Functional Medicine

Last post I was talking about Magnesium role in high blood pressure.  But in the list of links was a link about video of Functional Medicine at TED by Mark Hyman.   The thinking or position of functional medicine is that we have to move from thinking about diseases to thinking about causes.  We need to understand the underlying causes of diseases. This always involves asking ever deeper circles of questions of why?  Think of how the typical doctor treats high blood pressure.  They measure your high blood pressure say it high, and then say, they don’t know the cause, it essential hypertension.    So, they give you drugs that treat the symptoms but not the underlying cause. Some of those treatments work, some do not.  Why do they work in some cases and not in others?  Some do Resperate, and have instant positive effect, others show no difference.  Could it be that Resperate does not for some patients address the underlying causes?     My literature research has identified something like at least 20 different fundamental mechanisms  of high blood pressure.  However, that is surely an underestimate, there are probably more.    We say in the last post that one of these causes might be magnesium deficiency.  Now, chances are if you have high blood pressure, you don’t have magnesium deficiency causing it. Tests indicate that magnesium deficiency is pretty rare.  But, if you happen to have magnesium deficiency it could cause high blood pressure, and treating the magnesium deficiency would be beneficial.  For most folks, it probably wouldn’t help much.  Magnesium might have other subtle connections to high blood pressure.  Perhaps an infection depletes your magnesium and this same infection causes high blood pressure through some unknown mechanism.  It could be that taking more magnesium helps you fight off or down the infection and presto, your blood pressure returns to normal.

From a functional medicine point of view, the doctor would be looking to try and find what is the cause of your high blood pressure.  We know for example that high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetics are linked.  That is, they all tend to respond to same typical treatments in diet, what helps one of these symptoms tends to help the others.  Furthermore, if you have one of them you are at higher risk of getting the others.  Putting it all together the suggestion is that there are underlying molecular causes – probably a combination of diet, toxins, genetic dispositions, virus and bacterial infections that underlie these diseases. Perhaps these diseases are merely different expressions of same fundamental underlying causes. Whatever disease is symptom expression  of the complex interaction of all these various factors at work.

How can one find out what causes your high blood pressure?  Down the road, sometime in the future, if your are diagnosed with high blood pressure, medical folks may do a complete blood profile for various biomarkers and genetic markers and probably be able to pinpoint more precisely the cause and provide targeted treatment and maybe even a cure.   Meanwhile, you need to try different factors, and see if they have an impact.  If you are suffering a magnesium shortage in the body, then taking magnesium will perhaps correct this, and your blood pressure would return to normal.  But this leads to a pile of questions, why do you have a magnesium shortage?  Is it problem with your diet? Or is there some other condition that causing your body to deplete it magnesium or not to absorb the magnesium it needs.

Causal chains like poor diet and insufficient exercise are causes which leads to weight gain which leads insulin resistance which leads to diabetes and high blood pressure.  Now of course this is highly simplified view.  There may be other factors such as environmental toxins, work stress, even virus and antibiotic traces in our food causing infections, inflation, and subtle metabolic disturbances. We know there must be other factors because there are people that have terrible diet, and do hardly any exercise, yet they remain disease free throughout their lifetime deep into old age.  Yet, statistically, those on terrible diet, and with insufficient exercise, suffer from increased risks and rates of high blood pressure.

Until we can get at the underlying causes, and thus bring about better treatment and potentially even cures, our best bet is to explore all the factors that go into possible high blood pressure and treat those with best diet, exercise, relaxation and other things that we know help.   My list is a start.  We know for example that sleep disturbances can lead to high blood pressure.  What causing the sleep disturbances?  Toxins, work stress,  dietary factors, environmental factors?


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