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Got Diabetes or Thyroid Problems? Why Functional Endocrinology May Help

With skyrocketing rates of type 2 diabetes and thyroid problems, many Americans are seeking medical professionals who specialize in treating endocrine disorders. Your endocrine system, which includes glands such as the thyroid, adrenal, pituitary, and others, produces hormones that influence growth, metabolism, reproduction, and sexual development.

Diabetes and thyroid disorders are two of the most common diseases of the endocrine system. The first, diabetes, occurs when your pancreas does not produce enough insulin or your body is unable to use the insulin produced effectively, leading to problems converting blood sugar into energy correctly. The latter, thyroid diseases, can include hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and others, and can influence many bodily processes leading to weight gain, fatigue, problems emotional, difficulty tolerating cold temperatures and more.

Upon diagnosis, many people with these conditions are referred to an endocrinologist, but you should be aware that a functional The endocrinologist is also an option – and can offer you a holistic approach to treatment that you haven’t considered yet.

Allopathic Endocrinology Vs. Functional Endocrinology

Primary care physicians often refer patients to an endocrinologist if they have a problem with their endocrine system. As The Endocrine Society states, “endocrinologists are trained to diagnose and treat hormonal imbalances and issues by helping to restore the normal balance of hormones in your system.” [1]

However, most endocrinologists are allopathic physicians, who are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of disease. They then usually prescribe medication or surgery to treat these symptoms of the disease. There are two very important problems with this medical model:

  • It usually does not address the underlying cause of the symptoms.
  • Often this does not help people prevent disease, but only treats the symptoms once the disease is already present.

The practice of functional endocrinology, on the other hand, can help people stay disease-free by recognizing the warning signs and address the root cause of the disease using lifestyle changes. For example, although your lab tests may appear normal to an allopathic doctor, there are always “optimal” ranges within the normal range. If your results are borderline “normal”, it’s often a sign that your body is out of balance and may be on the verge of becoming ill.

A doctor who specializes in functional endocrinology will recognize this and help you make lifestyle changes to bring your system back into balance, with the ultimate goal being disease. prevention rather than treatment.

So what exactly is functional endocrinology?

Take a minute and imagine your total health as an iceberg. What symptoms or illnesses are you currently experiencing? These constitute the tip of the iceberg. Hovering underwater and forming the gigantic base of the iceberg are the underlying causes of these symptoms or illnesses, things like chemical exposures, negative emotions, hormonal imbalances and much more.

Conventional endocrinologists can only tackle the tip of the iceberg. Functional endocrinologists take care of the rest.

To put it simply, Functional Endocrinology is a specialized branch of Functional Medicine, which is an umbrella term used to describe this proactive, patient-centered wellness care system. As the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) states: [2]

“Functional medicine is personalized medicine that addresses primary prevention and the underlying causes rather than the symptoms of serious chronic diseases.”

This wellness care system works on the principle that each person is an individual, which is why “one size fits all” treatments like synthetic hormones and medications are often not appropriate. It also acknowledges the science showing that the proper functioning of the human body is equal to the sum of all its parts. In other words, your endocrine system doesn’t operate in a bubble; it is influenced by all the other systems in your body and exerts its own influence on them. Your level of health is determined by all of your body’s interconnected systems, rather than an individual system operating on its own.

Therefore, a health care provider treating Alone your endocrine system, as some conventional endocrinologists may do, ignores the rest of the network in which this system operates, and will therefore struggle to help your body restore wellness and balance to its fundamental levels.

For example, a conventional endocrinologist would likely use thyroid hormones to resolve an underactive thyroid, which only addresses the manifestation (not enough thyroid hormone) of the true underlying disorder or imbalance. But while synthetic hormones can fix the problem, they won’t do anything to address the root cause of the lack of hormones being produced.

This is where functional endocrinology comes in. A practicing doctor functional endocrinology will ask why function was lost in your thyroid gland and determine what can be done to restore function. It’s not a band-aid or patch-job like prescription synthetic hormones are in essence. Rather, this system seeks to uncover the underlying imbalances that are causing your disease, whether thyroid, diabetes, or otherwise, and then resolve them using diet, exercise, nutrients, and other natural and restorative modalities, while also removing any habits or substances (such as exposures to toxic chemicals, etc.) that interfere with your healing.

A focus on disease Prevention

One of the things that makes Functional Endocrinology so beneficial is that it helps identify the subtle warning signs that your body often has underlying systemic imbalances. before sickness strikes. This allows you to make changes now and avoid getting sick in the first place.

But even if you already have a condition such as diabetes or hypothyroidism, functional endocrinology will help you discover and treat the unique root cause of your condition so that you can recover naturally and completely. This is what individualized, patient-centered wellness care, such as functional endocrinology, is all about.

As Sir William Osler, one of the founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital, often referred to as the “father of medicine” and “pioneer of functional medicine,” said: [3]

“The good doctor treats the disease; the great doctor is treating the patient who has the disease.

References

1. The Endocrine Society, “What is an endocrinologist?”

2. The Institute of Functional Medicine, “What is Functional Medicine?”

3. MedGenMed. 2007; 9(1): 59.

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