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The Role Of Functional Medicine In The Prevention Of Co-Morbidities

Written by

Deborah Freudenmann BHSc

The last few decades have witnessed a sharp rise in the incidence of several lifestyle disorders including diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks, and stroke. It has been found that the number of people living with two or more chronic conditions is increasing at an alarming rate.

There is a need to understand the pathogenesis that underlies the development of comorbidities so that the implications of multiple co-morbidities can be avoided.

Some common underlying causative factors to chronic disease and co-morbidities include: inflammation, infections, immune dysregulation, toxic exposures, nutrient deficiencies, lifestyle choices…

Your body is excellent at handling a certain level of inflammation or toxin load, this may or may not already present as a chronic disease. However, when we don’t address these factors it can create a cascade effect and that’s when one chronic disease can turn into another.

Functional medicine provides an effective strategy to overcome the risk of multiple co-morbidities by identifying and eliminating their root causes.

Read on to learn more about the implications of comorbidities and the role of functional medicine in the prevention of these diseases.

What are co-morbidities?

Co-morbidities refer to the development of more than one chronic disorders that seem to have common causes or share similar pathogenesis owing to the similarities in their risk factors.

Comorbidities are more likely to affect patients with diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, obesity, kidney disease, arthritis, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease and childhood asthma….

Implications of comorbidities

Chronic diseases often cluster together due to the shared risk factors such as inflammation, oxidative stress, exposure to toxins, unhealthy lifestyle, and nutritional deficiencies.

The implications of multiple comorbidities include recurrent hospitalizations, poor quality of life, increased healthcare costs, and even premature death.

Furthermore, comorbidities may also serve as the drivers for the poor outcomes in patients with cancer, chronic kidney diseases, and stroke.

How do comorbidities make you more susceptible to future diseases?

Most chronic diseases share similar causative factors. This means the presence of any one risk factor may put the patient at a risk of developing multiple diseases. This can trigger the development of co-morbidities with the patient developing multiple chronic diseases.

Which are the common underlying risk factors for co-morbidities?

Inflammation

Inflammation is at the root of many diseases. It can trigger the development of multiple chronic diseases including diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The use of natural anti-inflammatory agents like curcumin, vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin Bs together with the avoidance of inflammation-promoting factors like eating foods that you are intolerant in could help to minimize inflammation in the body.

Immune dysregulation

A weak or abnormally functioning immune system can reduce the efficiency of the body’s defense processes to protect itself against the disease-causing agents. It can deprive the body of its ability to resist the development of acute and chronic diseases include infections, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.

Strengthening the immune system by improving your intake of essential nutrients such as zinc, vitamin D and C. In addition to mushrooms, probiotics and herbs such as astralagus root, ginseng… Regular exercises are also important and allow the body to fight disease-causing agents more efficiently.

Toxic exposures

Exposure to toxins in the form of additives and preservatives in foods, chemicals in cosmetics, pollutants in the air, heavy metals (mercury in amalgam fillings) and from mobile towers can result in immense damage to the healthy tissues.

This can put you at risk of several co-morbidities including skin diseases, allergic diseases, COPD, inflammatory bowel diseases, depression, ADHD, metabolic syndrome, anxiety, cancer and many more!!!

Minimizing your exposure to toxins can be a great way to protect the vital organs against toxicity. Adopting natural detoxification methods can also help to eliminate these toxins from the body and prevent their build-up in the healthy tissues.

Nutrient depletion

Lack of adequate nutrients in the diet could deprive the body of the support it needs for performing various physiological functions. Nutrient depletion could be caused through a poor gut function and subsequent malabsorption.

It is important to ensure your gut is functioning optimally and assimilating the nutrients present in the food. Your diet should contain all the essential macronutrients like carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins and micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to maintain good health and prevent co-morbidities.

Lifestyle habits

Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, alcohol intake, and lack of physical activities can play a huge role in triggering the development of co-morbidities such as lung cancer, alcoholic hepatitis, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks. Stress is another major trigger for disease and comorbidities – ensuring our adrenals are supported and stress management skills are implemented.

It is advisable to adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as eating a nutritious diet and regular exercise to avoid comorbidities and improve health.

Role of functional medicine in the management of co-morbidities

Functional Medicine is aimed at understanding and identifying the critical physiological factors that underlie the development of diseases. This approach can create a ripple effect by addressing the development of multiple diseases.
Being aware of the common risk factors shared by chronic diseases can allow patients to adopt healthier strategies to avoid them. This could protect them against several illnesses and thus, improve their overall health.

Conclusion

Co-morbidities are commonly associated with more complex clinical management, worse health outcomes, and lower quality of life.

Addressing the key physiological dysfunctions by adopting the strategies recommended by the functional medicine approach might lead to an improvement in the multiple downstream diagnoses and even reversal of the disease states.

That is why we educate about Functional Medicine to those who wish to empower themselves in understanding how to address the root causes and avoid chronic disease development.

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