5 Principles This Functional Medicine Doctor Swears By
I learned many things from functional medicine. It rearranged all my knowledge from medical school and years of working at hospitals. It also helped me understand other healing tools I had found and continue to find. One of the basic functional medicine principles is what I call the "Five R's."
Here, I've defined the "Five R's" of functional medicine. They include remove, restore, repair, reinoculate, relax.
The first R calls to remove all foods that cause any kind of negative effect on the body. Eliminating all processed, foodlike products loaded with chemicals is paramount. Only whole foods. But even certain whole foods can affect you negatively in many different ways. These ways include acidification (which can lead to diarrhea and osteoporosis), mucus formation (which causes congestion and a runny nose), constipation, immune response (skin issues), inflammation, and a myriad of other expressions of food sensitivities.
It is also important to remove the chemicals from other sources. Another key aspect is removing the harmful bacteria from the intestines. This way, you will starve the bad bacteria, allowing the good ones to thrive and survive.
As you remove the obstacles that are preventing you from looking and feeling your best, you need to also restore whatever is lacking. Antioxidants are important to buffer the surge of free radicals that occurs initially when the body starts detoxing intensely. Important as well is the presence and availability of the nutrients needed for the biotransformation and detoxification reactions in the liver and elsewhere.
Your body has an innate ability to heal itself and is constantly trying to repair whatever damage it suffers. There are two main reasons repair cannot be achieved at times: due to obstacles such as toxic molecules or trigger foods that interfere with these processes and things such as specific nutrients needed by the repair cells are lacking. When you remove the obstacles and you provide what is lacking, everything falls into place and repair happens seamlessly. In functional medicine, we understand the importance of empowering the body to reach its full healing potential.
A wealth of evidence suggests that the good bacteria in our gut, in the right places and in the correct ratios between species, is vital to our well-being. Affecting your weight; your chances of being obese, becoming diabetic, or having your immune system attack your own cells; the bacteria in your gut have far-reaching consequences well beyond where they live in your body. They feed on whatever you feed yourself. When the good bacteria are fueled by a natural, well-balanced diet, they thrive and in turn help the body in many ways that we are yet discovering.
These good bacteria, however, die when fed highly processed food-like products or any real food with preservatives. These chemicals are put in foods to prevent the bacteria from growing and spoiling it, completely disregarding the fact that they will also spoil your intestinal flora.
The unnatural way in which we eat ends up changing our intestines in a negative way, creating a condition known as dysbiosis. This is a major contributor to hyperpermeability, or leaky gut, which is at the very root of many of today's chronic diseases. Ayurvedic herbs can help not only in reducing bad bacteria but also in selectively feeding the good ones, repopulating the intestines with the right bacteria in the optimal ratio. If it's in your reach, using probiotics will accelerate a beneficial bacterial reinoculation.
Functional medicine teaches the importance of the mind-body connection. It promotes the use of many tools such as biofeedback, meditation, movement, fun activities, and vacation time. So many people are intimidated by the word meditation and their misconception of what it is, but this practice can be simple, short, and can be done at any time of the day. And it really helps.
Adapted from CLEAN7 by Alejandro Junger, M.D., reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2019.
Alejandro Junger M.D. is a cardiologist, founder and Medical Director of the Clean Program, and bestselling author of Clean and Clean 7 among other health books. He graduated from medical school in Uruguay, where he was born. He completed his postgraduate training in internal medicine at NYU Downtown Hospital and a fellowship in cardiovascular diseases at Lenox Hill Hospital before studying eastern medicine in India.
His drastic lifestyle and diet change from his move to New York City led to irritable bowel syndrome and depression. Becoming a patient of the system in which he was practicing started a journey to search for an alternative solution. He is an expert in gut health and nutrition, incorporating Functional medicine with Ayurveda and a combination of ancient and modern wisdom. He and his family live in Los Angeles, where he continues his ever-evolving mission to clean up the planet one person at a time.