Written by Elizabeth Boham, MD
The Functional Medicine Lifestyle 

The Functional Medicine Lifestyle 

Functional Medicine is more than just medicine, it’s a lifestyle. We invite you to read on and learn more about how we approach healing through a Functional Medicine Model directly via my personal hands-on experience treating patients at The UltraWellness Center.

Why Functional Medicine?

People often come in frustrated about their current health circumstances because conventional medicine uses a disease management system. For example, if a patient goes to a conventional doctor with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, the physician will often start pulling out meds and the patient won’t really understand what is happening. In Functional Medicine we uncover the why, we get to the underlying root cause of the diagnosis to help rebalance the whole, interconnected body so that they can truly heal. We try to empower the patient so they have a full understanding of their body and its needs. 

My Personal Journey Into Functional Medicine 

During my nutrition undergrad studies, I became fascinated with how to keep the body well. However, when I began my medical school training, pharmacology and acute care were center stage, which can be important, but I knew I wanted to incorporate nutrition as a key factor involved in treating patients. I strongly believe that we need to find out how to rebalance the body to promote healing, and I was lucky to get a job at Canyon Ranch and experience a different way of providing health care. I worked alongside Dr. Mark Hyman and went to my first training in Functional Medicine with Dr. Todd Lepine. I was blown away and remember going up to Dr. David Jones, one of the founders of Functional Medicine, in tears, knowing that I had finally found my home. 

My Personal Health Crisis

At age 30 I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. I was proceeding to go through all of the treatment and like many people who come to me, I was so frustrated with all that we didn’t know… I thought why did this happen to me? I was healthy, there was no family history of breast cancer. I began to think about what systems in my body were out of balance and worked on things like meditation for stress and gratitude journaling (not easy at first) to shift my perspective.

Functional Medicine Model vs. Conventional Medicine Model

In Functional Medicine we take so much time gathering info, looking into what’s gone on through your timeline,  the symptoms you’ve had throughout your life. The process helps us identify imbalances, we take the time to get to know you as a person, understand your whole story. We look for triggers, we realize everyone is an individual. For example, there could be 100 people with depression and 100 different reasons why

When treating underlying imbalances, we often look into whether genetic makeup is playing a role. And we always look for the connections between environment and genetics that influence expression of disease—not just one factor on its own.

The conventional model is all about finding a diagnosis and what what will treat it. Conventional is a great system for acute care. But they have taken that model and put it into chronic disease management. Physicians simply do not have enough time with each patient to get to the root of what’s causing the diagnosis in the future.

Do you ever integrate western medicine?

Yes, in Functional Medicine, we look at the overall best medicine for the job, and sometimes we need to embrace pharmaceuticals to help the patient. And if something like acupuncture will help, sure, whatever it takes to help the patient feel better.

Case Studies 

Recently I saw a young woman. 22 years old, IBS for years. Constipation. Bloating. Like many people, she did a lot of research, so she changed her diet. She did an elimination diet. She felt a little better with the changes, but over time, noticed it didn’t make much difference. We knew we had to take things further and we discovered she had dysbiosis, an imbalance with gut flora. We treated her and in about 6 weeks she was getting better. 

Do you see children? 

We see a lot of kids. Many parents bring them in for developmental concerns: Why aren’t they speaking yet? Or they were speaking then stopped… So often people seek a diagnosis. But we look to first find out what’s out of balance in the body. There’s so much that goes into child development and Inflammation has a huge effect. Recently, I saw a 3 year old losing language and not communicating. We ran tests and found nutritional deficiencies and looked for a folate receptivity antibody which inhibits folate from binding and can cause autism. So we treated him and I’m happy to say he’s getting his language back and playing with other kids more. 

What are some tips people can start at home to help their children? 

We always clean up the diet for kids. We suggest omitting all additives and food coloring and incorporating whole foods, especially protein, healthy fat, and fiber, at every meal. For some we suggest going gluten-free and dairy-free. We often recommend high-quality fish oil and a multivitamin, too. 

