Hot enough for ya? It’s August, so we’re guessing that it is. It’s crucial to remember that the hotter it gets, the more important it is to monitor one key liquid asset for good health: hydration.
We’re Mostly Water
By weight, the human body is about 60% water. That means for a 150-pound person, 90 pounds of your body is made up of water! Water is involved in every cellular process the body conducts, so when you’re not properly hydrated, every function is less efficient. The water we consume is an essential part of overall good health because proper hydration helps the body to regulate its temperature, metabolism, optimize blood pressure, lubricate joints, and also aids in digestion including eliminating waste from the body.
How is Functional Medicine Different from Conventional Care?
By Cortney Katz, CFMP, PA-C
When I first met my husband, I was working in an in-patient setting where there was a revolving door of obstructive lung disease (COPD), heart failure, and life-threatening destruction of body tissue from diabetes. As you can imagine, repeatedly treating end-stages of preventable and - at earlier stages, often reversible- disease isn’t the most gratifying way to use my medical knowledge. Wasn’t I meant to heal people?
I had an interest in the growing field of Functional Medicine at the time, but had not yet made the big, necessary moves to start a Functional Medicine fellowship. Meanwhile, my husband was a healthy and fit man who nonetheless wished to continue to improve his overall well-being. He would ask his doctor for advice. The doctor would simply reply, “Keep doing what you’re doing”, or, “You are healthy.”
Perhaps you know someone who has gone through something similar. They may consult with their doctor about a lingering issue, and there is nothing on the blood work that shows up as a “disease,” so they are told they are therefore “healthy.” For others, they may wish to improve their health baseline through supplements or other methods. In both cases, to a traditional physician, “health” is always and simply defined as “absence of an overt disease.”
My husband knew of my passion for health and wellness, and he began picking my professional brain over minute details he could change in his diet, or supplementation or exercise to improve his overall quality of life and health outcomes. At one point he stopped to ask, while noticing improvements beyond his “healthy” baseline status, “Why hasn’t my doctor offered to help me when I’ve asked for these changes?”
Sometimes the simplest question can reveal a profound truth, and this was one of those times. I explained that conventional medical education does not train professionals to understand “wellness,” “nutritive value,” and “preventative approaches.” This is a sad truth, and is also possibly a reason (in addition to burnout) that many medical professionals themselves appear unwell.
In contrast to the traditional model approach, Functional Medicine is a growing field of health care that focuses on restoring order to physiology (the science of how the body works) by treating the body as one interconnected system, rather than focusing on disease states of the body. This commonly leads to finding the root cause of chronic medical problems.
While conventional care has made great advances in acute interventions, such as strokes or trauma, the current internal medical model for “chronic” conditions can be referred to as a disease-centered approach. Simply put, we focus on treating diseases and managing symptoms, and not on preventing or properly determining the cause of them. Perhaps that is why 80% of our healthcare costs go toward chronic illness with very little - if any- return on investment.
Now that we’ve looked at how Functional Medicine differs from the conventional model, I’d like to offer five problems with conventional medicine that are solved or alleviated by Functional Medicine, so that you can better understand how the Functional Medicine approach can help you to achieve your health goals (if you happen to think like my hyper-fit partner).
This may not sound like the best possible outcome, but it’s not your doctor’s fault. First, as noted, primary care physicians are so overworked in our current medical model that their short visit times do not allow them to focus on prevention. (Sadly, this is heavily influenced by insurance payers and what they value.) Second, there is a very strong emphasis on diagnosing and treating disease states, but very little placed on preventing them. For example, most medical doctors do not have more than a few hours of nutritional education.
How does this affect diagnosis and treatment? If we focus just on our anxiety we may fail to notice that it actually only flares up when we eat gluten and our gut is inflamed. We may fail to recognize that the rash we get every fall is actually our body’s way of showing us the immense amount of psychological pressure we are under during the holiday season. That's what we mean when we say we get to the roots of the problem and heal the body by treating the root causes of the illness.
In our office we have a saying. If you have a nail in your foot, you can take a pain reliever, but the pain will return very soon. If you want to heal, you have to take the nail out of your foot. With Functional Medicine, we resolve the foot pain once and for all by taking out all the nails.
