Nutrition

What is Alternative Medicine and Where does Nutrition Fit?

Alternative medicine has been on the rise for several decades now and it seems that it will keep growing in the foreseeable future. The most recent addition to the alternative medicine family is Functional medicine. Why is it different? Because it offers something traditional medicine doesn’t – that is working on the body as a whole to eliminate the root cause, rather an as isolated systems of organs and suppressing symptoms.

So what’s the big fuss? Let’s take a look at the current healthcare landscape.

Functional Medicine 2

Functional Medicine Final

 

Conventional Medicine

Western medicine or allopathic medicine is the dominant approach to health are not only in the West but in any developed country (thanks to globalization). These paradigm treat the symptoms of disease rather than the root cause. The National Cancer Institute’s describes allopathic and Western medicine as using “drugs, radiation or surgery to treat symptoms and disease. These can also be called conventional medicine or mainstream medicine.

Alternative Medicine

There are many paradigms which fall under “alternative medicine”. According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), this approach goes beyond just treating symptoms and aims to achieve optimal health. Osteopathic healthcare consists of conventional drugs, surgery and special osteopathic manipulative techniques. These techniques are hands-on – an osteopathic doctor would use their hands to stretch or apply gentle pressure on muscles and joints.

Holistic medicine encompasses body, mind and soul into its practice. It treats the person as one whole, rather than the sum of its parts/organs/systems, and thus the name holistic. Like osteopathic medicine, holistic medicine looks for the root cause of problems, rather than just treating symptoms. It includes physical, social, psychological and spiritual elements of health and disease.

Naturopathic medicine has self-healing at the core of its paradigm. It uses therapeutic methods (including nutritional, manipulative, homeopathic and botanical therapies) and substances to assist the body in healing itself. It also focuses on identifying and eliminating the root causes of disease and ill health.

And finally, integrative medicine is the marriage of mainstream and alternative medicine. I believe integrative medicine incorporates all of the above. Some of the top interventions used in integrative medicine are nutrition, yoga, supplementation, massage, meditation and acupuncture.

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a systems-based method, linking physiology and function. It takes into account the patient’s lifestyle, genes and environment when looking for the root cause and developing a treatment plan. It is often confused with integrative medicine, because of their many similarities, including a patient-centered approach.

I really like the definition below from  this article on Deepak Chopra’s website:

“The Textbook of Functional Medicine defines FM as the ‘prevention, early assessment, and improved management of complex, chronic disease by intervening at multiple levels to correct core clinical imbalances and thereby restore each patient’s functionality and health to the greatest extent possible’.”

Functional Medicine’s 6 Core Principles:

  1. Recognizing the individuality and genetic uniqueness of each human being
  2. Supporting a holistic, patient-cantered — rather than disease-cantered — approach to treatment
  3. Searching for a dynamic balance between body, mind, and spirit
  4. Acknowledging the interconnectedness of all internal body functions
  5. Seeing health as a positive vitality — not just the absence of disease
  6. Striving to enhance the health span, not just the life span, of each patient

There’s a good analogy of functional medicine as a tree: the leaves are the symptoms, the trunk is the clinical imbalances, and the roots are the environmental and genetic dispositions.

Functional medicine was found on the premise that dysfunctions on multiple levels (psychological, physiological, etc.) precede disease. Part of its approach is to define disease in terms of how the individual’s genome interacts with the environment and lifestyle and how that is expressed in physiological function.

A typical course of action would be to correct physiological imbalances and change the environmental factors (including nutrition) which undermine optimal function.

Back to Alternative Medicine

All of the outlined medicine paradigms have one goal in common – to restore and maintain optimal health. Alternative and especially functional medicine aims to go beyond the absence of disease and towards 100% function of the body.

Illness-wellness continuum

Where does nutrition fit into this? Nutrition fits in each and every model. It is a core component of osteopathic, naturopathic, holistic and functional medicine. It can also help many hospital in-patients and out-patients in their recovery from invasive treatments or to counter-balance the effects of medications. Nutrients affect us not just on a system level but also on a cellular level. We need good nutrition in order function optimally and support our bodies to maintain homeostasis (balance).

I believe all of these approaches can work together under a funnel approach. At the top of the funnel we have the less invasive/aggressive approaches: osteopathic medicine, holistic medicine, naturopathic medicine and functional medicine. In this way most of the chronic diseases can be prevented and reversed, the burden on public health systems and hospitals can be lowered and patients can actively participate (and choose) their treatment plans.

At the bottom of the funnel would be the remaining approaches: western medicine, allopathic medicine and regenerative medicine. Let’s not forget that A&E doctors save lives every day! That is why we cannot completely eliminate traditional medicine – we still need it for emergency and severe cases. However, I would rather see them as a last resort.

