"Bless Your Little Heart:" 21st Century Medicine and Reversing Dis-ease

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

This quote has been on my mind a lot lately. It goes hand-in-hand with “bless your little heart.”

Allow me to explain…

I recently completed the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) course, Reversing Cognitive Decline Advanced Clinical Training.

Why in the world would I go to the expense and time commitment to take a course intended for licensed, medical practitioners? Because I wanted to learn more from the “horse’s mouth” about the latest research and approach to reversing and preventing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

(You can read my recent social media posts about the course and follow us on Facebook here or Instagram here.)

Why cognitive decline? Why functional medicine?

The first part is easy. I’ve struggled my whole life with cognitive decline. As a student, it was considered ADD. As an adult, although I have no medical documentation, I would say I was approaching dementia. 

Another reason is my family. My mom and aunt both suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Several other members have tested positive for ApoE4, the strongest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s. 

Need I say more? 

(You can read my entire story here.)

Why Functional Medicine?
The IFM homepage says it best: “Functional Medicine determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.” 

If you already follow Healthful Elements, then I’m preachin’ to the choir. If you’re new to our practice, maybe the difference between conventional and functional medicine isn’t so clear.

Firstly, conventional medicine has, at times, served my family and me well: injections to stop macular degeneration from progressing, thyroid medicine to help provide enough energy to get through the day, antibiotics for severe infections, and a drain to remove excess fluid from the lungs. 

For the last week, I’ve been using an inhaler due to a significant flare of asthma symptoms. My suspicion is exposure to mold and straying from my clean diet and lifestyle a little too often, while we’ve been in temporary housing. When I wake up in the night and find it difficult to breathe, I’m grateful for conventional medicine.

Not all medications or surgeries can be avoided. I know this. They can give people back quality of life and I wouldn’t want to deny relief to anyone. (And functional medicine practitioners certainly use prescription medications for their patients when appropriate.)

Over the years, I’ve reached out for help with hypoglycemia, asthma, allergies, acne, severe cramps, ADD, and memory loss. Each and every time, I was given a prescription for the various symptoms. Very little time, if any, was spent in the exploration of reversing the condition. 

Sound familiar?

Over time, I learned to tolerate my symptoms and treat most of them with over-the-counter meds. As I got older, my diet matured and a couple of these issues resolved “on their own.” I was told I’d “outgrown” the symptoms when in reality, I’d made healthful lifestyle changes. I didn’t connect the resolution of symptoms to these changes and neither did my doctors. 

Truly…they didn’t even ask.

They didn’t know to ask. Because many doctors are unaware that “lifestyle medicine is a blockbuster drug.” 

Getting Answers
Functional medicine came into my life in bits and pieces. It came in a big way when one of my kids got sick and conventional medicine failed to have any answers. A parent will go to great lengths, spare no expense, and operate under exhaustion to heal their child. 

Answers began to come when we turned to functional medicine. One IFM-affiliated, certified health coach (that would be Jill) and three IFM trained physicians later, and we are nearly completely healed. 

Each one of these people validated we were on the right path because their interventions helped.

Each one of these people had the same general knowledge. 

Each one of these people had their own expertise.

Each one of these people had the same goal…to find the causes and the cures to reverse our illnesses once and for all. 

Functional medicine is an investigative, holistic, safe, patient-centered, participatory, integrative, restorative, preventative, and last but not least, evidence-based way of practicing medicine. It addresses every illness this way: alopecia, thyroid disease, hormonal imbalance, and cognitive decline (my personal area of focus), to name just a very few.

Functional medicine doctors are conventionally trained physicians first. Yes, they’ve been to med school. (I get this question a lot.) They’re legit medical doctors. 

They’re individuals who’ve chosen a path to help their patients reverse disease. And…everything they do is grounded in science. 

Almost every functional medicine practitioner has a story. A story like yours and mine. They’ve struggled and they’ve overcome. They’re living life to the fullest despite their diagnoses. I want THAT! (Actually…I already have that due to the changes I’ve made in the last few years.)

If you follow Healthful Elements, you probably want that, too. My guess is you’ve not found answers in other places or you wouldn’t be here.

Have you ever read something or visited a place that resonated with you so much you knew you were “home?” That is functional medicine for me. 

The Reversing Cognitive Decline course was taught by IFM doctors—experts in their fields—who explained in detail the scientific evidence behind what they teach. 

We. Never. Stop. Learning.
So, why the lengthy post about functional medicine and my recent completion of a course? Because we want you to know that at Healthful Elements, we’re serious about not only our own health, but also yours.

Jill and I seek out the best resources with the latest research, techniques, and interventions. 

Again, why did I take an IFM course intended for licensed, medical practitioners? Because IFM has earned my trust. Because they produce results. Because they give me hope. 

Because Jill and I are changed due to their knowledge and commitment to helping people heal, not just survive. 

Because it’s important to me to have the most up-to-date, effective knowledge possible to share with you.  

Again, we never stop learning.

So, What Did I Learn from the Course?
What did this course have to say that’s so different from what you might hear in other places about Alzheimer’s, you may ask?

