Even from Shenzhen, China where I currently live, my aunt Christy – often cited in my articles as she is a licensed acupuncturist and avid consumer of the latest in health and wellness literature – fields nearly all of my health inquiries. A couple of years ago, as she was answering another of my questions, she told me about Chris Kresser, a guy that she had attended school with at UC Berkeley.
Now a recognized leader worldwide in the field of functional medicine, Kresser is big on paleo nutrition and ancestral health. Since learning about Kresser, I’ve tuned in to his podcast, Revolution Health Radio, on a number of occasions when looking for more information on such topics as cholesterol and our heart health.
Appreciating the way that he breaks down the science of our health, I was excited to get my hands on Kresser’s new book, Unconventional Medicine and to share these takeaways with you.
Our genes and environment are at odds with one another
Our genes have not evolved to meet the lifestyle we live today. While our ancestors ate more seasonal, whole foods (Kresser advocates for what he calls the ancestral diet – think Paleo), we eat more processed food.
This goes beyond diet as well. Historically people slept in accordance with the sun; today we use artificial light to extend our days with a “disastrous effect on our health.” Additionally, many of us have desk jobs that lead to sitting most of the day. Even if you work out regularly, this increases your risk of chronic disease.
Current healthcare is managing disease rather than promoting health
This is a broad claim to some degree. We all know doctors operating in this conventional system that have helped us with various ailments, are well-intentioned and work to keep up on the latest research. That noted, Kresser points out that most healthcare providers will listen to patients’ symptoms and prescribe a drug “focusing on suppressing symptoms rather than addressing the underlying cause of disease.”
Chronic disease can often be prevented or reversed
When I hear the words Crohn’s, arthritis or Alzheimer’s, I have often associated these diseases with a genetic predisposition. Kresser cites research that has found that “84 percent of the risk of chronic disease is not genetic, but environmental and behavioral.”
This means that it may be that many of those pills that we take – or imagine we will have to in the future – can be avoided with proper diet and lifestyle. Most doctors are not trained in nutrition, nor are they trained or allotted the time to coach their patients through diet and lifestyle changes. This is paired with, as Kresser details, the push from pharmaceutical companies and results in a nation dependent on meds.
Functional Medicine offers a new framework for healthcare
Kresser has developed the ADAPT model of healthcare which steps outside of “factory medicine” to provide patients with more monitored care through longer appointments and collaboration with other professionals such as health coaches, resulting in a more holistic way of addressing your health.
Kresser’s model is in part derived from his own experience with a chronic illness. After being misdiagnosed and continued failing health, Kresser discovered the ancestral diet, worked with an acupuncturist, a bodyworker and a meditation teacher. Connecting with this entire team certainly took more time than taking pills, but Kresser makes a keen argument about this approach as his health drastically improved and his quality of life completely evolved.
As I read Unconventional Medicine, what struck me was the way functional medicine takes an inside-out approach to healthcare. This book has further piqued my curiosity about how a functional medicine approach could help me to address my PCOS. I wonder how it could work, perhaps in tandem with prescription drugs, to help loved ones address depression or anxiety. To wholly dismiss our conventional approach to medicine would miss the mark of noting that in most approaches there is some truth and wisdom, but Kresser’s book certainly has me seeking out other counsel now.
If you are interested in learning more about the functional approach to medicine, check out some of the following resources:
- 14Four.me: Help with implementing ancestral diet and lifestyle
- Examine.com: Independent and critical analysis of the latest research
- ChrisMasterJohnPhD.com: Wisdom and advice from a nutritional scientist
- Mark’s Daily Apple: One of the most widely accessed health websites and podcasts