Getting to the root of your health problems.
The most exciting breakthrough of the 21st century is “root cause” medicine.
People who practice this kind of medicine usually call it Functional Medicine and it is a kind of Personalised Lifestyle Medicine. The real essence of this approach to medicine is that it aims to find and correct the root causes of diseases, of illnesses where no disease is diagnosed, of accelerated ageing, and of vulnerability to illness – at an individual level.
People are often told that ‘no-one knows’ why this or that illness has developed, and that there is nothing that they as the patient can do about it. But there is always a root cause, and we have come to realize that the greatest untapped resource in medicine is – the patient.
Most medical treatment looks for a diagnosis and then uses drugs or operations to suppress the symptoms. Medical practice has long acknowledged that ‘70% of diseases are caused by preventable lifestyle factors’, but is largely unable to do anything about it.
Root cause medicine simply asks: “what will it take to get your genes to produce the healthiest, most resilient version of you?” Because you are unique, statistical data gathered from large group research, while very helpful indeed, are ultimately of limited value. Finding out about you is the only way to find the root cause of your problem. It is also the only way to find a strategy to lead you to sustained good health.
Over the years, people have found that there is often more than one root cause for our health problems. The majority of them can be detected by functional medicine testing. Whereas mainstream lab testing is designed to find diseases, functional medicine testing looks for factors like missing vitamins, excessive inflammation or free radicals, metal or chemical toxins, unbalanced hormones, hidden infections, unbalanced nervous system signals, stress effects, depleted nervous system resources, or lack of variety and balance in the intestinal bacteria.
These are root causes; trigger processes that interfere with the functioning of the body and eventually produce disease. Each person’s pattern of root causes is unique.
Root causes do not respond well to pharmaceutical medicine or to surgery. They do respond exceptionally well to lifestyle changes, and even better to lifestyle changes that have been individually personalised based on results of the testing.
Lifestyle medicine is very powerful. More than 20 years ago, Professor Dean Ornish published a study that proved that coronary heart disease (narrowing of the coronary arteries) could be reversed by lifestyle change. Nothing else has achieved that with such a level of proof, before or since. His programme was not individually tailored – the same recommendations were given to everyone in the study. It was a very intense programme, and people who stuck to it closely did even better than those who applied it loosely.
The result was a great surprise to the medical community, and although its findings are now widely known and accepted, mainstream medicine still does not focus on them or use them.
The full power of lifestyle medicine became clear over the next few years, when professor Ornish proved that the same programme (absolutely identical) worked for hypertension, diabetes, prostate cancer, weight loss, depression, and ageing. Again, few in the medical world recognised what this meant. They did not – or could not – harness this power.
Developments in the last 15 years have made it possible to tailor and target lifestyle medicine personally, giving it much greater power, which means an even bigger health benefit when you stick to a programme that has been developed for you personally.
With lifestyle medicine people often feel a lot better very quickly, and this alone makes it easier to stick to the programs. Feeling fitter, pain-free, more flexible, with high energy and a sense of peace and well-being, is a very consistent result. When you add the factor of reduced medication, fewer visits to the hospital, and greater resistance all-round, it is an outstanding package.
Finding root causes and using personalised lifestyle medicine is a process of partnership, working with the patient, learning, teaching, coaching and cooperating. It takes patience, commitment and respect, and it produces a state that I call self-sustaining wellness.