How Can Functional Medicine Help Me?

As many of my patients know, I run a busy chiropractic office in Austin, Texas… but I also have a thriving Functional Medicine practice that allows me to consult with and help people all over the US and abroad.

Still, many of my you have been asking me questions surrounding Functional Medicine and what it entails.

My philosophy to health is pretty simple: Move Well, Eat Healthy and Cultivate Happiness.

As a chiropractor, my goal is to make sure that your spine is healthy, your joints are mobile and you have no physical limitations in movement. Functional Medicine allows me to address the other 2 components: eating well and cultivating happiness.

In this article, I’d like to discuss my approach and how it works.

Conventional medicine has a doctor for every part of your body. There are cardiologists for your heart, gastroenterologists for the digestive system, neurologists for the brain and nervous system, podiatrists for your feet, and ophthalmologists for your eyes.

Due to specialization, conventional medicine often focuses on individual body systems, rather than trying to understand the whole person and ultimately that individuals underlying causes of disease and chronic illness.

In light of this, symptoms are used to name a disease and find a corresponding drug. That’s typically your treatment.

  • High blood pressure gets you blood pressure lowering pills.
  • High cholesterol, gets you cholesterol lowering pills.
  • Infections of any kind almost always get you antiobiotics
  • Imbalanced hormones, gets you hormone replacement therapy.
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

Basically, your symptoms are treated with no regard for the “cause”.

In functional medicine, the goal is to view your body as an interconnected whole, within a larger environment.

In other words, your health is the sum of all nongenetic (your external environment) and genetic (internal environment) exposures in your lifetime, starting from the moment of conception to death. It encompasses the food we eat, the air we breathe, social interactions, lifestyle choices and inherent metabolic and cellular activity.

Functional Medicine doctors recognize that in order to treat one part of the body, all other parts must also be considered. This breaks apart artificial divisions of the body.

What Functional Medicine Addresses

I have a hierarchy of importance for which factors to address when starting with a patient:

  1. Diet, Lifestyle and Environment.
  2. Nutrient imbalance, gut and HPA-axis
  3. Cellular Dysfunction, Toxic Burden, Hormone Imbalance
  4. Chronic Infections and Immune Dysregulation
  5. Treating symptoms for diseases that cannot be fixed

Diet, Lifestyle and Environment 

As a good rule, any doctor interested in improving health should begin with diet, lifestyle and environment. It is what it is and there’s no way to self-medicate, supplement or artificially create what life requires.


Nutrient Imbalances, Gut Infections or Dysbiosis and HPA-axis

There are two reasons why we address this next:

First, these factors are often at the root of, or at least strong contributors, of other pathologies such as hormone imbalances (Low T, Thyroid problems, PCOS, etc), cellular dysfunction (Energy balance, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Weight) and immune dysregulation (autoimmune disease, cancer, arthritis, tissue repair).

Second, even if there are other problems occurring, this will lead to a significant clinical improvement towards helping any other condition.

I believe that up to 80% of health problems can be addressed by simply getting #1 (Diet, Lifestyle, Environment) and #2 (Nutrient imbalances, gut infections or dysbiosis and HPA-axis) in check.

Cellular Dysfunction, Toxic Burden, and Hormone Imbalance

In some cases we have to dig deeper. This involves assessing methylation, heavy metals, mold/biotoxins, impaired detoxification, thyroid, sex and metabolic hormones. Again, most of these problems can be addressed by improving diet, lifestyle, nutrient imbalances, gut health and stress.

Chronic Infection and Immune Dysregulation

Some patients have infections (Lyme, co-infections, parasites) that are pretty nasty and almost always require a more specialized and even integrated (Medical Prescription) approach.

How can you get started?

If you’re interested in a functional medicine consult, here’s my flow:

The consult has 2 parts: A 20 minute case review and an hour to 2 hour case review

STEP ONE: INITIAL 20 MINUTE CONSULT

After purchasing an initial consult, we will setup a time for us to meet over the phone or in person. During this 20-minute appointment, I will interview you to determine which lab tests to order for your Case Review, based on your chief complaints and your history.

This appointment has two purposes: to make sure that I have all of the information needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors affecting your health and to give you a head start on your treatment before you meet with me.

