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Functional Medicine

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional Diagnostic Medicine is a growing field of modern medicine. It offers a giant step forward in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of many of society’s chronic diseases.

Because Dr. Zachary Watkins of Des Moines, Iowa, practices functional diagnostic medicine, he is able to identify the real causes of many health conditions by combining the results of scientifically documented tests.  These are not your standard medical tests but go the next level investigating the biochemical and metabolic glitches likely to cause a specific disease process.

InvestigateBased on the results of these tests, Dr. Watkins is then able to develop personalized, patient specific treatment protocols designed to reverse, stop or prevent the disease and its related symptoms.

Unlike the disease specific approach which is geared to suppress the expression of symptoms, physicians practicing functional diagnostic medicine are delighted to discover that many diseases have a real underlying cause which when found and corrected, can have a dramatic impact on the health of their patients.

Twenty-First Century Health Care
By identifying the underlying causes of chronic health conditions, reducing the risk of degenerative disease, and addressing an individual’s unique bio-chemical composition, Functional Medicine has been considered the future of medicine.

Health CareWhy is Functional Medicine called the “Future of Medicine”

Functional Medicine approach is designed to significantly improve health. While the specific disease a person may have is not ignored, the focus of therapy is to improve health through optimizing biological, biochemistry and psychological function.

This is a highly individualized process. Two people with the same symptoms may require different diagnostic tests and therapeutic interventions to promote health and well-being.

When successful, many of the symptoms that are the primary concern of the individual will diminish in severity and the individual will begin to experience a renewed sense of well-being and a significant increase in health and vitality.

When was the last time you really felt healthy?
The reason you may not feel your best is because you’ve developed an unhealthy lifestyle. As we get older we tend to develop bad habits and take our health for granted.  Poor eating, stress, environmental and chemical toxins and lack of exercise all take a toll on your natural defenses. For a while your body was able to cope.

But now, you may have noticed some changes: You probably don’t get enough sleep and when you do sleep you may catch yourself having to get up two, three or more times during the night. The food you eat simply does not satisfy you. Losing weight has never been more difficult.

You may exercise, but something still does not feel right inside. You can’t seem to put your finger on it. You simply don’t feel well, but you don’t have any obvious symptoms that would make you want to see your doctor.

Do not ignore this feeling, these puzzling non-specific symptoms may be an early warning that one or more of your body’s systems are malfunctioning.

WarningSymptoms are Warnings
Just like the red warning light in your car that flashes when there is a problem with your engine, a physical symptom is a signal telling you that an underlying health problem needs to be corrected.

Treating a symptom without uncovering the real cause is like placing a piece of black tape over the blinking red warning light. The consequences of this action are  an obvious and expensive engine overhaul.

Unfortunately our bodies can’t be overhauled and ignoring these chronic symptoms could eventually lead to a serious illness.

Through functional diagnostic medicine, physicians are able to help their patients restore normal body function, thereby relieving symptoms that may result in life-threatening diseases (such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, heart diseases, osteoporosis and many other chronic degenerative illnesses).

Unlike most well-meaning physicians that tend to focus on what drug to use to treat a symptom, doctors who practice functional diagnostic medicine give serious thought to what is causing the symptom in the first place.


Functional Medicine Case Studies

The following examples show the medical detective work involved in the diagnosis and treatment of three common conditions:

CASE 1

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Traditional Medical Approach:
Patient: 56 year old male with a chief complaint of sinus infections and allergies for a period of six years. Patient had previously consulted with three medical physicians before scheduling an appointment to see me. Medical testing included a CT scan of the sinuses and found to be negative for any pathologies. Treatment consisted of the following prescriptions: Sudafed, Claritin-D and Allegra. Results were poor.

Functional Medical Approach:
Patient was evaluated in my office and it was decided based on an extensive history and review of his medical records to order an Airborne Allergy test and food sensitivity test. The results revealed that the patient was highly allergic to Aspergillus fumigatus and Alternaria alternata molds. The patient was instructed on how to identify molds in his residence and work and what steps to take to eliminate them. Patient was prescribed a natural pharmaceutical that increases his immune system response to molds and fungi. After 3 weeks, the patient was completely free of symptoms and has remained that way for the last 2 years.

