Imagine if your home went on fire, the fire brigade would come and dutifully put the fire out but much more than that they would investigate the cause or causes of the fire so that you could be armed with that knowledge in order to prevent it happening again. Then imagine if you didn't take heed of that advice and you did the exact same thing again and caused another fire over and over again? The fire brigade would wonder what on earth was going on.
Sadly the above is a great analogy for modern medicine which only seeks to put fires out (and sometimes that's needed) but rarely makes any attempt to identify the cause. In fact it doesn't even always put the fires out completely as the embers are often left smouldering undetected as we innocently go about our lives consumed in the very fine and often invisible smoke of chronic inflammatory conditions. Instead of practicing downstream medicine we need to be swimming upstream to find what we call triggers and drivers.
Imagine also working in industry and continuing to do the things which cause a given problem, you wouldn't last long as you would potentially cost your company millions in making corrections. I could go on with the analogies but you get the picture. We need to be aware of root cause in all things so that we can prevent unnecessary accidents and struggles in life and get back control. Prevention is key in health but that doesn't mean that once the horse has bolted it's too late because each and every day we influence our health by the choices we make.
In functional medicine we have a phrase which I share often with clients and it's this. 'The genes load the gun but the environment pulls the trigger.' This is the best news ever and so empowering as we influence that gene expression moment by moment. Interestingly our individual genes also become relevant here as our genes influence many aspects of our physiology, our ability to detoxify, our ability to metabolise sugar and fats and so much more. Our requirements for specific nutrients are also very individual not just based on deficiencies but also based on individual need genetically. Some people have a higher need for B12 or folate due to specific genetics SNP's (single nucleotide polymorphisms) or vitamin D and so on, so testing our genetics can be the ultimate way to individualise health care.
We also talk in functional medicine about triggers and drivers. Triggers are those things which trigger a health challenge. For example you eat a trigger food and you develop an immediate symptom such as a migraine or an IBS attack. Triggers might also be a virus or a reaction to a medication, in fact as the word suggests it's anything that triggers a change in health. Meanwhile drivers are those thing which we do all the time which drive certain health challenges. This might be something we do or don't do, something we are lacking or it may be an environmental exposure. Example of a driver might be dehydration as everyday we forget to drink enough water so our dehydration is promoting multiple symptoms from headaches to constipation and hormonal imbalance. Another example could be that we live or work in a toxic environment. Perhaps there has been a water leak at home and we are exposed to mould spores which have led to some health challenges. In fact mycotoxins from mould is something we are testing for more and more in clinic as these can be both initial triggers and drivers for meany health challenges from chronic sinus and respiratory health issues to chronic UTI, autoimmunity and severe mental health.
Another driver could be that we are chronically deficient in key nutrients. This could be due to a lack in the diet or also due to our absorption. It could also be that we are taking a medication that depletes key nutrients and because we don't know this we don't take the necessary steps to remediate. It could also be that we do try to take a missing nutrient but we simply don't take enough or the right kind. So imagine if you are suffering from chronic or recurrent migraines and all the time you are deficient in magnesium, vitamin B2 or omega 3 but you don't know this, you're just going to live with it and take various pharmaceuticals which might at best reduce pain but are ultimately shooting at the wrong target.
So the question is what are we doing unwittingly that is promoting illness? What triggers and drivers have for each of us become part of our story? How did they come about? What led to the changes? I'm going to give some examples below of the more common triggers and drivers we see in clinical practice. To really do this topic justice would involve writing not just one book but hundreds of books as the topic is so vast but I hope these few examples provide some light bulb moments which will give you hope and empower you on your journey.