Dr. Mark Hyman opened with a discussion about medical mindset. Diagnoses should be a guidepost, a starting place. Dr. Sidney Baker has said conventional medicine makes the mistake of “naming and blaming.” For example, amyloid plaque and tau tangles are said to cause Alzheimer’s. While plaques and tangles are definitely present, the important question is how did they get there in the first place? Dr. Baker has referred to this questioning as “thinking and linking.”

Pharmaceutical companies have spent billions and have come up empty-handed. While a drug or two has been able to slow symptoms in some patients, no sustained benefit has been documented. 

In other words, drug companies continue to focus on the plaques and tangles. They need a new mindset. 

Our health system is still operating in the 20th century when we definitely have 21st century problems. 

20thcentury: Genes cause disease.

21stcentury: Environment affects gene expression.

20thcentury: Plaques and tangles cause Alzheimer’s.

21stcentury: Plaques and tangles are the effects of multiple assaults on the brain.

20thcentury: Silver bullet, single therapy treatment, (i.e. drugs, drugs, drugs).

21stcentury: Multiple approaches for the multiple causes of Alzheimer’s.

One hundred years ago, we were dying of simple infectious diseases. Now we’re dying of complex, chronic illnesses—and illnesses need complex solutions. Alzheimer’s is not a single disease, but a compilation of several processes gone awry. 

When Dr. Dale Bredesen first wrote his book, The End of Alzheimer’s, he and his team had identified 36 different contributors for Alzheimer’s. The list is now 50 or so long and he admits a few more may be added. 

His approach to reversing Alzheimer’s was first published in the medical journal Aging, which can be found here. Follow-up scientific papers were published in 2015 and 2016 that confirmed the first study. Small studies, but nonetheless relevant. Another larger study of 100 patients and their outcomes can be found here

Addressing lifestyle factors is the primary starting place with treatment. To get results, all 36 original, identified contributors need to be addressed and I understand that even the most disciplined of clients—or their caregivers—can grow weary of this process.

Dr. Bredesen spells out his protocol in his book. Reading it is the easy part. Applying it can be tougher. This is where a qualified, trained health coach comes in.

Why Hire a Health Coach?
Because chronic disease asks a lot of us. It often asks us to forego a lifestyle and set of habits that we may have held for years. 

Completing this course doesn’t make me a medical professional, but it does equip me with a knowledge base to help you understand the depths of this disease process and how to make sense of reversing it.  

I work with clients who are ready to take full responsibility for their health. I don’t tell you what to do. I educate and help determine a plan for accomplishing your objectives. 

YOU set the goals. I follow YOUR lead. 

For example, increasing insulin sensitivity is a key factor in reversing cognitive decline. Maybe that’s not where you want to start. I respect your choices. Otherwise, it just doesn’t work.

To better understand what a health coach can do for you, go here.

I began this post with the quote, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”    

Recently, I was told that what I do is “faux science.” This person is stuck in 20thcentury medicine with a closed mindset, unable to discuss the most recent discoveries related to Alzheimer’s. And they’re certainly not the only one who feels this way. 

Maybe you’ve had a family member or friend look at you sideways when you told them how you were healing your body. Or maybe you’ve been scolded by your doctor when you shared an exciting piece of new information, only to hear them say it “won’t work.”

New ideas are ridiculed, opposed, then accepted. And functional medicine is currently caught in this disappointing phenomenon, although the tide is turning…quickly.  

And yes, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s are proving to be preventable and reversible. I can help you, or your loved one, get there.

“Faux” Science, “Faux” Doctors?
Dr. Bredesen, mentioned above, earned his MD from Duke University Medical Center and served as Chief Resident in Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. He’s a remarkable innovator in medicine, with over 30 patents to his name, and in 1989, established his own laboratory at UCLA. 

For over 30 years, he’s dedicated himself to Alzheimer’s disease.

I would say he’s a real doctor, teaching real science, wouldn’t you?

Add: Mark Hyman, MD; Aviva Romm, MD; Susan Blum, MD; Frank Lipman, MD; Robert Rountree, MD; Terry Wahls, MD. I mean, I could add hundreds to this list.

Self-ev-i-dent: evident without proof or reasoning…

I believe functional medicine to be self-evident. 

Functional medicine changed my life. It gave me back my health. It can work for you, too. 

And I’m looking forward to the day when functional medicine is the norm and all the strengths of conventional medicine are part of a thorough plan to heal complex, chronic illnesses. 

Thank you to IFM for leading the way, for refusing to back down for critics and naysayers, and for teaching us strategies to better our lives and heal our bodies when answers can’t be found elsewhere. 

So, speaking of blessing hearts, in the southern region of the U.S., there’s a phrase that sounds sweet, but frequently has another meaning. “Bless your little heart” can mean exactly what it says: “I wish you God’s blessings on your life.” 

It also has another meaning, said with the same smile and southern drawl, except in this case it means, “I feel sorry for you for not knowing any better.”

To the naysayers, “bless your little heart” if you think functional medicine is “faux science.”

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