Functional Medicine (Part 1)

What I wish I'd been taught in medical school

Plant analogy well vs. sick

If you were a plant, which one would you want to be?

In some of my talks I show this picture and ask my audience this question.  They always choose the plant on the left because it looks healthy, alive, fresh.  When I ask them why they don’t want to be the plant on the right, they say it looks sick, lanta (wilted), tuyot (dried up).  So I ask them what they think is wrong with the “sick” plant.  The answers are typically some version of:

  • Hindi nadidiligan.  (It’s not being watered.)
  • Hindi naaarawan.  (It’s not getting enough sunlight.)
  • Kailangan ng fertilizer(It needs fertilizer.)
  • Pangit ang lupa.  (The soil is not good.)
  • Baka pinepeste.  (Maybe it has pests.)

And I ask them: are they getting enough water, sunlight, nutritious food?  Are they being exposed to toxins?  Now, what about you: what are your answers to these questions?

We already know, instinctively, the basic things that any living thing needs to be healthy, but we tend to forget them when it comes to ourselves.   A lot of the time (if not all the time) we become sick because we’re also not getting enough water, or sunlight exposure, or the right kind (and amount!) of food, or we’re being exposed to toxins.

Even us doctors (the supposed experts in “health care”) forget.  Primarily because we weren’t really taught about the fundamentals of health in medical school.  Sure, we learn the basics of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, etc.  But these are eventually overshadowed by the mountains of information we need to learn about diagnosing and managing diseases (inevitably using drugs and potions and pills).  Most clinical treatment guidelines actually emphasize that drugs should be used in conjunction with “diet and lifestyle”, but this tidbit quickly gets buried under all the data on drug dosing-indications-combinations-contraindications… And so we end up forgetting that lifestyle truly is the foundation of good health.

But it’s about time that we remember this foundation.  Because the exponential growth of medical knowledge these days — the latest discoveries and emerging research in fields like microbiome medicine, epigenetics, nutrigenomics and many other -omics — is showing that the key to health and vitality really does depend on that cliche we call “a healthy lifestyle”.  All the information available now gets quite bewildering, especially without some way make sense of it all and see the connections!  Buti nalang, there’s Functional Medicine to the rescue…  (To be continued…)

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