The exact lab testing ordered after the Initial Consult depends on your individual circumstances, but may include:

  • A comprehensive blood chemistry panel. This is the single most efficient, effective and affordable tool for quickly evaluating your health. It screens for a wide range of conditions, including several types of anemia; gut, viral and bacterial infections; insulin resistance and hypoglycemia; liver and kidney issues; and thyroid and adrenal problems. It offers important clues for how to structure and focus your treatment to get the best results. It also provides a baseline of biomarkers that can be used to objectively track the progress of your treatment over time.
  • Additional blood tests for specific conditions, such as high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease and gluten sensitivity.
  • Advanced stool testing to screen for parasites, fungal overgrowth, bacterial infections, intestinal inflammation, dysbiosis and a deficiency of beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Urine organic acids testing to screen for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, fungal overgrowth, problems metabolizing fat or carbohydrates, B-vitamin status, methylation issues, detoxification capacity, oxidative stress and neurotransmitter metabolism.
  • Urine hormone testing for adrenal and sex hormone status.

You will also be provided the Case Review health history paperwork to complete.

This paperwork includes:

  • A detailed health and medical history questionnaire
  • A survey of your chief complaints and most important health goals
  • An assessment of your most troubling and frequently experienced symptoms
  • A diet survey and questionnaire
  • A survey of your current supplements and medications

Once we’ve received your lab results and completed the Case Review paperwork, I will give you specific protocols to start working on before moving on to part 2: the case review consultation.

This typically occurs between 60 and 90 days after the Initial Consultation, because some of the labs we use take up to 8 weeks to deliver the results to us after receiving your sample.

STEP TWO: THE CASE REVIEW CONSULTATION

The Case Review Consultation is a 60-minute to 120-minute in-person, phone or video appointment.

Prior to the consultation, I will have reviewed the results from the labs that were ordered along with your Case Review paperwork, medical history, diet and supplement survey, assessment forms and relevant prior lab work. I will also create a Report of Findings, which is broken into three parts:

  • A summary of the underlying patterns that are contributing to your symptoms.
  • An outline of the suggested treatment plan, including dietary, supplement and lifestyle recommendations.
  • Recommendations for further testing (this will typically be minimal, if necessary at all, because of the completeness of the Case Review process)

During this visit, I will present the Report of Findings as well as your treatment plan. I will also review all of your test results with you and answer any questions you have about the findings or the treatment plan.

Are you gluten and wheat sensitive?

How to know if you’re gluten or wheat sensitive

In my opinion, the best way (and least expensive) to determine gluten or wheat sensitivity, or any food intolerance for that matter, is to simply eliminate the suspected food for at least 30-60 days and then reintroduce it. Following the 30 days you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not that particular food is causing problems.

That said, gluten is a pretty big protein so it is entirely possible that it can take months, and in some individuals, years to completely pass through the body. This means that this form of self-experimentation is not always as revealing as you’d like it to be. None the less, identifying gluten intolerance is very important when it comes to optimizing health because it has been linked to over 55 diseases in the medical literature, with most of them being autoimmune.

Take that last statement to heart! Over 55 diseases in the medical literature linked to gluten and wheat sensitivity. Additionally, the majority of individuals who are reacting to these proteins have no digestive issues. The problems can continue for years with aboslutely no symptoms until one day- you get diagnosed with thyroid problems, heart valve problems, skin problems, dementia, multiple sclerosis, insomina- I could go on and on.

The effect of wheat, gluten and 23 other proteins on brain and nervous tissue is significantly worse and more far-reaching than researchers realized. Yet thanks to poor lab testing and general misinformation many people continue to eat gluten, unaware it is harming them.

Problems With Standard Tests for Gluten

Standard blood tests for gluten intolerance have a less than a 30 percent accuracy rate. Worse, conventional medical testing only looks at 4 of the 23 different proteins it takes to identify gluten intolerance. Would you tolerate that accuracy rate for a cancer, heart disease, or even pregnancy test? In order for a doctor to “believe” that you are gluten intolerant, gluten has to have significantly destroyed the gut wall in which case you are already in a state of disease.

Are you f’ing kidding me? Basically, this is like waiting for your house to actually catch fire and undergo some sort of irrepairable damage before the fire department actually starts to do their job.