Treating Women & Patients with Cancer

We get a lot of cancer patients. They want to know how they can work to rebalance? How can they help themselves heal and keep the cancer from coming back? I had a patient who was 43 with breast cancer. She was going through treatment and wanted to know what else she could do, so we dug into her story. Turns out she had taken tons of antibiotics for years for acne. We are aware that shifts in the microbiome can influence the ability to get rid of estrogen. So what can help her body detoxify? Cruciferous vegetables, medicinal mushrooms. We made sure she was nutritionally sound. Had her supplement with omega-3, vitamin D, and zinc. 

How about working with cardiovascular issues? 

We take time to get to know the patient. There was a man who was 50 and he had high cholesterol. His doctor wanted to put him on medication to lower it, so he came to us for a second opinion to see if that made sense for him. We took a LONG detailed health history and a look at family history as well. We started looking at biomarkers deeper. What kind of cholesterol did he have? Turns out he had concerning cholesterol and was in a pre-diabetes stage. He had too many triglycerides with not enough of the good ones and too many of the bad kind. Yet the type of cholesterol he had can really change with lifestyle. We put him on a cardio metabolic food plan. Balanced his blood sugar. Added a lot of protein and fiber. In a short amount of time we saw significant changes in his cholesterol pattern. In 6 weeks, he was almost fully in balance and did not need medication.

How do you use food as medicine?

I always start with food! We incorporate whole foods, lots of good healthy fats, and highly encourage people to eat from the rainbow—every color of the rainbow, every day!! We test for nutritional deficiencies to see where inflammation and/or blood sugar imbalances are coming from. For example, inflammation can come from food and that can affect people uniquely as well. Some get inflammation from dairy, other people can have dairy with no problem.

What’s your position on supplements?

I really like to focus on food first but I recall when I had my first good multivitamin, I noticed how much more energy I had, likely due to the B vitamins. Then there are elements like depletion of soil, genetic variations, and digestive issues.So for some people, supplements can make a huge difference in how they are doing. We look at what they need and what is going to help any imbalances. Three typical supplement standards are omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and an activated B complex that includes B12 as well as methylfolate, not folic acid. 

Day in the life of Dr. Boham? 

Typically I wake up early at 5am because I love exercise. Then I get the kids going.

Breakfast today was a 2 egg omelette with spinach and grapefruit. I love grapefruit!

For lunch I had a salad with sardines (high in omegas and calcium) and walnuts.

Dinner is always different. My husband is a great cook; we always have lots of veggies, healthy fats, and a good protein source. I also digest beans well so I love having a bean soup for protein or something like salmon.

I like to do my meditation in the evening as it helps me unwind and sleep well. So I’ll do a meditation app or 20 minutes of breathwork. I also have a variety of CDs I like to listen to. 

What is a healthy terrain (as you talk about in your Breast Wellness Video?) Do you have practical tools to create a healthy terrain? 

To create a healthy terrain we always like to focus on inflammation in the body. We know that it can influence whether cancer will grow. We eliminate inflammatory foods, add more fatty acids; things like ground flaxseed can naturally lower inflammation. We work to balance blood sugar and insulin spikes and make sure at each meal there is healthy fat, good protein, and lots and lots of fiber. We pull away added sugar, make sure good rest and sleep are happening for our immune systems, and that the patient has good relationships and networks.

How do you use UWC 7 keys?

We look at environmental input and how well the body works.

Then inflammation. 

Then detoxification systems.

Any underlying infection in the gut microbiome. 

We balance hormones and neurotransmitters

We focus on mitochondria; the energy systems in the body. 

Then it’s the mind-body connection and body-mind connection. (For example, bad bugs in digestion can cause anxiety and mood shifts) 

Where do people start?

There are lots of blogs on the UWC site. And lifestyle factors can play a huge role, like diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and good relationships. When positive lifestyle changes are made, you are typically 80 percent of the way there because you are setting up your body to be in a place of optimal healing.

If you would like to learn more on all of the topics covered here, sign up to watch the webinar!

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