional Medicine doctors and to a limited number of pharmacies for patient care. Their strength and quality are superior to anything found at a health-food store, for instance. A patient might also be encouraged to make lifestyle and dietary changes.
This approach to healthcare is far more restorative and cost-effective than expensive and potentially damaging prescription drugs which target symptoms alone. Functional Medicine is a healing alternative to the traditional model of shallow diagnoses and unsatisfying prescription drugs with side effects.
Dr. Datis Kharrazian has done groundbreaking work in understanding autoimmunity and Hashimoto’s Disease and is widely respected. An Associate Professor at Loma Linda School of Medicine and a post-doctoral research scholar at Harvard Medical School, he develops programs for the Institute for Functional Medicine. Author of the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal, Dr. Datis Kharrazian recommends Dr. Steven Roach: