The Role of Lifestyle in Functional Medicine

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Traditional medicine focuses on diagnosing and treating what lies beneath the surface – symptoms and disease – while functional medicine seeks to identify and address the underlying causes of health issues.

Prevention is also promoted through healthy lifestyle practices like dieting, sleeping and stress management. Hospitals across America and Europe are investing in this promising field.

Eating habits

Each person’s eating habits are determined by a range of factors, such as cultural, social and economic pressures as well as individual preferences. Eating patterns have a tremendous effect on our health. They influence our weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as increasing the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

The American Heart Association suggests consuming a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains that is low in saturated fats, added sugar and salt. It also urges us to limit red meat and processed meats since they contain more calories and fat than other types of food sources. Harvard Medical School research published in Circulation shows that people who follow unhealthy eating patterns are at an increased risk for chronic illness and death than those who adhere to healthier eating patterns, according to 36 years of data compiled from 75,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 44,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study at Harvard Medical School. The researchers tracked 75,000 women’s eating habits for 36 years as part of the Nurses’ Health Study and 44,000 men’s for 36 years respectively.

One of the key influences on eating habits is time spent eating. On average, Americans spend four hours a day eating, with most of that time spent at meals. Many people struggle to maintain a healthy eating plan due to their hectic lives. However, changing your habits can be an effortless and inexpensive way to make your life healthier. Begin by setting a goal to eat healthier. Then, keep a food diary to track what you eat and when. It may also be beneficial to note how you feel when hungry, tired or anxious.

Preplanning meals ahead of time can help you curb unhealthy cravings and ensure you’re eating a nutritious, balanced diet. Furthermore, only eat when truly hungry and stop when satisfied. Avoid overeating when stressed or experiencing other emotions other than hunger such as boredom or anxiety.

Functional medicine is an individualized approach to healthcare that targets the underlying causes of disease and restores health. Unlike conventional medicine, which often relies on suppressing symptoms with drugs, functional medicine empowers patients and practitioners to address these underlying issues through diet, lifestyle changes, and other therapeutic interventions.


Exercising, whether it’s just taking a stroll, lifting light weights or marathon running, is beneficial to your health. Not only does it improve brain and bone health but it also boosts your sex life, helps maintain a healthy body weight, increases endurance, aids digestion and lowers the risk of many diseases. If you’re not currently exercising, start small by adding movement into everyday activities or adding exercise into your schedule. Over time, the more habits formed around exercising the better off you’ll feel! Physical activity is an integral component of functional medicine, as it helps prevent and manage conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke. Furthermore, people report feeling more energetic and less stressed after participating in physical activity.

As a functional medicine patient, your provider will collaborate with you to determine the most beneficial type of exercise. They may suggest low-impact or high-intensity exercises to fit into your lifestyle and meet any individual needs. A comprehensive exercise routine should incorporate aerobic and strength training, with at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week. Furthermore, incorporate flexibility exercises into your workouts for added benefits. It’s essential that you select an exercise program that you enjoy doing, since if it’s not enjoyable, motivation may wane quickly. Consider taking a class, joining a team or finding an accountability buddy to stay motivated throughout your exercise sessions.

Exercising can have a major impact on your sleep quality, as it reduces stress hormones and encourages the production of endorphins – natural painkillers and mood lifters. Exercising also improves relaxation before bedtime by making it easier to fall asleep when you do go to bed. Your body clock can also be set so you’re alert and awake at the correct times, enabling better quality sleep throughout the night. Furthermore, it creates chemicals in your brain which promote relaxation and increase sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine–hormones known to relieve feelings of depression.

Exercising has numerous benefits that will last a lifetime, so it’s essential to maintain an active lifestyle. Exercising can even benefit seniors by improving brain health and decreasing the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.


Sleep is a complex, dynamic process that affects almost every system and organ of the body. It plays an essential role in how your health is maintained, how you cope with stress, and how well you function overall. Sleep promotes body repair and growth, as well as keeps the immune system and other bodily processes functioning at their optimal levels.

On average, people require between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night. However, the amount of shut-eye recommended for different age groups and those with certain medical conditions may differ. Sleeping enough each night can enhance mental and physical function, help manage stress, and lower the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and depression. Furthermore, it increases energy levels which may be beneficial when doing physical activities or working.

If you’re having difficulty sleeping, reach out to your functional medicine practitioner about how they can assist in getting you a good night’s rest. They will assess your sleep hygiene to identify what might be preventing it and create an individualized plan for improving it while decreasing stress levels. Your sleeping patterns are determined by your circadian rhythm (an internal body clock that controls when and how often you wake and go to bed).

Your circadian rhythm signals your brain that it’s time for some rest; it sends signals to the hypothalamus, another part of the brain, to make GABA, a chemical which quiets “arousal centers” that might keep you from falling asleep. Your body goes through two types of sleep during your REM cycle – non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). Each stage lasts 4-6 minutes, with the first one being non-REM and leading to drowsiness. Breathing slows during this phase, while during REM sleep your breathing becomes irregular and the heart rate increases. This is indicative of your body trying to replenish energy reserves and build up stores of ATP.

Sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, yet many factors can disrupt it. Your functional medicine practitioner can run tests to look at how well you sleep each night as well as assess hormones, neurotransmitters and nutrients to detect any imbalances that might be causing your troubles sleeping. These can then be addressed through diet, lifestyle changes and supplements in order to enhance energy levels and quality of life while improving sleep patterns.

Stress management

Stress is your body’s response to something that puts it under strain, such as job loss, death in the family, or serious illness. While stress is an expected response to any challenge, it’s essential that you learn healthy ways of managing it so that it does not negatively impact both physical and mental health.

Stress can cause a variety of symptoms, such as headaches, stomach upset and difficulty sleeping. It also impacts your mood and behavior. Prolonged stress has been known to weaken the immune system and make one more vulnerable to illness – especially diseases that attack body organs. Additionally, marijuana may exacerbate symptoms of mental illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder and cause hallucinations or delusions, as well as spark suicidal thoughts or actions.

Stress management is a cornerstone of functional medicine’s approach. Together with your doctor, you’ll create an individualized plan that meets all of your individual needs and helps you live your best life. A successful stress management program involves exercises, tools, and other techniques that address both physical and psychological aspects of stress. These may include meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and relaxation methods.

Additionally, it helps you identify your triggers and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Some stress relief techniques work quickly and effortlessly, while others need more time or practice. Experiment to find which ones work best for you!

Your functional medicine doctor can offer tailored solutions to improve your wellbeing, such as supplements, therapeutic diets, exercise programs, detoxification procedures and stress management techniques. Everyone experiences stress in their lives, but it can be hard to recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed or irritable. Reach out to your doctor if you’re having trouble recognizing your own stress or feel that it’s getting out of hand.