Traditional medicine uses medications and surgery to treat problems. In medical school we are taught to get to a diagnosis(word for the problem) so we can then give the medication or perform the surgery indicated for that problem. When the body has a problem, it eventually results in the production of symptoms, like pain, fatigue, stomach upset, etc…Taking a medication over-rides the bodies attempt to tell us something is wrong and reduces or stops the symptom. Surgery may be used to remove an organ that has trouble and is causing symptoms or discomfort.
An example of this is heartburn, or GERD. Medications are used to stop stomach acid from being produced so the person doesn’t feel that acid taste and burning. But, it does nothing for the cause of the problem.
Most heartburn is not too much acid. It can be too little acid, causing the stomach to not open into the small intestine, blocking forward motion, causing food to back up into the esophagus. Or, food or gluten sensitivities can inflame the stomach and cause that acid backup feeling. Or, some chemical or food dye or color can be be inflaming the stomach and esophagus. May people have yeast overgrowth, parasites, lack of or overabundance of good or bad bacteria or some other problem. Some people have gastroparesis, a slowing of the GI tract, so things back up. These problems need different solutions. Not to mention, stopping acid production with medication hinders all future digestion and can lead to many deficiencies, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, poor growth, hormone disruption and many other problems.
Functional medicine is often called “upstream medicine” as it starts with the symptoms and looks upstream to hunt for the original cause of the problem. Since many things can cause heartburn symptoms, I believe it’s better to find the causes and treat them so the problem may go away by itself. There are many tests that use urine, blood, stool, saliva and hair to find different categories of abnormalities, based on what we are looking for.
Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of the cause of symptoms and not just take something that stops the “warning symptom” that something is wrong, but leaves the problem to fester and get worse? Functional Medicine teaches medical providers to use a new way of thinking and Specialized Tests to get to the underlying issues. It’s better to eliminate the cause, which may cure the problem and possibly eliminate the need for potentially harmful medications.
If you have problems and want help hunting for the cause, call The Maine Center for Functional Medicine at (207) 941-0080.