Search

Your Guide to Functional Medicine


A LOOK AT FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE AND COVID-19


Not familiar with the term Functional Medicine? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), the functional medicine model is, “...an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness.” Basically, it’s a holistic approach that focuses on determining and treating the root cause of disease, rather than addressing each symptom individually. The chart below from the IFM illustrates exactly what this model looks like. Instead of focusing on some of the specific variables, Functional Medicine aims to treat the overall root cause of the disease. Many conditions can be attributed to one cause, so establishing the most optimal treatment should be determined by the individual's genetics, environment, and lifestyle choices.

(Image Source - The Institute for Functional Medicine, ifm.org/functional-medicine/what-is-functional-medicine/)


This model is believed to be most effective in treating chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. And while advancements in medicine and technology have proven to help suppress the acute symptoms of a disorder, many practitioners of the functional medicine model believe they do nothing for preventing the underlying cause of disease. According to the IFM, effective treatment should combine knowledge of the human body, science, and treatment, with an individualized focus on the patient, specifically looking at significant influences in lifestyle and environmental choices, and genetic makeup. All of these factors can contribute to the genetic development of disease.

COVID-19 and Functional Medicine

Statistics show that individuals with chronic diseases are at high risk for developing COVID-19, in fact the fatality rate for these individuals is higher than those unaffected by chronic illnesses. It can be said there is a correlation between a weak immune system and the risk of developing the virus. So let’s see how we can use the functional medicine approach to address the root cause of disease (weakened immune system).


Strengthening the Immune System

A proper diet consisting of lots of plant-based foods, high in fiber and antioxidants, is considered essential when discussing enhancing immune strength. Phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables have been proven to boost the gut microbiome, a major player in both the maintenance of overall health and the pathogenesis of disease. Avoid eating overly processed foods, added sugars, and foods high in saturated fat as they have been associated with an increased risk in developing health issues.


Why does this matter? According to the IFM, there are three systems that when impacted by diet, may help reduce viral infection and the severity of those infected:

  1. Stabilizing inflammatory pathways. - Inflammation and immune responses can occur together in a viral infection.

  2. Reducing oxidative stress and increasing antioxidant levels. - Oxidative stress can cause damaging free radical compounds to produce. Increasing antioxidant levels and being mindful of the way our food is cooked can help reduce oxidative stress.