‘Fundamentals of Functional Medicine’ presented
Cresco - Oneota Food Coop in Decorah was breaking its seams when Regional Health Services of Howard County Dr. Mohit Chawla presented “Fundamentals of Functional Medicine,” on Oct. 7. The original preset registration number was set at 22, moving to 33 and ending with over 60 people in attendance for the presentation and following discussion.
A brief introduction began with, “This is the largest crowd we’ve ever had in this kitchen space. Dr. Chawla joined RHSHC in July of 2014. He attended Creighton University Medical Center, Omaha, Neb., and completed his family medicine residency in 2014.”
Dr. Chawla, took the floor, looked around appreciatively, saying, “I didn’t expect this crowd.”
“My basic medical education was in India,” said Dr. Chawla. “I practiced there for a couple of years and learned a lot of things, many of them from my dad, a physician. When I go back to India, I still learn a lot from him. I decided to expand my horizons and go to the United States and attended Creighton University, completing my family medicine residency. I am now married and have a daughter.”
Dr. Chawla went on to explain that “functional medicine” does not replace “conventional clinic science.”
“Functional medicine is not a rejection of conventional medicine,” he noted. “The basic foundation of medical knowledge with functional medicine is the inclusion of different modalities.
Functional medicine builds on the foundation of conventional medicine and takes it to the next level. Functional medicine is an enhancement package, using the different modalities to fit to what each person needs.”
The definition of health by the World Health Organization is, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely absence of disease.”
“We are so much into a disease-oriented culture,” said Dr. Chawla. “For example, two patients receive the same diagnosis. One does extremely well and the other in extreme circumstances dies….why is this? There are gaps in our knowledge and we need to fill the gap.
“In 2008, $2.3 trillion was spent on healthcare in the United States. More than our national defense, homeland security, education and welfare combined. Functional medicine uses a systems-oriented approach and engages both the patient and the practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. This is a more patient-centered approach. Change is needed because we need to give the human touch; we are not just a physical body, we have a soul and a mind. We need to look at the whole person.”
Reiterating that functional medicine is not a substitute for conventional medicine, the physician added, “Conventional medicine works well for acute and emergent care, but lacks the comprehensive approach needed to optimally manage chronic disease. Information from the Center for Disease Control tells us that one out of two adult Americans will have at least one chronic disease. Children born today are the first generation in the United States projected to have a shorter life span than their parents. We need to change our lifestyle. We rely too much on randomized double-blinded control studies. Our patients are unique, so we cannot blindly apply these studies. We have ignored nutrition, chronic conditions and other things for a long time. We can heal ourselves with common sense medicine.”
Dr. Chawla discussed the antecedents, triggers and mediators of chronic disease, including nutrition, environmental toxicity, indoor living, an aging population, chronic stress, sedentary lifestyle, poverty/uninsured populations and fragmented families/communities. Going on to say that inflammation is the culprit of all diseases.
“Antecedents are factors, genetics or acquired, that predispose an individual to an illness or pattern,” said Chawla. “Triggers are factors that provoke the symptoms and signs of illness and mediators are factors that, biochemical or psychosocial, that contribute to pathological changes and dysfunctional responses. With one condition there can be many imbalances,” said Dr. Chawla. “For example: obesity. Inflammations with obesity can include heart disease, depression, arthritis, cancer and diabetes.”
A New Way of Thinking, the Functional Medicine Tree
The top of the tree is the Organ System Diagnosis surrounded by the eight areas of neurology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, cardiology, pulmonary, urology, hepatology and immunology. As one progresses down the tree to the root system are the “signs and symptoms.”
“These days we are shifting our treatment plan by our genes,” said Dr. Chawla. “This is a new way of thinking…..to modify the trigger factors.”
Working one’s way down the tree, Dr. Chawla shared the “Fundamental Organizing Systems and Core Clinical Imbalances.” These are assimilation, defense and repair, energy, biotransformation and elimination, transport, communication and structural integrity.
“These imbalances are surrounded by our mental, emotional and spiritual being,” said Dr. Chawla. “There are also personalizing lifestyle and environmental factors at the root that include sleep and relaxation, exercise and staying in motion, food and nutrition, hydration, stress/resilience relationships/networks, trauma, microorganisms and environmental pollutants. We are not reaching the root.”
“Remember what our grandmothers used to say to us,” said Dr. Chawla. “Eat your vegetables? They were right. This is the key, and I would like to say to keep red meat to twice a week. There are so many toxins in our day-to-day life. We Americans all have pesticides in our blood. We haven’t been taught about pesticides in our medical school. Here is one of those gaps I referred to earlier. Be careful what you are buying. Buy organic food if you can. It is better for our environment and good for our bodies. I also believe that with Mother Nature you can be healed with positive energy. So under the Functional Medicine Prescription we have three other prescriptions: functional nutrition, lifestyle and supplements and medications.”
Immediately following the presentation the local physician took questions. An appreciative audience ended the evening with applause and personal “thank yous” to Dr. Chawla.