By: Dr. David Ward
A Functional Medicine Approach for Optimum Health and Performance
Health comes before fitness. Or at least it should. Many athletes mistake optimum fitness for being healthy. But is that really the case? Athletes, including runners, are prone to the same chronic ailments and adverse health conditions as the rest of the population. The vast majority of chronic health conditions are inflammatory in nature and very often involve an autoimmune component.
Inflammation is a normal human process that serves a very useful purpose. After an acute injury like an ankle sprain or low back muscle strain, inflammation serves to protect and heal the injured tissue. This inflammatory process usually resolves within a matter of days and the injured tissue heals within weeks to months.
Sustained inflammation is a different phenomenon. Normally there is a balance between immune cells that promote inflammation and those that dampen it. Chronic or sustained inflammation is a condition in which the immune system creates an unchecked supply of pro-inflammatory cells that can damage body tissues.
It is now recognized that most if not all chronic ailments such as cardiovascular disease, migraine headache, chronic pain and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hasimoto’s Thyroiditis, lupus and psoriasis are inflammatory in nature.
Conventional medicine considers inflammatory and autoimmune conditions to be “idiopathic”, which means “of unknown cause”. While it is recognized that these conditions result from an interaction between genetics and the environment, the trigger for each named disease is mostly elusive. In most cases, since a single underlying cause has not been identified, management of symptoms, usually with drugs, after a diagnosis has been made is the standard of care. There is no focus put on identifying, reducing and eliminating the underlying causes.
The Autoimmune Spectrum
Functional medicine is an approach that recognizes that these conditions are multi-factorial and can vary between individuals. In this approach autoimmune and inflammatory conditions are seen to occur on a spectrum, where an interaction between genetics, digestive health and the environment are the underlying cause for immune system dysfunction.
A functional medicine approach uses lifestyle interventions, primarily nutrition, that can prevent the progression along the autoimmune spectrum and, in some cases, result in remission of the inflammatory state.
Environmental Triggers and Autoimmunity
Targets for therapeutic lifestyle include the following major modifiable factors:
- Food intake and nutritional status
- Digestive system dysfunction, infection and imbalanced gut bacteria
- Imbalance in immune cells that promote versus dampen inflammation
- Dysfunctional mitochondria, the “power plants” in every cell responsible for manufacturing ATP (the body’s energy compound)
- Psycho-emotional and physical stressors
- Hormonal imbalances
- Exposure to and accumulation of toxins and dysfunction in the body’s detoxification system
In an upcoming series of blog posts, Dr. David Ward will focus on each of the modifiable factors which combine to create inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, including the science behind these triggers and the lifestyle interventions that can help to prevent progression along the autoimmune spectrum.
Dr. David Ward uses a unique blend of specialties in working with his patients. He is a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic and holds a Master of Science degree in Sport Health Science with a Sports Medicine concentration. He’s a Nationally Certified Athletic Trainer and Massage Therapist with specialty credentials as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Performance Enhancement Specialist.
In addition to his Sports Medicine and Athletic Development background, Dr. Ward has completed substantial post-doctorate training in Functional Medicine. His ability to integrate musculoskeletal and metabolic medicine allows for a truly holistic approach to optimizing health and performance for a wide variety of patient populations. Dr. Ward is the “in-house” chiropractor and Functional Sports Medicine consultant for the Lone Tree, Colorado Runners Roost store. Dr. Ward is available for complimentary consultations for the Runners Roost community and can be reached at DocDaveWard@gmail.com. More information about Dr. Ward including his clinical practice at Lone Tree Chiropractic & Natural Health Center can be found on his website www.DocDaveWard.com.