Additionally, not all “gluten intolerant” cases result in digestive difficulties. Especially if the brain, heart, or some other part of the body is the main target of attack. This is why gluten is associated with heart disease, neurological disorders, insomnia, hormone imbalance, fatigue and weight gain.

Current salivary tests produce false negatives due to the assessment of only one antibody of one wheat protein. Stool tests produce false negative and false positives due to specimen-interfering factors that alter the outcome of results.

Current tests only screen for one component of wheat. Yet people can react to a single protein in wheat, or a combination of many proteins, peptides, and enzymes associated with wheat. Cyrex Labs tests for twelve of the most antigenic (meaning most likely to provoke a reaction) pathogens associated with wheat.

Some people also have cross-reactivity to gluten. For instance, eating dairy can trigger a gluten-like immune response because the body sees them as one in the same.

Fortunately a revolutionary breakthrough in gluten reactivity testing provided by Cyrex Labs, founded on years of leading immunological research, is now available to help determine whether this ubiquitous food is damaging your health.

“The Cyrex Array 3 offers the most comprehensive analysis available for determining gluten sensitivity. This array has proven incredibly valuable in my practice by providing in-depth information about an issue that has wide clinical implications.”

David Perlmutter

MD, FACN, author of the national best seller Grain Brain

The Array 3 Panel from Cyrex Laboratories

After many years of research and development, Cyrex Labs in Arizona now offers thorough and comprehensive testing for gluten intolerance. Designed to distinguish between celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the Array 3 is the only wheat/gluten panel that tests for three antigen triggers: gluten proteins, opioid peptides and tissue binding isolates. Furthermore, it detects gluten reactivity and assesses antibody production against eight wheat proteins and peptides, three essential enzymes (transglutaminase-2, -3 and -6), and the gliadin transglutaminase complex.

What the heck does all this mean?

It means that you can trust that the results from this test are definitive and you will absolutely know without any doubt whether or not you are gluten or wheat sensitive!

Remember, an astounding 50% of patients diagnosed with celiac disease receive a false negative test. This is problematic because these gluten-reactive patients, who do not respond to certain proteins, instead may react to one or more of the other gluten proteins that are not being measured by other testing panels.

How much is your life worth? The Cyrex array 3 test costs $325. No, insurance won’t pay for it and that’s largely due to the fact that the Insurance industry doesn’t know what “good health care” is. 

This problem is exactly why Array 3 was developed.

The Array 3 panel is recommended for patients with non-responsive gastrointestinal symptoms, those who present with multiple-symptom complaints such as joint pain, fatigue, muscle pain, brain fog, hormone imbalances and chronic inflammation, and those with depression or neurodegenerative symptoms.

If you or someone you know needs to get tested, I’d be happy to help. Simply submit a comment below or contact me at info (@) drdaniel.com.

Autoimmune Disease: A Functional Medicine Approach

Rheumatoid arthritis. Lupus. Celiac disease. Multiple sclerosis. Graves disease. Psoriasis. 

What do all these widespread diseases have in common? 

They are all examples of an autoimmune disease and there are over seventy more (at least), that we know about.

An autoimmune disease is defined as a condition that arises from an abnormal immune response to a normal body part.

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks your joints.  In celiac disease, your small intestine is targeted. In lupus, it attacks tissues many parts of your body.  In multiple sclerosis, your nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord are attacked.  In Graves disease, your thyroid is affected.  For psoriasis, it’s the skin cells.

You get the idea.

The bad part is, nearly any body part can fall victim to a rogue immune system.  Did I mention they were common?

  • The American Autoimmune Related Disease Association estimates that over 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease [1].
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus both affect nearly 1.5 million Americans [2] [3].
  • Roughly 1% of Americans are affected by celiac disease. Of these, a staggering 83% are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed [4].
  • Multiple sclerosis is thought to afflict over 2.3 million people worldwide [5].

All of these diseases develop when your immune system, which is supposed to defend your body against disease, errs and decides that your healthy cells (in nearly any part of your body) are foreign and begins to attack themselves.

tissues affected by autoimmune disease dr danielThere is some genetic predisposition to autoimmune diseases, but certainly, and arguably most important, is that environmental factors play a huge part.  By environmental factors, I mean, among other things:

  • The foods we eat.
  • The exercise we perform.
  • The amount of sleep we get.
  • The amount of stress we endure.
  • Whether we smoke or not.
  • The medications we take.

