My Functional Health Journey (aka Guinea-Pigging Myself)

Functional Health Principles: Viewing the Body Holistically

Functional Health is about viewing the body holistically, and taking control with lifestyle as medicine (instead of turning to prescriptions first). One of the principles is understanding what’s truly going on with your body and solving the problem.

Here’s my Brownie Bites takeaway about Functional Health principles:
🕰 Our “real” age is not the same as our biological age
🥑 Eat healthy foods
🏃‍♂️ Get exercise
🌞 Reduce stress
😴 Get enough sleep
🧠 Knowledge is power–getting insights into your biomarkers can help you correct things going down the wrong path.

This is part 1 of my Functional Health 100+ biomarkers adventure, where I purposely got stuck with needles to draw out vials upon vials of blood! By doing this, I can understand what’s happening with my body before (if) any symptoms present. If there are any problems I’ll have super early detection, which means, if there IS an issue I can hopefully eradicate it before it becomes a bigger issue.

It’s also a way for me to take control of my aging, reverse my age, and prevent premature aging.

What is Functional Health?

Functional Health is a holistic, full-body view of healthcare. The core philosophy is about treating the root cause of a disease or issue with the body–not simply masking the symptoms.

I’ve always seen the benefit of a healthy lifestyle–but I grew up in an era where it was about food and fitness. Nobody I knew talked about mental health, stress, or sleep.

Functional Health covers it all, and views the body as a system that requires lots of love from a physical and mental perspective.

After my experience with fibroids, I started looking into Functional Medicine.

While allopathic medicine (Western medicine, what most doctors in the United States practice) has its strengths, I was shocked that not a single healthcare professional asked me about my diet, stress, sleep, exercise, or mental health after being diagnosed with fibroids.

All the conversations were about RX (lupron, a drug to reduce the size of fibroids) and surgery.

More than that, I was frustrated at how I could have gotten sick in the first place! I have an Exercise Science minor and am a former fitness trainer (one of the ways I paid for grad school). I’ve been a vegetarian since age 12. I eat whole foods and a lot of plants.

After much research, I discovered my health issues likely stemmed from high cortisol. Cortisol, brought on by stress.

Of course there are prescriptions to mask stress. The Functional Health perspective is to try to solve the stress.

functional health has a holistic view of healthcare
Functional Health looks at the big picture and a holistic view of the body. Instead of treating individual symptoms and masking them with prescriptions, functional medicine doctors often “prescribe” lifestyle as medicine.

Lifestyle is the Key

Throughout my life I’ve avoided antibiotics and let illnesses run their course. I shunned birth control pills in my early twenties after they made me anxious. I don’t use RX for anxiety, sleeping, or anything at this point. Lifestyle as medicine is something I truly believe in. We can live better and longer with diet, exercise, and taking care of our minds.

We all know people who treat their cars better than their bodies, and we all know people who treat their bodies as if they will never age. Guess what, we all age, but some people are aging better and much more gracefully than others. What’s the key? Lifestyle….but also…insights into what’s going on within your body.

We are all different, and having insights into our biomarkers (an indication of what is happening within our cells) enables us to adjust diet, fitness, and stress management for our personal needs.

By getting feedback into our inner workings we can continually make adjustments. These might help us live longer and better. They can help us reduce our biological age, which is different than our chronological age.

Our real age is the true indicator of how healthy we really are. I wanted to know my real age, and more.

Function Health Lab Work

I signed up for Function Health, founded by Dr. Mark Hyman, last year. Function Health is a new startup that tests 100+ biomarkers to get a holistic view of how well your body is functioning.

Biomarkers are biological molecules found in your blood, other body fluids, tissues, and cells.

Had I gotten this type of lab work a decade ago, I am positive my biomarkers would have indicated a problem. I may have avoided surgery because I could have addressed the issues with changes in my lifestyle.

Traditional Western doctors will not order lab tests unless you’re already experiencing symptoms of a problem. Companies like Function Health allow people to take their health into their own hands.

