The Power of Prevention
How many of us breathe a sigh of relief when our car passes its MOT and annual service? It comes back to us with a clean bill of health for another year, tyres checked for safety and wear and tear and with new oil, screenwash and coolant levels topped up.
Yet how many of us treat our bodies to regular health MOTs? Most of us usually only consult a healthcare professional for our own health when something goes wrong. We’re quite happy to use the best oil and fuel to reduce wear and tear on our car’s engine, but often we’re guilty of feeding our bodies substandard food and expecting it to give us years of trouble-free service.
What is Wellness?
Functional Medicine practitioners don’t see health as simply an absence of disease. Instead they look upon health as the condition in which body systems and cells are functioning at an optimum level.
When your car is serviced the technician will give it a thorough inspection. Your car may drive perfectly so you may not suspect there’s anything wrong with it, but the brakes might be coming towards the end of their life. So you wouldn’t be too surprised if the mechanic tells you they need to be replaced even though you haven’t noticed you needed to press any harder on the brake pedal. It’s the same with your body. Just because you’re not experiencing any outward symptoms doesn’t mean your body is functioning optimally.
Lifestyle and Genes
We are born with one body and with it a genetic blueprint we have inherited from our parents. These genes determine our physical characteristic like our height and hair colour but they also instruct our cells how to function on a day to day basis. This called gene expression.
We now know our genetic tendencies are far more flexible than we originally thought. While hair colour can’t be altered, the instructions our genes give to our cells are heavily influenced by our lifestyle and our nutritional status.
Even if we have inherited a susceptibility to a particular disease, it’s not inevitable we will develop that disease – it largely depends on lifestyle factors. Think of it like a used car you’ve purchased. You may be aware this model of car is prone to problems with its coolant system. You’d make sure you check it regularly and keep the coolant topped up with a good quality product.
Invest in Wellness
Because we only have one body, it’s important we invest in it. This is where prevention comes in. Feeding your body’s cells good nutrition and avoiding damaging lifestyle habits are the first steps in keeping them functioning in tip-top condition.
Our bodies are adept at coping with the effects of a poor diet and damaging lifestyle choices, sometimes for many years, without any outward signs of ill-health. Functional testing can pinpoint imbalances in body systems which are not producing symptoms but which may lead to disease in future years.
For example, a condition called insulin resistance is a risk factor for the development of Type 2 diabetes. Insulin is the hormone which tells our body’s cells to allow glucose to enter so it can be used for energy. It’s this mechanism which brings blood glucose down to normal levels after we’ve eaten. Insulin resistance occurs when our cells no longer listen to the message brought to them by insulin. This means cells will be starved of energy and blood glucose remains high, which can damage cells and tissues. So the pancreas reacts by secreting increasing amounts of insulin to bring the blood glucose down at all cost.
Because of this, if blood glucose levels are tested they would appear normal and, initially at least, insulin resistance may produce no symptoms. However, over a period of time this extra work tires out the pancreas which eventually becomes unable to secrete enough insulin. Blood glucose rises and Type 2 diabetes develops. If insulin resistance can be detected ahead of this, strategies can be employed to increase the sensitivity of the cells to insulin and the pancreas won’t need to work so hard.
Functional Medicine and Wellness
Functional Medicine asks why and how disease occurs by looking at what’s happening in our body’s cells and organs. By using targeted testing, the functioning of our cells can be assessed. That way, the root causes of ill-health for each person – which will be different depending on genetics, lifestyle and food choices – can be addressed even before symptoms develop.
A range of lifestyle interventions, dietary changes and supplements can be employed to restore the proper functioning of body systems.
How many of you service your car? Take it for its annual MOT? Yet how many of you consider servicing your own vehicle?
I advise functional testing to be part of your preventative approach to disease. To understand if you need to change the oil or the break pads.
Most people don’t consider the need to invest in wellness, but you now know there are ways to optimize your wellbeing and prevent the diseases of the future.