Healing Chronic Illness with Functional Medicine
Chronic health issues can be a daily burden. Many are suffering with Post-COVID (or Long-COVID) syndrome, that includes fatigue, brain fog, and residual heart, lung, liver and kidney issues. Sadly, ongoing symptoms are often dismissed or inadequately addressed by mainstream medicine. Conventional medicine usually manages disease with pharmaceuticals that often cause debilitating side effects and compound the problem. Thus, while patients may have symptomatic relief, their underlying medical problems continue to progress. Alternatively, Functional Medicine addresses the root causes of health issues, helping patients heal from disease. Functional medicine optimizes health by addressing the disease processes, minimizing symptoms and helping to decrease the need for pharmaceutical medications.
Functional medicine physicians use a personalized, whole-body approach to achieving the best treatment plan for patients by assessing the biochemical, nutritional and emotional contributors to disease. These providers use conventional, alternative, prescription, non-prescription and lifestyle treatments to provide a comprehensive approach to treating disease and optimizing health.
Health Issues Start with Inflammation
The root of all health issues lies in inflammation, whether the issue is a disease like cancer, high cholesterol, diabetes or autoimmunity; or whether it is a symptom like fatigue, brain fog, weight difficulties, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, joint aches or headaches. Where the inflammation manifests itself in the body is determined by a person’s genetic makeup. Factors such as stress, diet, infection, environmental toxins, blood sugar imbalances, and heavy metals can turn genes on or off, thus affecting the body’s various physiological processes in ways that can lead to disease.
Inflammatory cytokines, chemicals involved in the inflammatory process, are produced which lead to further damage and inflammation. This has been one of the underlying factors of moderate to severe COVID19. While it was once thought that someone was doomed by their genetic makeup, it is now believed that 80% of the etiology of disease is due to non-genetic, lifestyle factors. Diet, sleep, exercise and stress management are huge contributors to health. Knowing that these things are in a person’s control can give much hope for improvement and recovery.
Food Can Contribute to Inflammation
While food is the basis for nutrition, it is also a huge contributor to inflammation. The Standard American Diet is filled with processed and nutritionally depleted foods, additives, inflammatory oils, hormones and environmental toxins. These overburden the liver detoxification pathways and directly interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Decreased digestive enzymes due to aging, infection, cholecystectomy, and malnutrition compounds the lack of absorption and breakdown of food particles. If foods are not broken down properly, this can lead to overgrowth of bacteria in the gut, food sensitivities, and the depletion of amino acids that are necessary as the building blocks of all proteins and enzymes in the body. Nutrient depletion can be the cause of fatigue, headaches, pain, brain fog and other symptoms due to the inability to produce energy and enzymes for proper physiological function.
In addition to being responsible for the absorption of nutrients, the gut houses the microbiome and a large component of our immune system. The microbiome has huge impacts on everything from metabolism to mood. Correcting imbalances of the microbiome or removing pathogens in the gut can help relieve many symptoms.
Stress and Your Immune System
Stress is a big factor in disease. Whether the stress is real or imagined, the body responds by secreting cortisol. Cortisol will interfere with blood sugar regulation, neurotransmitters, the thyroid (responsible for metabolism) and the immune system. This can manifest as difficulties with sleeping, weight problems, fatigue, pain, depression, memory issues and anxiety, among other symptoms. Helping to regulate the stress response and boosting the immune system with the proper nutrients and supplements can help prevent infections and help recovery from ongoing problems.
Stress, gut issues, inflammation, and exposure to environmental toxins can overburden the liver and its ability to detoxify. Many nutrients and vitamins are necessary for the liver to function properly. Assessing and optimizing liver function is imperative to obtaining maximal health and to minimizing the effects of aging.
Functional Medicine practitioners use the most up-to-date tests to evaluate stress, the gut, the liver detoxification pathways, neurotransmitters, nutrition and environmental toxins. By identifying imbalances, deficiencies and infections, these providers create individualized treatment plans to help patients feel better and address the underlying causes of their symptoms and disease processes. Functional Medicine provides hope to those who are suffering and helps people achieve optimal health.
The Center for Holistic Healthcare welcomes Jennifer Letitia, M.D. as a Functional Medicine physician. Originally a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon and Hand Surgeon, Dr. Letitia first became aware of Functional Medicine through her own health journey. She decided to change fields in medicine because she felt that as a Functional Medicine provider she could help others who, like her, had fallen through the cracks of mainstream medicine. She believes that her own experiences have made her a far more compassionate practitioner. Minimizing suffering and helping others to achieve a meaningful and satisfying existence are her mission.
Dr. Letitia can be reached at 860.430.5300 or via email at: DrJLetitia@ctrforholistichealthcare.com.