The earlier you know about anything out of range, the sooner you can take the steps to correct things (and yes, even if something is very wrong such as a life-altering diseases, lifestyle management can alleviate symptoms).

On March 21. 2024 I had the first of two lab tests. There are so many biomarkers you have to split your lab appointments into 2 visits a week or so apart. I had the second visit on Friday, March 22, 2024.

My results are not 100% in and a clinician has not yet reviewed them.

But I have some insights into 31 biomarkers. Let’s take a look!

Dashboard of my Functional Health

I had two blood tests and one urine test. The first blood test results are back–but I don’t yet have the doctor notes. So heads up all this information is directional.

One might argue it is dangerous for someone with no medical background to look at lab results, but I’d rather have an idea of what is happening.

Out of Range

My Lipase levels are slightly elevated…which could mean a few things including Celiac or IBF. I’ll need to wait until the next tests come out and I get the doctor notes.

Snapshot of my Health

So far (as of March 23, 2024), 31 biomarkers were examined. Only 2 were out of range…everything else was in the normal ranges. This is my dashboard within Function Health.

Some of What Was Tested

My lab work included female health tests, thyroid tests, and nutrient levels.

Why Seeing Out of Range Markers Matter

I had an experiment the last 3 months of being vegan.

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12…and a pescatarian (fish plus vegetarian) for the past 15 years off and on. Recently, for ethical reasons as well as just seeing if I could look and feel better, I tried a fully vegan diet.

My initial Function Health results show my Lipase levels and my Omega 3 levels are not optimal. Something is off with my nutrition…and I already know what is off because of my recent vegan experiment. 🙂 Looks like I require more Omega 3, which is found in fatty fish like Salmon.

Either I require a pegan diet (vegan plus fish), OR back to pescatarian. Pegan diets can help with perimenopause and menopause symptoms (I wrote a blog about this).

The other alternative is possibly a supplement. I’ll try the new Ritual Omega 3 supplement and let everyone know how that goes. I also had sushi tonight!

Hopefully in a few months when I re-test my levels, the Omega 3 and Lipase will be within healthy ranges.

Longevity and Functional Health

One of the things I’m most intrigued by is how to extend our lifespan and wellspan. Nobody wants to live to 100 and be sick the whole while. But if I could live to 100 and beyond, and feel the way I do today–bring it on!

DHEA Sulfate is a biomarker that tests stress and aging (one of a few biomarkers). The levels show how stress is affecting your adrenal gland. Chronic stress, not sleeping, eating inflammatory foods (like red meat and processed foods), and smoking are not good for adrenal health. Exercise, healthy plant-based foods, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress all boost our adrenal health.

My DHEA-S levels are normal today.

I highly doubt they were normal when I had fibroids, or the years before the fibroids developed. If I had taken this test back in 2015 I would have indicators of high stress. I would have taken my stress and lack of sleep more seriously. I might have avoided growing huge fibroids that needed surgery.

When we view healthcare holistically, we start seeing the massive benefits of a healthy lifestyle. We can impact our health and wellness with lifestyle as medicine. Functional Health is one way to take control of our health and live a longer, healthier life.

We can affect our DNA–studies have proven that, in many cases, lifestyle can result in epigenetic changes. Translation? How we live our life can impact our genes for better…or for worse.

Lifestyle as Medicine

In a few weeks I’ll have all my results and a plan from a Functional Health doctor.

For now–I am pleased about where my health is at. March 31st marks 2 years from my first emergency surgery. Two years ago I could barely get out of bed, never mind hike a mountain with my dog (something I plan to do next weekend).

By taking care of my health I’ve managed to avoid major disease and chronic conditions. I’m glad to see the areas that need improvement–and happy to catch problems early, before I may not have a chance to correct them.

What are your thoughts on functional health? Do you want to see a full picture of your biomarkers?

Let me know in the comments below!

One of the ways I de-stress is hiking. The Berkshires are one of my favorite
places to hike.

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