Our Top 5 for 2021
Here are the Top 5 Functional Medicine topics from 2021, in no particular order:
1. Long-Haul Covid
This mysterious illness–whereby a person who tested positive for SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) and becomes ill goes on to have lingering effects weeks or months later–is more prevalent than originally thought. Somewhere around a third of all COVID infections will lead to Long-Haul. Thankfully, many functional medicine physicians have helped patients with a similar illness, namely chronic fatigue syndrome, and the two illnesses have some similarities.
2. Hashimoto’s Disease
Autoimmune hypothyroidism, otherwise known as Hashimoto’s Disease, is one of the most common illnesses we see at Vytal Health. One of the reasons that functional medicine approaches work so well is that we acknowledge that the autoimmune process is not only related to many parts of the body outside of the immune system (for example, the gut), but that autoimmunity can be treated, and in some cases, reversed.
SIBO, which stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is another extremely common illness we see at Vytal Health. It is a condition that is often overlooked by traditional health care, where symptoms of bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and abdominal pain are all chalked up to “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” In the functional medicine community, we are learning more about this condition, what causes it, what works and what doesn’t.
4. Chronic Lyme Disease
Chronic Lyme disease is another illness where there is great controversy and rejection by the traditional medical community. Thankfully, this illness–which causes myriad symptoms including nerve, muscle, and joint pain, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, and a whole host of other debilitating symptoms–is treatable. Having a physician who is “Lyme literate” is key to eliminating this illness once and for all.
Fertility struggles are common and are a source of great stress in women (and couples) who are struggling to conceive. Most disheartening, often the cause of fertility problems is ultimately unknown, even after undergoing a large battery of tests. But beyond the traditional fertility specialists’ testing lies a whole host of functional medicine testing that may unlock the barrier to conception.
Here are the top 5 supplements Vytal Health clinicians are recommending:
1. Vitamin D + K (my recommended brand: OrthoMolecular)
Not just a vitamin, but also a hormone, vitamin D is important in not only bone health, but also immune system and mental health. Nearly all of us need to supplement vitamin D, (which is made in the body from sunshine) especially during winter months. Consult with your Vytal Health physician about checking a vitamin D level to determine what dose is right for you. Adding vitamin K is crucial in helping to direct calcium (absorbed in conjunction with vitamin D) to the bones and away from other organ systems, like the blood vessels.
2. Methylated B12 + Methylated Folate (my recommended brand: Pure Encapsulations)
Most of us need a little extra methylation to assist with detoxification of drugs, chemicals, and even our own hormones. Methylation, which occurs in the liver, is one of two steps in the detoxification process. Think of methylation is the body planting a tiny chemical “flag” (a methyl marker) on a given drug, chemical, or hormone to signal the body to excrete it. To determine our need for methylation, you can check your genetics. Certain genes that code for enzymes like COMT and MTHFR determine how well we methylate.
3. Adaptogens (my recommended brand: Cortisol Manager by Integrative Therapeutics)
As part of the stress response, the adrenal glands (located on top of each kidney) secrete hormones, most notably adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline release causes “fight or flight”, our acute stress response, while cortisol is released from chronic stress. Adaptogen herbs and supplements help support the cortisol response from the adrenals. Spikes in cortisol are common, and Cortisol Manager helps smooth these spikes throughout the day. Your clinician can help guide you with appropriate cortisol testing to choose the best adrenal support supplement.
4. Probiotic (my recommended brand: OrthoMolecular)
High-quality probiotics, which help support the healthy microbiome of the gut, are not easy to find. Having a healthy gut not only aids in digestion, but also supports a healthy immune system. This time of year, with questionable food choices and more viruses in our communities, having a healthy gut and immune system is very important.
5. SPM (my recommended brand: SPM Supreme by Designs For Health)
Specialized pro-resolving mediators (or SPMs) are nutrients that help resolve the inflammation response. Containing two important polyunsaturated fatty acids (or PUFAs), this supplement has been shown to reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, general pain, and injuries (particularly to tendons and ligaments). Because inflammation is widely associated with many diseases, like cancer, Alzheimer’s dementia, and heart disease, SPMs hold great promise in staving off these illnesses by controlling inflammation.
Functional medicine testing provides in-depth insights into your health, and oftentimes surfaces important clues as to the root cause of chronic health problems. Here are our Top 5 Functional Medicine test kits, in no particular order (note: consult with your physician to see if a given test kit makes sense for you):
1. Genova Diagnostics Comprehensive Digestive Analysis
From a stool test at home, this test unpacks a very detailed picture of your gut health, from how well your digestive enzymes are working, to whether GI inflammation is present, to the health of your microbiome, and more.
2. ZRT NeuroAdvanced Profile
This urine test evaluates a comprehensive array of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that are key to mental health. Understanding the balance of neurotransmitters allows your physician to target personalized approaches to common symptoms like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
3. Dutch Test
This urine test provides an in-depth evaluation of hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol. The test also helps you understand how well your body processes estrogen, which is particularly important for patients who have a family history of estrogen-related diseases (like breast cancer) or who have concerns about hormone replacement.
4. US Biotek Food Sensitivity IgG Test
Many of us struggle with possible food sensitivities, and deciding which foods are the culprits can be difficult. Done from a fingerstick blood test at home, this test provides some important insights into your immune system’s response to foods, and can help guide food elimination choices to help health the gut and decrease inflammation.
5. ZRT Adrenal Stress Profile
Unfortunately, stress is common and its impact on our health is significant. Understanding your cortisol response can help you understand how stress is impacting your sleep, weight, and mental health. This test is done with saliva at home and with the results, allows your physician to create a personalized approach to stress management.