A Functional Medicine Approach to Brain Health

Dr. Laura Jones, Naturopathic Doctor

Functional and Naturopathic medicine utilize a systems biology approach to health, providing truly individualized care.  The approach is not based upon the latest set of diagnostic codes that categorize patients according to symptoms; but instead, there is a focus on identifying weak spots in the body’s intertwined physiological systems.  With some serious detective work, the identification of underlying imbalance and malfunction allows a functional medicine practitioner to find the true root cause of disease.Image result for brain health

An individual’s lifestyle dramatically impacts any potential imbalance which can result in disease.  This includes toxic burden, diet, nutrients, hydration exercise, trauma, and exposure to micro-organisms and radiation.  These items influence physiology which is also affected by genetics, beliefs and an individual’s attitude and beliefs.

The most common clinical imbalances include:

  • Digestive, absorptive, and microbiological imbalances
  • Immune imbalances
  • Inflammatory imbalances
  • Detoxification and biotransformational imbalances
  • Oxidation-reduction imbalances and mitochondropathy
  • Hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances
  • Structural imbalances from cellular membrane function to the musculoskeletal system

Imbalances are the precursors to the signs and symptoms appearing in the patient which are used to diagnose chronic disease. Often, in 20th century medicine, the indicated drug is then prescribed. Unfortunately, this drug is most often treating the symptom associated with the diagnosis, rather than the cause.

Rather than simply matching a drug to the symptoms associated with disease, a naturopathic and functional medicine approach addresses the root causes of imbalance. Naturopaths do this by addressing the patient’s unique set of environmental factors and basic physiological processes that contributed to disease.  By designing a naturopathic plan that is catered to the individual, the approach is better able to restore health.

In the functional medicine model, the question is not what diagnosis is causing the chief complaint, but where does the symptom come from? What are the triggers? And what needs to be rebalanced, removed or provided to restore health?

In the past several years, scientific literature has discussed the idea that most diseases of the brain are not localized in the brain. It is proposed, and to some degree proven, that many brain diseases have a root cause related to an imbalance in one or more of the body’s system throughout the remainder of the body.  A functional medicine approach to mood concerns as well as cognitive concerns would ask WHY is brain biochemistry out of balance in the first place?  It is important to understand that the brain is only one part of the body and brain disorders are almost always systemic.  This means that, most of the time, solutions to the disease will be found outside the brain.  Spending the time to fully understand each patient’s story leading to the time of symptom onset, and learn about strengths and weaknesses in their lifestyle, often reveals the clues to optimize brain biochemistry, leading to improved mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

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