Functional medicine looks for the underlying issues that might be preventing someone from losing weight. After a thorough examination of diet and lifestyle, a weight loss plan is designed to help improve overall wellness and body function.
Could you begin by explaining what functional medicine is, and how it is different than traditional medicine?
Dr. Greg Olsen: The difference between functional medicine and traditional medicine is good to clarify. Really, it comes down to the orientation of what you’re looking to achieve. Traditional medicine very commonly is looking at treating symptoms, relieving symptoms and not necessarily looking for what we’ll call the root cause. Whereas the premise of functional medicine is really looking for the root cause of the problem, looking to identify where the body is not functioning properly or how it’s not functioning properly, and restoring function to address whatever ailment is happening with the patient.
When it comes to weight loss, how does functional medicine help uncover and address the underlying reasons why some people are overweight?
Dr. Greg Olsen: When it comes to being overweight and addressing that through functional medicine, again it comes down to really looking at what is the root cause. Many times, there’s an approach where you might have somebody trying to lose weight and say what’s the magic pill? What medicine can I take? Very often that simply just doesn’t work. It does not address why that person got to the place of being overweight in the first place. An example of looking why that could happen could be somebody’s chronic stress level. When somebody is stressed, it produces a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol is produced, that’s basically when your body’s in a fight or flight state, and it’s looking to survive. In that mode, it’s really not concerned about burning fat. If your body’s in that state and it’s not really concerned about burning fat, it just wants to survive, that retention of fat is really going to be more of a survival mechanism.
So, looking for the root cause of that, we will be looking at brain EEG, or other body measurements or hormone levels of cortisol where we identify where is the body at this point? Is there a level of stress happening? Do we need to address that stress level? Do we need to address how the brain is working?
Also, one common thing that happens when people have worked with me for weight loss, is when we do lab work with them, we end up finding that they’re inflamed. And so, the body being inflamed, that could be from a trauma, an injury, it could be from irritated intestines, poor diet, eating inflammatory foods. But when the body’s inflamed, it’s the same thing as if it’s in an alarm stage or a fight or flight stage. It’s going to be producing cortisol, it’s going to be saying, “Hey, I need to survive. I’m not going to be concerned about burning fat.”
If someone comes to you for help losing weight, how do you begin the process of helping them?
Dr. Greg Olsen: When somebody comes to me for help with losing weight, the most important process for me is to get to know that person. What’s happening with their body, how their whole body functions, lifestyle, so it’s a detailed history of the different systems in their body.
From a physical standpoint, it’s also getting a detailed understanding of what’s happening in their life. Going through what they’re eating, then identifying the right tests to target to see what the root cause is, or how their body’s working, and why it’s not at an ideal weight.
What type of treatment or counseling is typically included in a weight loss plan?
Dr. Greg Olsen: Treatment or counseling in a functional medicine weight loss plan is really looking at three areas. One is administrative, the least obvious in a weight loss plan. Some people looking at the physical reasons. Are you in pain? Is there something keeping you from being active? And so, addressing whatever that component might be. The second part is looking at the metabolic or chemical components. So that could be, and very typically is, addressing the diet, food sensitivities or allergies, inflammatory foods. Not necessarily a fun way, but a simple way of looking at it is toxic foods that can be damaging to your body. And then the third area, applying that toxicity idea as well, is toxic thoughts. Could be a toxic work relationship or work environment, toxic situation at home, toxic self-talk. So, it’s working through each one of those areas, and finding out what is the appropriate method or methods to begin changing this.
Besides losing weight, what other health benefits do patients receive as a result of this approach to weight loss?
Dr. Greg Olsen: Losing weight would be called a side benefit of this process. Overall health typically improves. Sleeping better, more energy, better overall attitude. People oftentimes see changes in their bodies in places where they haven’t seen in 5, 10, 15, 20 years, and sometimes can’t even recall when they actually felt normal in the process.
To speak with Dr. Greg Olsen, visit www.askdrolsen.com or call (949) 859-5192 to schedule an appointment.