Unlike the conventional medicine system that we know, Functional Medicine recognises that the body is not organised by medical specialties, with a different doctor for each organ.
These specialties are simply the branches on the tree of disease. But just like a diseased tree, the cause of the illness is a disturbance at the core, roots, and/or soil. What drives all disease are imbalances is the fundamental networks at the core of the body - networks that are all dynamically interacting every moment with lifestyle, disease triggers, and genes.
In human health alone, nearly every one of 155,000 diseases listed in the Disease Classification System, known as ICD-10, is caused by imbalances in one or more of the seven interconnected systems. To treat disease, you simply cannot ignore the root cause. So what are these systems?
1. Assimilation (digestion, absorption, microbiome, and respiration)
2. Defence and Repair (immune and inflammation)
3. Energy (energy regulation and mitochondrial function)
4. Biotransformation and Elimination (toxicity and detoxification)
5. Transport (cardiovascular and lymphatic system)
6. Communication (endocrine, neurotransmitters and immune messengers)
7. Structural integrity (from subcellular membranes to musculoskeletal structure)
Functional Medicine allows us to connect the dots. Common links between many seemingly separate human diseases are now clear - what do Alzheimer’s, autism, cancer, diabetes, depression, autoimmune disease, heart disease, and obesity have in common? Inflammation, oxidative stress, imbalances in the microbiome, toxic overload, and imbalances in cell messengers.
Rather than treating all these diseases separately, as in 'a pill for every ill', we need to uncover the root causes for each individual. The brain, for example, only has so many ways it can say "Ouch!" but a multitude of things can hurt it. Standard conventional treatment is a one-size-fits-all approach. Once you get a diagnosis the thinking stops and the cocktail of pills are prescribed to mask the symptoms.
For most chronic diseases, the results are dismal and often come with serious side effects. By focusing on restoring balance in the basic biological networks (the seven interconnected systems) of the body, diseases often improve or completely resolve.
An example - imagine you're standing on a drawing pin. Does covering it with a plaster or taking pain relief fix the issue? No. Now imagine you're standing on two drawing pins. Does removing one make you 50% better? No! You must identify and remove ALL of the pins! No amount of pills, medications or one-size-fits-all treatment plans can fix a problem until the root cause is addressed: you've got a drawing pin issue and they all need to come out.
While all of the triggers of disease noted above (toxins, allergens, microbes, poor diet and stress), and all the ingredients for health (nutrients, hormones, air, water, light, rest, rhythm, movement, sleep, personal bonds, connection, meaning, and purpose) impact these networks to create balance or imbalance; by far the biggest regulator of all these networks is food.
Food is the biggest lever to impact all these systems. The wrong foods can harm each system while the right foods can optimise each system. The right foods regulate the health of the microbiome, immune system, inflammation levels, cellular integrity, and energy systems. Food balances hormones and brain chemistry, supports detoxification, and improves circulatory and lymphatic systems; and, it even provides the raw materials for every cell, muscle, tissue, organ, and bone in the body.
While most doctors have not seen the power of food (because they were not trained in how to use food as medicine), I have seen miracles over my last decades of practice, and so have hundreds of our clients. Except they're not miracles.
They're the result of understanding how the body actually works. Autoimmune diseases disappear; depression vanishes; brain fog evaporates; skin conditions clear up; metabolic issues rebalanced in a matter of weeks. These are not anomalies or spontaneous remissions, but reproducible results based on applying food as medicine with the model of functional medicine.
Whether human or horse, there's no other activity we do every day that has more power to change the body's biology than what we either feed our horses or what we ourselves eat. Food carries information molecules, instructions, and codes that program the body's biology with every bite, for better or worse. Industrial, fake, ultra-processed food drives inflammation, oxidative stress, imbalances in hormone and brain chemistry, damages the microbiome, and changes gene expression to turn on disease-causing genes. Real species-appropriate food - whole, nutritious and phytonutrient-rich food - do the exact opposite.
If you need a sign that it's time to upgrade your horse's food's quality and nutrient density, this is it.