Chronic illness in the U.S. accounts for a major negative impact in both dollars and health outcomes for approximately 40% of the population. With chronic conditions like autoimmunity, diabetes, and heart disease expected to rise to 157 million in the next several years, integrative medicine is the key to slowing and reversing chronic illness.
Integrative medicine seeks to identify and address the drivers responsible for chronic illness, including stress, nutrient deficiencies, and hormone imbalance. By harnessing a holistic view of the body, a functional doctor can help you reduce the development and progression of chronic illness, working to ensure you enjoy the fulfilling quality of life you deserve.
Functional Medicine and Chronic Illness
Unlike conventional medicine, an integrative doctor will address the health of your body as a whole, rather than merely the sum of its parts. This is especially helpful when managing chronic illness, as multiple bodily systems are often affected, and a majority of patients having more than one chronic diagnosis (1).
For example, a patient may suffer from symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, reflux, and difficulty sleeping. In conventional medicine, this patient may receive an acid blocker for their reflux, a prescription sleep aid, and advice to get more exercise and eat better.
Conversely, integrative medicine asks, “why are all of these symptoms occurring, and what could be causing them?”
The answers could be many, but in this case, it could be the production of gluten antibodies causing autoimmune thyroid, zapping energy levels, altering healthy stomach acid production, and creating metabolic dysfunction.
In reality, most chronic diseases, including autoimmune conditions, are driven by diet and lifestyle factors. Integrative medicine pairs holistic treatment with the right pharmaceutical intervention if necessary.
Are you managing a chronic illness or autoimmune condition? Reach out to the CentreSpringMD team to regain your quality of life.
Top 3 Chronic Illnesses Driven by Lifestyle
In the U.S. the leading 10 causes of death cause approximately ¾ of total deaths. Of these 10, at least 8 of these causes are directly impacted by diet and lifestyle (2).
This applies to the top 3 chronic illnesses in the U.S. as well.
Poor diet, smoking, chronic stress, overuse of alcohol, and lack of physical activity are significant contributors to the development and progression of preventable chronic diseases. This includes obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, and even some types of cancer.
Unfortunately, even though patients understand the importance of making healthy choices, many aren’t prepared to maintain or even begin to make these healthy changes.
Even still, diet and lifestyle modifications are within reach with the right interventions, and can drastically improve outcomes for patients at risk or already diagnosed with a chronic illness.
Factors That Drive Chronic Disease
Many chronic conditions have several main contributors in common, and while individual biology differs, certain behaviors contribute to risk in a similar way.
- Poor diet(3)
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Chronic stress
- Immune dysfunction
- Hormone dysfunction
- Gut imbalance or dysbiosis
Knowing this, Integrative medicine provides a unique lens of treatment for chronic illness, leveraging unique therapies, both holistic and pharmaceutical to support the healing or management of your chronic condition.
Science of Diet and Lifestyle
Acknowledging the importance and impact of diet and lifestyle on both the prevention and management of chronic disease is crucial. With the right lifestyle management, functional medicine supports the main systems involved in creating wellness and managing chronic disease.
Your body is continually bombarded with toxins, and how well you’re able to properly metabolize and excrete dozens of different toxic substances impacts your total toxic burden, or the cumulative toxins in your body at any given time.
Toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, and endocrine disruptors for example can trigger inflammation, leading to chronic conditions such as autoimmunity, and digestive problems such as Crohn’s disease and IBD (4).
Your detoxification pathways rely on adequate production of the powerful endogenous antioxidant, glutathione, levels of which are impacted by genetics, toxic burden, and dietary factors.
Your CentreSpringMD provider can help you determine if your detox pathways require added support, and recommend methods to meet this goal.
With 70-80% of the immune system housed in the gut, much of long-term health is dependent upon healthy gut function.
This includes healthy levels of inflammation, a balanced microbiome, and the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Without these three arms of gut function in place, chronic diseases are difficult to manage, and you may raise your risk for developing chronic illness in the future.
Underlying infections such as SIBO or Candida overgrowth can contribute to reduced immune function and systemic inflammation, reducing your body’s ability to cope with chronic illness.
A gut function analysis measures 5 biomarkers of gut health, including:
- Metabolic imbalance
GI Effects at CentreSpringMD is a comprehensive assessment of gut health, addressing the root cause of GI troubles affecting your body as a whole.
To identify any functional gut imbalances you may have, ask a provider about GI Effects at your next appointment.
Correcting Nutrient Deficiencies
Most chronic illnesses, even depression and mental health disorders, are interconnected imbalances of our entire system as a whole.
The vitamins, minerals, and nutrients required for the function of neurotransmitters, immune cells, and every other metabolic reaction come primarily from the food we eat.
However, this is problematic when most have difficulty eating a nutrient dense diet, and consume mostly foods devoid of crucial precursors for a healthy body.
For example, low vitamin D levels are linked with depression, autoimmunity, and even the development of some types of cancer (5). Adequate levels of this crucial vitamin support the optimal function of dozens of metabolic reactions.
NutrEval nutrient deficiency testing at CentreSpringMD identifies nutrient deficiencies, and your provider can help you form a plan to correct them.
Dynamic and Patient-Centered Care
Navigating chronic illness can be one of the most difficult parts of life an individual will experience. While we collectively work to end the stigma and raise awareness about the different ways chronic illness can impact life, integrative medicine will provide you the tools you need to support the whole-body systems
Integrative medicine provides functional solutions for healing using diverse modalities, such as:
- Stress management
- Testing and lab analysis
- ALCAT food sensitivity testing
- Autoimmune assessment
- Health coaching
- CranioSacral therapy
CentreSpringMD can also help you pivot your diet and lifestyle behaviors to support your goals of minimizing the impact of chronic illness.
Genetic Predisposition to Chronic Disease
Some patients do have genetic factors which place them at higher risk for developing chronic conditions.
And while genetic predisposition is one factor, it’s not the only determinant, and it’s important to remember that gene expression is heavily influenced by our environment (6). To simplify, your genetics may load the weapon, but your environment pulls the trigger.
This means that we have significant control over the prevention and healthy management of many chronic conditions, and functional medicine makes strides every day in the highest quality care we can provide.
Can Integrative Medicine Cure Chronic Disease?
Studies show that chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, certain autoimmune conditions, hormone imbalances can be reversed if not completely cured with the proper interventions.
Because functional medicine seeks to address the underlying imbalances which cause chronic illness, one those imbalances are corrected, you’re more likely to experience improvement or reversal of symptoms.
Each person and their individual history creates a roadmap to navigating chronic illness, and with functional medicine it’s possible to heal and continue on your journey to optimal wellness.
Do you have questions about the best way to manage your chronic illness? Reach out to a CentreSpringMD provider now to begin your journey to healing.