Orthomolecular medicine describes the practice of preventing and treating disease by providing the body with optimal amounts of substances which are natural to the body. The term “orthomolecular” was first used by Linus Pauling in a paper he wrote in the journal Science in 1968. The key idea in orthomolecular medicine is that genetic factors affect not only the physical characteristics of individuals, but also to their biochemical milieu. Biochemical pathways of the body have significant genetic variability and diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, schizophrenia or depression are associated with specific biochemical abnormalities which are causal or contributing factors of the illness.
The diseases contributing most heavily to death, illness, and disability among Americans changed dramatically during the last century. Today, chronic yet preventable diseases – such as cardiovascular disease (primarily heart disease and stroke), cancer, and diabetes – are among the most prevalent and costly health problems. Seven of every 10 Americans who die each year, or more than 1.7 million people, die of a chronic disease. The prolonged course of illness and disability from such chronic diseases as diabetes and arthritis results in extended pain and suffering and decreased quality of life for millions of Americans. Chronic, disabling conditions cause major limitations in activity for more than one of every 10 Americans, or 25 million people.
Consider these facts from the Center for disease Control:
- More than 90 million Americans live with chronic illnesses.
- Chronic diseases account for 70% of all deaths in the United States.
- The medical care costs of people with chronic diseases account for more than 75% of the nation’s $1.4 trillion medical care costs.
- Chronic diseases account for one-third of the years of potential life lost before age 65.
- The direct medical costs associated with physical inactivity were nearly $76.6 billion in 2000.
- Direct cost to healthcare system in U.S. attributed to obesity was $75 billion dollars in 2003.
Extensive medical research shows that lifestyle and dietary changes can significantly improve quality of life and reduce pain and suffering for many chronic illnesses, and yet, the mainstream medicine continues to apply emergency room techniques of drug based chemical interventions that are useful only in dire emergencies to the problems that are best addressed with lifestyle changes – the problems are very simple in principle, yet complex in details. The two principles are these: chronic disease is caused by deficiencies of specific nutrients and toxicities of substances that should not be ingested in the first place.
What is Functional Medicine?
The basic biochemical processes of our bodies are unique and do not belong to any one medical specialty or disease category. For example, inflammation can affect any of your body systems, and may show up in your circulatory, digestive and skin issues. Using orthodox medicine you would see 3 specialists that would treat these problems in isolation. Functional Medicine evaluates this process through testing and seeks to enhance all aspects of health primarily through nutritional and lifestyle changes.
Functional Medicine is a search for optimal health and wellnessinstead of a search for pathology. It makes prevention possible, and vibrant health attainable.
Basic Concepts of Funtional Medicine
- Biochemical Individuality-based on genetics we are unique in how we digest our food, metabolize nutrients and how quickly we age. Our functional differences are caused by our thinking, emotions, and nutrition.
- Health as a Positive Vitality-Health is not only the absence of disease but the presence of physical, mental and social well being. (World Health Organization Criteria-1952)
- Homeodynamics rather than homeostasis-we each maintain bodily functions such as body temperature, blood pressure, fluid and electrolyte balance and a myriad of other physiological functions within an ever fluctuating and non-static range of viability unique to each individual.
- Health is created through a complex web of interacting physical systems and feedback loops of mutual interdependence for immune, hormonal, neurological and cardiovascular functioning.
Primary Conditions treated by Functional Medicine
- Digestive Disorder
- Thyroid Disorder
- Fibromyalgia (FMS) (chronic muscle pains & tender points)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (gas, pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation)
- Menopause and Perimenopausal hormonal conditions, PMS
- Low Thyroid
- Arthritis (Osteo and Rheumatoid)
- Diabetes Adult (Type II)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis)
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or Environmental Illness
- Asthma, Allergies, Chronic Sinusitis
- Weight Loss
- Mood and Anxiety Disorders (depression, panic attacks)
- ADHD & Hyperactivity
- Physical Performance – Endurance Athletes (swimmers, cyclists, runners)
- Food Allergies
- Psoriasis & Eczema (skin problems)
- Autism and developmental disorders of children
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Arthritis Pain Relief
- Chronic Fatigue and Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS)
- Chronic Fatigue (CFS)
- Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X or Insulin Resistance Syndrome
Core Principles of Functional Medicine
1. Gastro-intestinal and liver function: including the concepts of “dysbiosis” (imbalanced gut flora) and intestinal permeability (leaky gut), liver detoxification involving Phase I (p-450 activity) and Phase II pathways (glutathione conjugation, glycine conjugation, sulfation, and glucuronidation). Having relevance for IBS & inflammatory bowel disorders, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, osteo & rheumatoid arthritis, multiple chemical sensitivity, autoimmune conditions, hormonal and mood disorders, and neurological disorders including Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Mitochondrial dysfunction: disruptions of oxidative phosphorylation impairing energy production clinically relevant for all pain and fatigue conditions as well as neurological disorders.
3. Methylation defects involving problems with B-12, folate, & B-6 metabolism related to disorders of homocysteine: cardiovascular, cancer, depression & neurological, MS and many others.
4. Dysglycemia & Dysinsulinism: a seminal process in aging, the gradual loss of insulin sensitivity progressing to hyperinsulinism resulting in Syndrome X problems (CHD, Type II diabetes, & hypertension,) cancer, premature aging, obesity.
5. Intracellular communication: The impact of cytokines, interleukins, leukotriens, TNF, NF kappa B and other inflammatory mediators and transcription factors relating to virtually every chronic disease process. e.g. asthma & allergy, inflammatory disorders, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, migraines.
6. Oxidative stress involving free radical production and reactive oxygen species measured through saliva and urine levels of catechols, 2,3 dihydroxybenzoate and urine lipid peroxide superoxide dismutase, relevant to all degenerative processes, chronic illnesses and inflammatory conditions.