By guest contributor Barb Swanson
(author of Beyond Foods: The Handbook of Functional Nutrition) /
There is no doubt that within the last 120 years, medicine has dramatically changed human health. Some advances have truly enhanced our lives. Antibiotics offer cures unlike anything previous in human history. Surgery has become a micro-art form. Also, however–and without a doubt–a complete dependence on Western medicine methodology has allowed us to create terrible habits around how to stay healthy.
- We are trained to expect a quick fix. We often take drugs (toxic substances) to “cure” ourselves of health problems.
- These substances usually (though not always) treat only symptoms, not the cause, of a disease.
- Many times, as soon as we stop taking the “cure”, the original symptoms return and we once again have the original problem.
In Functional Nutrition, we look for causes of a problem, such as pain. Sometimes, a cause is temporary–we have eye strain from working at a computer, or we worked out too long. Other times, and with all chronic problems, there may be multiple causes. You may have a genetic weakness in the organ or system; you may have a habit that has, over time, led to issues. And most often, there is an underlying micro-nutritional deficiency.
Let’s use your eyes as an example. You may have inherited a weakness like myopia (near-sightedness). You get prescription eyewear and it works. Then, if you chronically use your computer in poor light or other habits like this, you may create eye strain. You modify how you work, but don’t feel 100% better. You may now have an extra need for key amino acid peptides. These are the building blocks your body needs to rebuild damaged eye tissue, and they also form powerful antioxidants which help neutralize future free radical damage.
Let’s compare taking a drug to the process of how the body uses nutrients to heal.
Using a headache as an example:
A doctor would recommend some sort of short-term pain reliever like ibuprofen, acetaminophen or aspirin. The headache disappears and everyone is happy. But no one asked the question, “What caused the headache?” Based on the treatment prescribed and the resultant “cure”, can we conclude the headache was caused by an “aspirin deficiency”? We know that isn’t the cause! Functional nutrition looks beyond a simple short-term fix into why you have the headache in the first place. Since the brain is over 70% fatty tissues, you may need to increase foods high in omega fatty acids. You may need to move more frequently to up your oxygen levels to support fully oxygenating your brain tissue.
Nearly all drugs on the market, including antacids, are composed of chemical toxins which are poisonous to our bodies. Therefore, drugs may alleviate symptoms, but do little to cure ills, and cannot wipe out why we get a disease. Oftentimes, a drug “cures” your complaint but creates other problems. How many times have you taken antibiotics for infections? You may get a yeast infection from this, as the antibiotic destroys your gut flora. For some people, once the antibiotic is stopped, the infection returns. This can occur because, with some few exceptions (such as a contaminated wound), the antibiotic cannot cure why you succumbed to the infection. The real problem lies not in being exposed to germs–not everyone gets ill from being exposed to the exact same germs. Often, the root cause exists in your body’s immune health and its ability to effectively handle potentially hostile germs. Most of the time, a healthy person with good nutrients will have good immune health.