WHAT IS FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE?
Functional medicine is a relatively new practice that began in the 1990s and is largely focused on preventing and treating chronic illnesses, including PCOS. Its scientific model seeks the underlying CAUSE of a person’s illness by examining the biochemical processes that occur in the body along with the physiological, environmental and psychological factors of an individual.
Functional medicine is underpinned by the concept that every human is genetically and biochemically UNIQUE, and their individual body needs to be understood in order to be treated properly.
Functional medicine practitioners do extensive testing of their patient’s core systems, including the immune, gastrointestinal and endocrine (hormonal) systems, to understand the individual’s body and design a treatment plan tailored to the individual.
The approach taken by functional medicine practitioners is integrative, meaning that they draw on knowledge of both natural and pharmaceutical medicines.
HOW CAN FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE HELP WOMEN WITH PCOS?
As functional medicine is so individualised, it is hard to convey its general approach to PCOS. In saying that, nutrition and lifestyle are a large part of the functional medicine approach and these are certainly addressed
when treating PCOS.
The standard tests that a good Western medicine doctor would order for a woman with PCOS are also done by a functional medicine practitioner, for example, tests for insulin resistance, thyroid health, etc.
Where functional medicine really stands out is in its deep testing of our core systems.
Hair analysis testing may be conducted to determine if heavy metals are inhibiting normal hormonal function. Gastrointestinal tests may be recommended to assess if there are food sensitivities or evidence of leaky gut syndrome (intestinal permeability). Food sensitivities and leaky gut can create inflammation, a trigger for PCOS.
The DUTCH test may be ordered as it provides a detailed analysis of the endocrine system and can be useful in understanding where the communication breakdown may be occurring in the endocrine system of a
woman with PCOS.
As functional medicine is focused on identifying the cause of chronic illness in the individual, this approach can be very enlightening for a woman with PCOS. We know there is no DEFINITIVE cause of PCOS … but does that mean we can’t find our OWN cause? Functional medicine seeks to do just that.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE
I am currently on a journey with Functional Medicine and it has been very interesting.
I have done the DUTCH test, a gut health test (which was epic) and two hair analysis tests, along with the more general blood testing you would normally do.
From this I have learnt about the high levels of toxic heavy metals in my body and that these metals have been both inhibiting my production of Estrogen AND blocking my body's ability to absorb many important nutrients like magnesium, calcium and iron.
I've also learnt I have a severe iodine deficiency, a serious issue for pregnancy (leading cause of still birth, you can read more in my blog post over here) and the probable reason why I've had brain fog, fatigue, memory issues, weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
I've discovered I have low estrogen, which is causing my low libido and difficulty ovulating.
I've also discovered I have a sensitivity to gluten, grains and nightshades, which have been causing leaky gut, recurrent yeast infections and difficulty absorbing nutrients.
That's a lot to have discovered considering I thought I was pretty well versed in what was happening with my body and my PCOS.
The great thing is, my Functional Medicine doctor has a tonne of solutions. I've been on a range of supplements, most of which are new to me and I've begun seeing results. It has been slower than it could have been as I'm breastfeeding and can't take all my doctor would like to prescribe me, but I'm almost a year in and my cycle is regular, my anxiety has seemingly disappeared, my energy levels are soaring and continue to climb, my cervical fluid has at least doubled in quantity and until this last month, my skin has been crystal clear (not sure what has happened this month!).
The one area I haven't seen results is weight loss. Not a kilo will budge. But, I'm trusting in the process. If anyone can help me with this, I think it's my functional medicine doctor.
And I'm not the only believer, tonnes of women are turning to Functional Medicine to get a real understanding of what is happening in their bodies.
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