Functional Medicine: Bridging the Gap
In the UK, the NHS is our biggest lifeline. No matter who we are, when anything goes wrong with our health, we know we can pick up a phone and be seen by a professional medic in as little as a few minutes.
Yet, aside from the fact that our system is creaking with the strain of growing demand, it isn’t necessarily fixing our health problems. With limited time and resources, doctors often write prescriptions to address our symptoms without really knowing what caused us to become ill in the first place. And this is exactly where Functional Medicine is playing an increasingly important role.
Bridging the gap between the worlds of medicine and holistic health, Functional Medicine aims to identify the root cause and treat from there.
Seed’s GP, Ashvy Bhardwaj, has been a qualified doctor for 18 years and incorporating Functional Medicine for the past seven.
Said Ashvy, “My interest in Functional Medicine began when I found myself struggling with my own health which, despite my medical training, I was unable to fix. I was extremely overweight and subsequently incredibly unhappy in my own skin.
“I went to many doctors myself until I realised that there was no magic drug out there that was going to fix my problem – my issue was due to my lifestyle and only I could do something about it.”
Ashvy went on to train as a nutritional therapist and personal trainer; and began asking her patients about how they lived, what they ate, their exercise regime, their sleep, their mental and emotional state and so on. By addressing these lifestyle factors, she grasped a better understanding of the root causes of disease and saw immediate benefits.
“The results were astonishing from very early on. I learned that chronic health problems have many root causes and have likely been developing over months if not years. I have since helped many of my patients fully recover from prolonged illness and disease.”
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
Said Ashvy, “In the UK, our medical system is more disease focussed than health focussed. In spite of there being a pill for every ill; incidences of chronic disease are rising and despite best efforts, we are overwhelmed with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune disease and mental health issues to name a few. Functional medicine is science and evidence-based, with new research emerging every day to help us prevent and even reverse disease and optimise health.”
“It’s a fundamental fact that most people expect a drug to fix us. It’s a cultural, learned behaviour. This is also how most allopathic doctors were trained; and our training is really drilled into us. We are not really taught to question things much.
As doctors, we need to be looking at the whole person and the way they live, offering them ways to help themselves before they become chronically ill. It would help patients feel more empowered in maintaining their own health while saving our NHS millions. It is an approach that is long overdue.”
Q&A with Ashvy
Time constraint is the biggest obstacle. It’s hard to try and identify the root cause of problems when I have between 15-20 minutes to do it. BUT, I start a dialogue with the patients. I listen to what they have to say. I explain how Functional Medicine (FM) works and how it can help probably reverse not just the disease they came to see me about that day; but many of the other health problems they face.
I ask them to make a few lifestyle adjustments (small things such as sleeping earlier, or trialling one month without gluten, snacking less, being kind to themselves). Most often; patients seem quite excited to have met a doctor who is incredibly passionate about a ‘new’ approach.
I have expertise spanning 3 fields over nearly 20 years; allopathic (modern) medicine, nutrition and exercise and in essence; my goal is the same for everyone:
I need a minimum of an hour and have worked with patients for up to 18 months.
ANYTHING. I used to think FM was just for chronic (long lasting) disease, but I would even use the same approaches for acute diseases too (shorter new conditions). There are many common underlying pathologies to all diseases from inflammation to hormonal imbalance and poor gut health to constipation. Once these have been worked on, the diseases tend to disappear!
Yes I can suggest all kinds of testing, that is a lot more detailed than most allopathic/GP/NHS tests. For example, with cholesterol in the NHS/BUPA; they look at Total Cholesterol, LDL, HDL, Triglycerides and the Total:HDL ratio. In FM, we look in far more detail.
I study the latest research through the Functional Medicine University; which is based upon most up to date evidence. As a doctor; we have been trained to sift the chaff from the wheat; as there is a lot of incorrect unsubstantiated evidence out there. Don’t get me started on undisclosed vested interests either!
My patients are one of my biggest inspirations to continue researching. When I hear about little tips and tricks they have tried to combat their illness or disease; I dive heavily into the science behind ‘why’ this would work.
I have been practicing lifestyle medicine for a long time now before it became trendy and more mainstream. Now I have a team of professionals through Seed who work from the same perspective as me with a holistic approach to health. I can call upon them to ask advice. I can’t bridge the gap between Functional medicine and the NHS alone; but this is something Seed Wellness are also keen to do. As a team we can achieve it!
The first thing is to start introducing these holistic and integrated therapies to GPs in an effective manner. If you asked the average doctor what are Alternative Therapies or FM, they may only know about acupuncture and homeopathy and unfortunately these may often be met with scepticism. So starting the conversation, stirring up some emotions, reminding doctors that we are all healers and the most important thing is the patient outcome, no matter how they get there is a great start.