CASE 2

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Traditional Medical Approach:
The patient was a 27 year old female with an 11 year history of irritable bowel syndrome and fatigue. Patient had previously consulted with four medical physicians before scheduling an appointment to see me.

Medical testing included an upper and lower GI study and colonoscopy. All found to be negative for any pathologies. Treatment consisted of the prescription Hyoscyamine. Results were poor.

Functional Medical Approach:
Patient was evaluated in my office and it was decided based on an extensive history and review of her medical records to order a Digestive Stool Test and Allergy Blood test. Two bacterial pathogens were found, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Citrobacter freundii and were responsible for infecting her intestines. The medical literature clearly linked these two pathogens to diarrhea disease. Her allergy test revealed a significant sensitivity to gluten and rice. The patient was prescribed a natural pharmaceutical that helped eradicate the two bacterial pathogens and was placed on an elimination diet addressing the rice and gluten. After one month she was symptom-free.

CASE 3

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Traditional Medical Approach
The patient was a 61 year old female with chief complaint of menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, decreased libido and weight gain for a period of five years. Patient had previously consulted with only one medical physician before scheduling an appointment to see me. No medical testing was performed and treatment consisted of the prescription Estrace. Results were fair, however, patient was concerned about the potential side effects.

Functional Medical Approach:
Patient was evaluated in my office and it was decided based on an extensive history and review of her medical records to order a Women’s Hormonal Panel. The results were quite revealing. Her estrogen/progesterone balance was significantly compromised resulting in too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. This imbalance was the main cause of the patient’s “roll-coaster” emotional challenges.

This information was presented to her physician and she was prescribed the proper balance of estrogen and progesterone. The patient eventually went to a compounding pharmacy and had a special formula of estrogen/progesterone made. She has been symptom-free and has been experiencing an increase in energy.

In addition, she has lost 54 pounds in 8 months.

The Missed Diagnosis
Traditionally trained health professionals typically interpret symptoms as indicators of a specific illness and use diagnostic assessments to identify or confirm that condition.

While perhaps validating a suspected disease process, this approach often fails to identify the real cause of the condition, especially in cases of chronic illness.

Most treatments based upon this approach tend to be heavily dependent upon pharmaceutical drugs.

Again, this approach does not address the underlying cause of the condition. Further, many drugs have toxic side effects and cover up symptoms, making additional attempts at diagnosis even less reliable.

Better Diagnostic Assessments are Now Available
Modern medicine has given humanity hope in the fight for the extension of life and the prevention of disease. However, until recently there have been few available tools with which to evaluate basic human physiology.

Traditional diagnoses have focused on pathology rather than an examination of the underlying reasons for the development of a particular health problem.

Today, specialized laboratories using advanced testing procedures offer functional diagnostic assessments that can evaluate an individual’s physiology. By comparing the individual’s assessments with normal physiological ranges, doctors practicing functional diagnostic medicine can pinpoint abnormalities and contributing factors to health problems, often exposing the real causes of chronic illness and degenerative disease.

Functional Medicine Treats Common Health Complaints and Promotes Wellness
Functional Medicine practitioners are particularly good at addressing the needs of those suffering from incorrectly or partially diagnosed chronic health problems which, in many cases, have yet to manifest as a specific disease.

Many serious health conditions develop over years of undiagnosed and seemingly unrelated symptoms.  Therefore, the detection and treatment of health issues at their point of earliest inception has consequences reaching far beyond the alleviation of symptoms.

Functional assessments can identify risk factors for a wide variety of health problems long before they become symptomatic, enabling individuals to take preventive measures to reduce their risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and other degenerative conditions.

The tests also provide important data for the development of scientifically based nutritional plans, immune-enhancing strategies and life-extension programs.

Dynamic Monitoring of Therapies
Functional diagnostic assessments provide the opportunity to monitor a wide array of therapies, including customized nutritional programs.

Testing is used initially to establish an individual’s baseline physiological processes and subsequently to closely monitor the results of therapies in order to make necessary adjustments in therapeutic protocols.