What is it and for whom is it recommended?

In the treatment of chronic and non-chronic diseases, there are various methods that can be useful to patients, as long as they are tested and accompanied by a health professional who can assess progress.

Among the alternatives that have been presented in recent years, Functional medicine is emerging, which, more or lessaims to treat people integrally, looking for the origin of the pathology and attacking it in a personalized way.

In fact, some doctors recommend it, especially for people with chronic diseases who are looking to improve their quality of life.

However, functional medicine is not as common as protocol, and many people may not know what it is. This information can be useful for patients to make an informed decision about their treatment.

WEEK advises Dr. Javier Galvis, a specialist in internal medicine and certified in functional medicine, who explains what this modality consists of, its advantages and disadvantages and the patients it targets.

SEMANA: What is functional medicine?

Javier Galvis: Functional medicine is a system of thinking that teaches us, as physicians, to look for the root causes of chronic diseases in a personalized and accurate way for each patient.

This allows us to make insightful interventions by prioritizing and relying on the patient’s lifestyle factors, such as personalized exercise, natural and purposeful nutrition, providing recovery through proper rest and restful sleep, proper adaptation to stress and more. The functional physician strives to restore the proper function of the body’s systems and their interconnections.

One of the components of functional treatment is exercise, in addition to improving the quality of life in patients with chronic pathologies. – Photo: Getty Images

SEMANA: What are the main advantages and disadvantages of this treatment?

JG: The main advantage of functional medicine is that it is a system for creating health. It sounds obvious, but no, in protocol medicine – the one we have been taught throughout our careers – we are trained to support the patient with drugs, and this is not synonymous with creating health, but slowing down the disease process, much more so if lifestyle factors do not work together.

In functional medicine, there is hope for optimizing the resources of the health system and obtaining truly impressive results for patients, basically modifying these factors and correcting dysfunctions in a personalized way.

In order to find the root cause in each patient, an investment is needed, mainly time. One of the obstacles to its implementation is the standard of care within the current “health insurance” system. It will never be possible to help the patient return to health after a 15-minute consultation, or by ignoring his lifestyle.

Here lies the main disadvantage of functional medicine, although at the same time it becomes a force, as the time spent allows us to get to know the patient very well, in the details and subtleties of the factors in his life that have contributed to the loss of his health. . This time and this complete and detailed information allows us to create personalized treatment strategies to find out what each patient really needs.

SEMANA: What is the special effect of this type of medicine on chronic diseases?

JG: The impact of functional medicine on chronic diseases is unprecedented. It ranges from allowing the doctor to reduce the dose or number of medications, seeing that patients improve monitoring parameters, to even causing remission of chronic diseases in some cases.

SEMANA: Who is functional medicine recommended for?

JG: I recommend it to anyone who wants to achieve the desired state of well-being, but even more, I recommend a consultation on functional medicine to every patient with chronic diseasessuch as diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases -such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, polycystic ovary syndrome, dysmenorrhea and Alzheimer’s disease.

Also in these chronic conditions, marked as syndromes (clusters of symptoms) in conventional medicine for which there are no drugs that actually change the course of the disease, such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. In addition, for cases where there are chronic and / or recurrent symptoms without visible explanation, or which do not fit into the diagnostic category, but reduce and affect the patient’s life, as in functional medicine they could find their root cause and more thus undertake the process of restoring health.

SEMANA: Is this type of medicine openly accepted in the guild or are there doctors who do not share your practice?

JG: This type of medicine has all the scientific validity and actually has a degree in Colombia approved by the University Foundation for Health Sciences (FUCS), which provides enough training to face lThe daily challenges of chronic diseases.

Unfortunately, there are colleagues who, accepting what appears on social networks for reference, believe that functional medicine is a fad and has no scientific basis. Medicine is one, today it has this “functional” surname, but I truly believe that in a few decades all this knowledge will be integrated into basic education and included in the health insurance system of many countries.

SEMANA: Where was functional medicine born and how can it be applied in Colombia?

JG: Functional medicine was born in the United States about 40 years ago, and its founding fathers were Dr. Bland and Dr. Jones. There, the Institute of Functional Medicine, a non-profit organization, oversees the training of colleagues in functional medicine.

They have also helped establish collaborations in highly prestigious institutions, such as the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, also in the United States. This clinic, a pioneer in technology and advances in medicine, was the first in the world to adopt the model of functional medicine and adapt it to the health system, showing surprising results in terms of quality of life and resource use.

Some medications can cause increased appetite, fluid retention, or excessive fatigue as a side effect.  Photo: Getty Images.
Functional medicine also seeks to reduce treatment based entirely on drugs that, according to the expert, do not meet the need for a better life. – Photo: Foto Gettyimages

There are centers in Colombia, such as the Latin American Center for the Advancement of Medicine (CLAM), which apply the same model as the Cleveland Clinic, even to private patients outside the Colombian insurance system.

This model of care is so striking because of its results that Today there is progress in the health sector, at the level of IPS, which seeks to adopt and implement the model of functional medicine to optimize the health outcomes of costly diseases.

SEMANA: Are there any studies or clinical trials that can prove the effectiveness of functional medicine?

JG: Yes, there are many specific studies that show that applying the model of functional medicine brings additional benefits to conventional care.

Dr. Droz (2020) of the Cleveland Clinic showed that with a 12-week intervention based on the principles of functional medicine, patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a greater improvement in pain and quality of life assessments than conventional standard care. the same clinic.

For his part, Dr. Beidelshies, also at the Cleveland Clinic in 2019, showed how a group intervention based on functional medicine can help improve quality of life, weight loss and healthy perception, even at a lower cost. from conventional individual interventions. Later confirmed by Dr. Bharmal in communities with limited resources.

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