By Michael Joseph, DFM, DNM, DOM, PhD, Ms
What I do as a doctor of Drugless Functional Medicine is really a combination of “problem solver”, detective, forensic investigator, biochemist, counselor, financial adviser, and all around encyclopedia of random facts. Ultimately, my job is to analyze the data presented to me to find a viable solution to a problem. True Functional Medicine is about reestablishing normal functionality of the human organism, and in order to do this, we need data. We need to know what is going on, so we can seek out the cause and the cascading events that lead us to the current circumstances. In other words, we are searching for the proverbial domino or dominoes that set the entire thing in motion. Then, we are seeking out the needle in the haystack, and of course, the right haystack under which to look.
This is essentially my practice. It is a thought process that leads me to find solutions where others are not looking. I look for the simplest solution and the straight line between two points to solve the underlying biochemical problem, which is in reality a deficiency of some sort. I have found that no healing can take place in the presence of deficiency, so my job is to find the deficiency first, and correct it. It could be any number of many types of deficiency, be it nutrient as mineral or vitamin, or some lifestyle roadblock. Rarely do I attach myself to a particular type of dogma or “standard of practice”, as my perception is that since everyone is different and has different needs, would it not make sense to seek to find different solutions for each person?
Regardless of the biochemical and personality differences between people, I have found that right off the bat the vast majority of human beings, mostly in the US, share three common deficiencies: Vitamin C, Vitamin B3, and Magnesium. In fact, Vitamin C deficiency, for instance, is such a part of the human experience that the great Irwin Stone stated that every living human being should be supplementing with Ascorbic Acid. I have found in my practice that if I start off assuming that everyone sitting in front of me shares these common deficiencies, then I can see better results by immediately supplementing with these nutrients and then cascading from there. While this may seem to contradict “biochemical individuality”, we have to agree and accept that human beings cannot and will never be able to synthesize their own Vitamin C just as the common house cat does; that human beings are woefully bad at synthesizing B3 from tryptophan; that human beings have astronomically high needs for magnesium and that many chronic, common, or acute health conditions are directly related to sub-optimal or deficient levels of magnesium, with a little of the mineral being stored or recycled. It is foolish to try and “reinvent the wheel” when we already know it is round, and if so, then we should focus on getting it to spin as it was designed.
So, one can say that the bulk of my practice is to fix “malfunctions” of human biochemistry by replacing these three missing nutrients and optimizing their presence in cells and in intercellular fluids and tissue. Once this very simple process is completed, the patient clinical improvement is typically dramatic, where treatments now “work”; Moods improve; Energy levels improve; Relationships improve; Clarity of one’s life purpose becomes apparent. Major transformations occur, and often just from adding the proper amounts of these three critical nutrients.
In order to maximize the proper absorption of these and other nutrients, the digestive system has to be working properly, so often concurrently or prior to starting a nutrient protocol, we repair the gut with a repopulation protocol in addition to using functional testing to detect the presence of gut microflora imbalances and yeast/fungal/pathogen overgrowths.
Functional Lab testing plays a major role in my practice, as I use various tests to gather information about how the body is actually functioning on a biochemical level. Using special tests to analyze organic acids, food allergies, omega 3 fatty acids, and other biochemical markers allows me to be far more specific and individualized with my approach, as opposed to simply looking at symptoms and trying to guess what the problem is. The Functional Lab testing takes some of the “guesswork” out, and gives me the opportunity to focus on the body chemistry instead of only focusing on symptomology. While this approach, which pays respect to the great Orthomolecular Doctors like Drs Hoffer, Cathcart, Klenner, et al, is very simple, it is not easy for a number of reasons. First, it requires total commitment and personal involvement by the patient. This is not a “magic pill” or a “magic wand”. The patient must understand that the outcomes are directly proportional to their work ethic and commitment. It takes time, often months or even years, for the body to heal. Second, this approach of reestablishing natural, normal human biochemistry is completely antithetical to the allopathic methodology of “one disease, one cause, one cure” or the “polypharmacy” that has dominated not just conventional but also in recent years Integrative Medicine. This approach seeks to find the biochemical cause of the problem, and fix the problem by fixing the cause. Many try to discredit this methodology but fail, because in order to do so, one must successfully deny that vitamins and minerals have no effect on human chemistry.
My entire practice is very unorthodox and “alien” to much of what I see others doing in this field. While I feel that many integrative practitioners want to take the same sort of approach as I do, I feel that many are not fully willing to make the commitment to transitioning to a pharmaceutical-free approach, likely due to fears of liability or peer pressure. While I firmly understand the need for immediate relief during a life-threatening crisis that would require the short term use of a powerful drug to prevent catastrophe, I find it very unsettling that as recent as 2016 1 in 6 Americans are taking some sort of psychiatric drug daily (and an estimated 40 million Americans at any one time) with twice as many women as men and at least 16% of all adult Americans filling at least one prescription for psychiatric medications in 2013. There is NO justifiable reason for 1 out of every 6 Americans to be on a psych drug. It is the elephant in the room, and it shows that the USA has a very serious drug problem. I can state with all the confidence in the world that these 1-in-6 that are taking these drugs more than likely have at least one basic, chronic nutrient deficiency that needs to be taken cared of first, followed by dietary transition, detoxification of environmental toxins or mold, and/or correcting digestive issues, and so forth. But how many of these people really just have a vitamin B3 deficiency? 10%? 40%? 80%? The way things are set up now, it is impossible to implement a deficiency- corrective protocol nationwide without the occurrence of an unwinnable war, and I suppose it is “easier” to medicate the life out of people, and then just accept the repercussions as the “cost of doing business”.
The health care system across-the-board is broken. We can all see the writing on the proverbial wall. The Institutionalized Health Distribution and Health Maintenance system is irreparably damaged, and the time for more individualized medicine is here. Human Beings are unique, whole beings that require a unique health care approach that focuses on celebrating each person’s differences instead of imposing collectivized standards that may not work for everyone. My aim is and always has been to treat people as individuals and not as numbers on a chart or as statistics. Perhaps that alone is enough to help someone reach his or her individual, unique health and life goals.