Are you stressed out? In our fast-paced modern world where we’re always connected and on-the-go, chronic stress is becoming more and more common.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Chronic stress, which means a constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time, can contribute to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels. The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of both stress hormones and blood pressure can take a toll on the body.”
We’ve all learned the importance of sun protection (including sunscreen) and covering up when we’ll be out in the sun to help prevent skin cancer. However, with so much emphasis on this protection, you may have forgotten that there are benefits to allowing your body to absorb a limited amount of sunshine without protection for a short amount of time each day.
This short amount of unprotected sun time stimulates your body to produce vitamin D. This fat-soluble vitamin is a powerful immune system regulator and helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorous, keeping bones and teeth strong. Those lacking adequate amounts of vitamin D risk bone abnormalities including osteoporosis. You can get enough vitamin D from either exposing bare skin to sunlight or by taking supplements. Unfortunately, you can’t get the right amount of vitamin D for optimal health from food alone.
Vitamin D has the following health benefits:
Some recent studies estimate that up to 50% of adults worldwide are deficient in vitamin D levels – especially in the winter because vitamin D has a half-life of only two weeks.
How long should I stay in the sun without sunscreen to stimulate vitamin D production?
It varies, according to the time of year, time of day, proximity to the equator, and your skin type. Typically, your body can make all the vitamin D it needs for the day in about half the time it would take for your skin to start getting pink, an indicator that it’s starting to burn. For fair-skinned people, that’s between five and 15 minutes, and again ― is about half the time it would take for your skin to start getting pink and burning. Monitor the time carefully and seek shade or apply sunscreen as soon as your skin starts getting pink! People with very dark skin may need to spend an hour or two in the sun to get enough vitamin D and/or they may need to take supplements. As we get older, it becomes more difficult for our bodies to produce vitamin D, so we need to take supplements.
How much vitamin D do you need each day?
Various organizations have different official recommendations. Your best bet is to ask your medical provider. The Vitamin D Council recommends that adults take 5,000 IUs (international units) per day, the Endocrine Society recommends adults take 1,500-2,000 IU/day and the Food and Nutrition Board, where the U.S. Government gets its official recommendations, advises 600 IU/day for adults and 800 IU/day for seniors. When choosing a vitamin D supplement, opt for vitamin D3 (rather than D2) because it’s easier for your body to utilize.
How much vitamin D does the body make when skin is exposed to sunlight?
When bare skin is exposed to the sun, your body is capable of making large quantities of vitamin D from the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. And remember: you don’t need to tan or burn to achieve this. Your body can make 10,000 to 25,000 IU in a rapid amount of time – before your skin begins to get pink! The more skin you expose – such as your back vs. only your arms – the more vitamin D you will make.
Many factors influence how much vitamin D you can make, including the time of year, time of day, distance from the equator, and your skin type. When the sun’s rays hit the Earth at an extreme angle, such as during midwinter and in the morning or evening during summer, there aren’t enough UVB rays reaching the Earth’s surface to stimulate vitamin D production. There’s an easy way to tell: if your shadow is longer than you are tall, there aren’t sufficient UVB rays reaching you to stimulate vitamin D production.
If you work inside most weekdays, the Vitamin D Council recommends taking a vitamin D3 supplement on days when you’re not outside in the sun to stimulate your body’s internal vitamin D factory. Your doctor can advise the right vitamin D supplementation strategy for you. You’ll most likely need to depend solely on supplements in the wintertime, and a mix of supplements and natural sunshine in the summer. You can read more on the Vitamin D Council’s website.
Please remember: after you’ve spent the short amount of time it takes for your body to start producing vitamin D naturally, go into the shade, cover up or apply sun protection to prevent skin from burning. With the sun’s intense summer rays, a little goes a long way!
Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body and plays an integral role in over 300 metabolic activities. Currently 80-90% of the population is deficient. This is due to a diet that is low in magnesium, and a lifestyle that is high in stress. Additionally, most of us eat too much processed foods, and consume alcohol and caffeine which act to deplete the magnesium in the body. Could you be deficient in magnesium? (hint: probably!) Do you know what to symptoms could mean you're deficient. Read more to find out!