There are many other environmental factors and I’m sure you can think of a few more.

The painful reality here is that conventional medicine has yet to find cures or effective treatments for many of these diseases.  However, there is hope for those that suffer from autoimmune diseases in Functional Medicine.

Why Conventional Medicine Has It Wrong

Conventional medicine has it wrong when it comes to treating autoimmune diseases.  For autoimmune diseases, as in many others (See my article on conventional versus Functional Medicine), conventional medicine focuses on the symptoms, rather than the underlying causes of autoimmunity.

Take the example multiple sclerosis (MS).

This is a nasty disease where your immune system attacks your otherwise healthy, normal nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord.   In effect, it disrupts the paths of communication from your brain to your body.

Early symptoms include weakness, tingling, numbness and blurred vision.  Muscle stiffness, problems thinking and urinary problems can also occur.  Those afflicted with MS have a shortened life span of around five to ten years.  A lucky few may experience very few symptoms, while others may be cursed with chronic symptoms for the rest of their lifetimes.

There is no conventional “cure” for MS.

Instead of looking at what may be the underlying cause, conventional medicine only seeks to delay the progression of the disease and manage symptoms by pumping MS patients full of drugs that come with their own long list of risks.

There are fourteen FDA approved injectable and oral drug therapies to slow the progression of the disease for those with relapsing forms of MS.  There are no drug therapies that treat primary MS (the slow steady progression of symptoms from initial onset). [6]   While the efficacy of these drugs have been proven to help some people, they are not without their own dangerous side effects.

Take for example, the drug Extavia®, which was introduced in the United States in 2009.  This is an injected drug therapy that is to be taken every other day.  Side effects include flu-like symptoms, headaches and skin reactions at the injection site.  Other documented side effects include small blood clots, worsening of congestive heart failure and reduction of white blood cell counts [6].  Most of the thirteen other disease-modifying MS drug therapies have the same or worse side effects.

Pretty nasty stuff, right?  Imagine giving yourself an injection every other day, getting the chills and feeling weak and fatigued and scratching a swollen, itchy rash each time you do it.

Is that any way to live?

And those are just the drugs that slow the progression of MS.  There are a whole host of drugs that conventional medicine prescribes to manage symptoms.  According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there are over sixty drugs that doctors typically prescribe to treat the most common symptoms of MS [7].

There’s the conventional approach to medicine in a nutshell, and it’s not isolated to just MS but many other autoimmune diseases:  manage the symptoms and the disease by prescribing drugs.

I’m not making the argument that there isn’t a place for conventional medicine in the treatment of MS and autoimmune diseases, but we need to look further.

I am however, arguing that it’s utter nonsense for a patient to continue on with their same old lifestyle while introducing strong drugs into their system that can cause all kinds of serious and sometimes fatal side effects without looking at the underlying causes of autoimmunity.

Causes of Autoimmunity

autoimmune-disease-functional-medicineBeyond genetics, there are several contributing factors that can cause autoimmune disease in your body.  Of course, genetics plays a role but mostly it’s a case of being predisposed to a certain autoimmunity.  It is the environmental factors that actually triggers disease in your body.

Diet and Leaky Gut

Your diet has a significant effect on the health of your gut – or your intestines (where nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream).  Poor gut health can trigger a whole host of autoimmune responses.

Take gluten for example.

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat.  With the rise in popularity of processed convenience foods, it’s now found in virtually every food product.  It’s also not the same gluten that our great-grandparents found in their homemade bread – wheat has been genetically modified in the last fifty years which has created new forms of gluten.  Food scientists have also discovered ways to modify the protein, allowing it to be absorbed into other liquids more easily – so now you can find it in lunch meat and even toothpaste.  What all this means is that now, our bodies are exposed to large amounts of modified gluten that it’s not used to.

How is this connected to autoimmune diseases?