Migraine: above I gave the example of migraine and mentioned key nutrients which can be a risk factor when deficient. In addition, it could be your driver is a food sensitivity which you continue to consume. It cool be due to hormonal imbalance, for example oestrogen dominance. It could be related to suboptimal sleep. But then we need to ask more questions don't we? Why do you have these deficiencies? What is causing the hormonal imbalances? What's happening with sleep? What has led to your food sensitivities and what are they? More on migraine here
Eczema: you might be aware of genetic tendency and environmental triggers such as perfumes, washing powders, cleaning fluids and self care products. But what about the role of your immune system? What about gut health? What about food allergens and also food sensitivities? How can we modulate the immune system in all of this? To reduce inflammation we need to remove inflammatory triggers of all kinds but we also need to support the immune system via supporting gut health, ensuring key nutrients such as essential fatty acids and vitamin D. More on eczema here
IBS: Irritable bowel syndrome is increasingly common and often a trigger and a driver for many other inflammatory conditions, including hormonal imbalance, autoimmunity and mental health problems. So if you do have IBS, don't make the mistake of thinking 'oh it's only IBS' as if something is going on in the gut what is happening elsewhere which could be causing multiple health challenges and symptoms? Hippocrates said 'all diseases begin in the gut' and only in recent years is science catching up with his extraordinary wisdom. There is a well know saying that what goes on in Las Vegas stays in Vegas but not so in the gut! If you have issues with gut health this has implications for all aspects of health, how you absorb nutrients, how you react to foods, your immune health, your ability to make neurotransmitters, your energy, your ability to detoxify oestrogen, in fact your risk for many symptoms and chronic inflammatory conditions goes up. Also what has led to your IBS and what can you do to mitigate this? More on IBS here
Fibromyalgia: my journey into functional medicine and a root cause approach came thorough my daughter's experience of glandular fever followed by CFS and fibro which commonly come together. While modern 'treatment' focusses on pain management I was keen to find a root cause approach which would enable my daughter to get her life back. The areas we look at in functional medicine including dietary and nutritional factors, sleep patterns, life event triggers, lifestyle, lack of movement, chronic stress and HPA axis dysfunction, gastrointestinal triggers such as SIBO, immune imbalance and toxic exposures. Everyone is different and we need to work out your own story which may involve further testing to identify which of the above factors we need to work on.
Period pain: Dysmenorrhoea can be utterly miserable and is not normal or something we have to put up with. Nor is it down to bad luck. It is as a result of a number of overlapping
imbalances and deficiencies which set the scene for this to happen. You would be right in thinking hormonal imbalance plays a role but what causes the hormonal imbalance? This is where it gets interesting and where we should be looking with our functional medicine lens so that we can bring them back into balance. One big player here is gut health and our estrobolome which is the collection of bacteria involved in oestrogen metabolism is pretty important. What if we are chronically constipated and don't detoxify oestrogen properly? This is very common underlying driver of hormonal imbalance. Production of excess prostaglandins is also a driver in period pain. What if our diet is low in prostaglandin regulators such as omega 3 and vitamin E? Another key mineral for prevention and management is magnesium which is a smooth muscle relaxant. At the extreme end there is endometriosis and some of the suggestions in this blog will be relevant to all types of dysmenorrhea.
Anxiety: This is something we address very commonly in clinical practice and often goes hand in hand with many of the above. While it's assumed that anxiety is primarily the result of emotional factors, there are many other underlying drivers from blood sugar imbalance to low progesterone, deficiencies in magnesium, B vitamins, omega 3, thyroid problems (diagnosed and undiagnosed) and gut dysbiosis but we need to find out what is driving it. More on this blog.
By now it should be coming very clear that there is always a reason for everything, the trick is in finding it and knowing what to look for. We also offer a range of functional testing to fully explore root cause and find the individual triggers and drivers which are behind chronic health challenges. If you would like to get to the root of something and get your health back functional medicine is the way forward for you. More here
You can also book a discovery call here to find out more and to discuss your case
Amazon Associates Disclosure
Nourishing Insights is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS ARE SAYING
“I did Nutritional Therapy with Beverley and it was life changing. I highly recommend it!” Allison Blakely (Glasgow)
Want to speak to us by phone? Book a call back here.