Environment encompasses every aspect of our lives, from light and radiation that reaches us from the
edge of the known Universe to the microclimate inside our cells. Most familiar is our spaceship, Mother Earth, providing the support and materials for that “castle” of work and play, rest and growth—our home. It also provides us with the building blocks of our physical bodies as we convert the planetary bounty we eat to black hair, blue eyes, sharp hearing, or raspy voice; literally, our food becomes who we are. The nourishment of this temple of flesh and bones also influences the more evanescent aspects of who we are: the productivity of our mental environment, the weather in our emotional environment, the fertility of our spiritual environment. When examined closely, it is obvious that these environments are inextricably linked: we are part of them and they are part of us.
As a Fellow of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, I have seen many patients with environmentally-related conditions, helping me hone my skills, knowledge, and
experience in the diagnosis and treatment of the effects of diverse toxins, including heavy metals, pesticides, molds and dusts. When I worked as medical director of a drug rehabilitation program, I recognized that sometimes we expose ourselves to intoxicants, often after “toxic” family environments. After three decades of practicing Preventive and Family Medicine, I thoroughly recognize that poisons introduced into any aspect of our environment often leach into the other layers. In order to become whole again, we must detoxify on all levels.
With detoxification, we often start with the environment inside the gut, since this is the interface between our external and internal environments. If this layer is not doing its job to exclude toxins and assimilate nutrients, it is difficult to summon the physical strength to apply ourselves in the work environment, or the mental and spiritual fortitude to handle what the winds blow in—be it hurricanes or financial turbulence.
The science of understanding and treating these layers of our environment is called FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE. Unlike conventional allopathic medicine (standard of care in the West for MD’s and DO’s) which focuses suppressing effects, Functional Medicine targets root causes in the fundamental ways our cells work together or function. By aiming at the source of illness, our whole being is supported to work in harmony from the inside out. This allows our systems to most effectively deal with disturbances in the outside environment, such as allergens, chemicals, and stress.
The basic tenets of Functional Medicine all directly relate to environment:
Biochemical make-up is based upon genetic and environmental factors unique to the individual. Assessing health depends on evaluating lowered health reserve, not just testing for pathology.
Patient-centered versus disease-centered: We must know the person who has the disease, rather than just which disease a person has. The patient serves as his or her own point of reference. Therefore, we treat a person, not a laboratory value.
Health is a dynamic balance of internal and external factors. What is the individual’s environment that has provided a foothold for this disease? How do we make that environment less able to support dysfunction, and better able to flourish harmoniously?
This comprehensive approach differs dramatically from the symptom-suppression and “Band-Aid”
therapeutics that often characterize much of our modern health care. Western medicine seems to focus
on making a “diagnosis,” rather than looking at the environment which is manufacturing the signs and
symptoms. For instance, drugs are used to change the patient’s perception of pain, not the basic causes of it. We use anti-hypertensives, anti-nausea meds, anti-depressants, etc.
PRINCIPLES OF HEALING