It’s because gluten causes a leaky gut.  When you consume foods containing gluten, it travels through your stomach to your intestines where it causes the release of zonulin.  Zonulin tells your gut wall to open up, causing intestinal permeability, or leaky gut.  This is a problem because large particles, other than the small micronutrients found in foods, to enter your bloodstream – large particles like gluten, other proteins, microbes, toxins and partially digested food into your bloodstream.  Because these large particles aren’t supposed to be in your blood stream, your immune system targets them as dangerous and causes inflammation to get rid of them.

When your immune system is chronically causing inflammation to attack these large particles in your bloodstream, your immune system becomes stressed.  It can now no longer precisely attack invaders with precision and begins sending waves of attacks to fight off invaders in a desperate stand to defend itself.  Sooner or later, your body’s own tissues become victim to these attacks and you develop an autoimmune disease.

Environmental Toxins

Mercury. Pesticides. Aspartame. Silica. Dioxin. Lead.

These are just a handful of the more than 80,000 toxic chemicals found in consumer products today.  In fact, the average American is saturated with more than 400 toxic chemicals and babies are born with an average of 287 chemicals in their umbilical cords [8, 9].

Our bodies have the capability to detoxify themselves.  However, when stressed with the enormous amount of toxins they see today, they can accumulate and cause a whole host of problems – leaky gut, inflammation and eventually autoimmune disease.

Stress

Our bodies have the capability to withstand or even thrive when encountered with physical, mental, emotional, chemical or traumatic stress.  However, it’s the traumatic and chronic stress that is linked to the onset and progression of autoimmune diseases.  In fact, almost eighty percent of people report a large emotional stress before onset of physical symptoms due to an autoimmune disease [10].

Why?

Because traumatic and chronic stress cause inflammation, suppress your immunity and alter your body chemistry [11].  This eventually leads to a rogue immune system because your body doesn’t distinguish between other environmental triggers like gluten or toxicity.

Infections

Chronic infections from bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi may be one of the primary environmental triggers for autoimmune disease [12].  In fact, there is usually a hidden infection that either precedes the initial autoimmune attack or appears when the immune system is weakened.

The Functional Medicine Approach

The functional doctor’s primary approach to autoimmune diseases is to help you identify and remove the causes of the autoimmunity from your life that you have control over.  This is in stark contrast to the conventional medicine approach which is to throw drugs at your symptoms.

Think of autoimmune disease symptoms like a wildfire.

What’s the best way to avoid fire?  Remove the fuel so it never starts in the first place? Or throw water on it to prevent it from spreading?

Let’s take a look at what we’ll help you evaluate so you never have to worry about developing autoimmune diseases in the future.  Or, if you’ve already been diagnosed, that’s OK – it’s never too late to take a functional approach to solving your medical problems.  Here are some of what we can do for you:

  • Help you manage the stress in your life. Whether it’s teaching you relaxation or meditation techniques, helping you proactively eliminate stressors, or helping you to set up an exercise program – we’ve got you covered when it comes to stress.
  • Teach you what foods you should avoid, so that you can avoid autoimmune diseases. We know foods like sugar, gluten, dairy and many others can lead to autoimmune diseases and we’ll show you how to incorporate these dietary changes into your own life.
  • Teach you how to reduce or eliminate the most dangerous toxins from your life. We’ll also help you to detoxify what’s already built up in your system – whether it’s through an exercise regimen or special diet.
  • Help you build the strength of your immune system to protect you from infections that can lead to autoimmune disease.
  • We can get you started gut repair program, if you suffer from leaky gut, or help you adopt a gut healthy lifestyle if you don’t.

These are just a few of the things we can do to help you manage or prevent autoimmune diseases.  Contact us today for your own personal consultation.

Follow me.
Never miss a post.
Weekly Newsletter
Don't Miss Out!
Get on the Precision Nutrition Presale List Today.
Opens January 10th
*We Hate Spam, Your email is safe with us!
Join the Precision Nutrition Coaching presale list. You'll learn more about the program, get the chance to register before everyone else and save up to 45%.
Fix Broken Metabolism
Do you have metabolism problems?
Get instant access to this special report on how to fix a broken metabolism and get your body back on track.
  • 3 ways to improve metabolism
  • Learn about food amounts, type and timing
  • Troubleshoot eating plans (when they stop working)
  • How to eat for your "body" type
  • How to apply all of this right away
* we hate spam and will never share your details with third parties.