The “funnel” approach as I would like to call it will limit the number of people requiring medications and surgeries, free up more time for the allopathic doctor so that he/she can focus more on their patient’s care and thus improve their service. And this is why non-mainstream medicine will continue to grow.

IntegratedMedicine

 

lifestyle

2018 Wellness Trends

2018 Wellness trends

Here we are at the end of January and there have been plenty of new trends in the health and wellbeing field. Industry experts predict that 2018 will see moringa (a “super” anti-inflammatory green) replace turmeric, collagen overtake protein powders and “nootropic” (brain boosters/cognitive enhancers) supplements climb the top of the popularity list.

Other trends include the focus on gut health, supporting your mitochondria (cell power houses) produce more energy and sleep optimisation. But I’m not going to discuss these here because these trends may work for some people but they may not for others. This happens because of our biochemical individuality – we are all unique in terms of genetics, current health status and environmental & lifestyle factors.

With that in mind, I have picked a couple of trends I found interesting and could perhaps be applied to most of us. Let’s take a look:

2018 Trends - Tech

I’m really happy to see that disconnecting from social media and technology is deemed to be one of the top wellness trends for 2018. According to top wellness websites Mindbodygreen and Well+Good this year more and more of us will turn away from social media platforms and tech gadgets in a bid to reduce stress and break away from harmful addictions. As technology and apps improve their designs and features to keep us hooked, we aim to retaliate by returning to the real world and stimulating our brains with real interactions and fostering new communities.

As more and more evidence suggests smart tech is to blame for stress, anxiety, depression (and even rising teenage suicide rates), we have become determined to break free from tech chains and companies & entrepreneurs are taking notice. Catering to this trend are a growing number of co-working spaces, phone-free social clubs, wi-fi free cafes & hotels and “analogue” travel destinations (Check out Villa Stephanie in Baden-Baden, Germany —which blocks all WiFi signals from your room by embedding copper plates in the walls — the Mandarin Hotel Las Vegas’ ‘digital wellness escape” where phones are left at the front desk and glamping startup Hipcamp for totally off-the-grid places).

But we are not completely turning our backs to technology – rather we’re choosing when and how we use it (#we’vegotthepower – literally). Sleep-tech innovation now enables us to rest our weary bodies on smart mattresses which can track your sleep cycles, adjust room temperature and wake you up only when you are in a stage of light sleep. And if you don’t want to part with your existing mattress you have a choice of sleep trackers, apps and gadgets like Apple watch. Another helpful tech category that has recently emerged is femtech – female health apps (from cycle mapping to fertility and conception apps, there’s something for every woman).

2018 Trends - Self-care

Part of the motivation for these changes in technology use and demand are due to our increasing awareness for mental and spiritual wellbeing. The rise of “self-care” marks a new direction for the yoga/meditation/mindfulness trend. More and more people are looking to engage in a slower pace of life. We are just beginning to accept that it is ok to not have a thousand goals on your list / not exercise everyday / not sacrifice sleep / not put yourself last. Scheduling daily or weekly me-time is gaining popularity because it gives us time to recover, get some peace of mind and be fully charged and ready to help and support those who need us.

Mindfulness industry
From Mindbodygreen.com

Meditation and mindfulness are welcoming a lot of new kids on the block – knitting, journaling, colouring,  home bath ritual products, taking the time to sit and enjoy our food or even just having lazy mornings in bed! Oh and there’s this new thing called breathwork which is not new really, but instead derives from the way yogis use breath to further their practice. It is becoming popular because, unlike meditation, it does not require you to be in a calm mental state. In fact, you can use specific patterns of breathing to calm down or boost your energy and thus improve your mental wellbeing.

Breathwork
From Mindbodygreen.com

Related to the rise in self-care is the increasing demand for affordable, natural, “green” beauty products. Big corporations like Target, Procter & Gamble and Unilever are finally giving a lot more prominence to chemical-free products (perhaps in the hopes to cash in on consumer’s demand?) and improving transparency on label info.

2018 Trends - Green Beauty

It’s not just about cleaner, organic products though – we want our products to be high performing. Not only are we looking for products which match the efficacy of non-natural products but we want them to nourish and protect our skin from the sun and pollution. Enter “skin-barrier-supporting” and “microbiome-enhancing” serums which promise to build our skin’s defence against environmental toxins and improve its function. These products use ingredients such as lipids, ceramides, adaptogens, and even live bacteria to help our skin adapt to our environment.

Ultimately what these trends show us is two things – 1. we, as consumers, have the power to change entire industries and 2. investing time in our wellbeing is an important (and growing) aspect of health.

The most important thing you should keep in mind when making any health related decisions is that you are unique and only you can tell what works for you.