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Functional Medicine Success in Mental Health Treatment

Last Updated on September 5, 2022 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

There are many types of medical treatment models in practice today. While some have proven to be beneficial in health conditions affecting physical well-being, functional medicine success in mental health treatment has found a home in those seeking a holistic, alternative model.

What Is Functional Medicine?

A form of integrative medicine, functional medicine incorporates environmental factors, lifestyle practices, and genetics into a personalized treatment plan. After an in-depth review of a patient’s medical history, genetics, toxicity levels, hormones, and other factors, an individualized plan is developed to include exercise, dietary enhancements, nutritional supplements, IV therapy, chelation, and neurotoxin removal.

The functional medicine model will include several recommendations to change a person’s typical daily lifestyle into something better. This promotes the most optimum levels of health and vitality to each body system.

Breaking Medication Dependence

Often used as a means to treat underlying symptoms or illnesses at the root of the problem, functional medicine is frequently successful at helping the patient avoid long-term medication dependence.

In mental health, medications tend to treat the symptoms of an illness rather than the cause of the illness. Meanwhile, the medication can instigate more symptoms. In addition, some pharmaceutical drugs come with many side effects. If the underlying areas of concern are neglected, a patient may spend years reliant on psychiatric medications without even scratching the surface of the actual problem.

The cause of a mental illness or symptom could be a hormone imbalance, addictive biochemistry, levels of inflammation in the body, or an individual’s inability to detoxify. While a medication may help the user avoid or minimize symptoms, treatment for the underlying causes is likely needed in order to make a full rehabilitation.

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Understanding Functional Medicine

The human body is comprised of multiple systems which are interconnected. The key to understanding functional medicine lies in recognizing how our systems and imbalances within each system affect the others.

Oftentimes, a person showing a symptom, such as anxiety, will be dealing with imbalances in multiple body systems. Some organs belong to more than one body system and, therefore, a holistic approach encompassing the entire picture is commonly the most effective.

The body systems include the:
  • Respiratory
  • Digestive
  • Cardiovascular
  • Urinary system
  • Endocrine system
  • Nervous system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Immune system
  • Reproductive system

Although all systems have a unique function, if one falters, all other systems are affected. Once you incorporate body systems, a person can begin to understand that overall health is reliant on the health of all internal functions. This typically ensures that each system is functioning at the highest level by incorporating health practices that treat the body and mind as a singular system. In effect, this is total health required in order to feel well.

Functional Medicine Success

When healthcare professionals are able to identify the root causes of symptoms, results are evident for long-term success. This form of treatment empowers patients to help themselves while on an individualized treatment plan.

Understanding how diet, physical activity, and brain chemistry collectively impact a person’s daily moods and symptoms is invaluable. When the patient becomes part of the solution by making changes to their daily routine, they ultimately learn how to take care of themselves. And that, in many ways, is success. In an individual who suffers from symptoms such as anxiety, depression, trauma, or sleeplessness, finding the right daily routine and best practices to keep the brain and body healthy, can allow them to move past the original symptom for good.

Functional Medicine Model Example

An example of how functional medicine could prove more effective than conventional medicine can be seen in a patient being treated for anxiety.

functional medicine treatmentAn appointment with a traditional psychiatrist would normally involve a question and answer session, possibly some counseling, and ending with a prescription of an anti-anxiety medication like Xanax. A new patient could expect an initial visit to last roughly an hour before a medication is prescribed, with the hopes of alleviating their mental health symptoms. The psychiatrist will unlikely require any lab testing, or search for underlying causes of the anxiety. Therefore, a new patient could be given a medication that simply makes them feel better temporarily, rather than focusing on a long-term solution.

Through functional medicine, a person who was prescribed Xanax for 10 years to treat anxiety could discover that their symptoms are caused or worsened by an existing environmental factor, such as a heavy metal toxin in their water supply, food, or hygiene products used. This is just one of many examples as to why Alternative To Meds Center incorporates a functional medicine model while treating residents with mental health symptoms.

To determine underlying causes of troublesome mental health symptoms like stress, anxiety, or depression, functional medicine includes running a comprehensive series of lab tests, inquiring about medical history, and genetic details.

Typically, a patient will be given recommendations to apply in a daily schedule to include diet, additional nutrients in the form of supplements or IV therapy, or a full neurotransmitter rehab. In addition to receiving health coaching, thousands of our patients have been provided education and guidance in how to effectively regain their health following symptoms of medication withdrawal, or to eliminate long-term medication dependence.

Some of the best functional medicine practices will include the following:

1. Nutrient Therapy – Our brains need the proper nutrients for optimal health and proper function throughout the day. Many symptoms like anxiety or stress are exacerbated by nutrient deficiency. One of the first areas a functional medicine doctor will look at is diet habits and nutrient intake. A person in a mental health crisis may require immense amounts of nutrients to begin the process of jump starting the brain chemistry back into proper function.

functional medicine nutrient therapy2. Dietary Recommendations – Neurotoxins in foods affect our brains and contribute to our state of being. Typically, a person with mental health problems will want to consider a clean and organic, nutrient-rich diet that eliminates toxins, food additives, processed sugars, and GMOs. By working with a clinical team or dietician, a person suffering from symptoms can be advised of the best plan to achieve overall mental and physical well-being.

3. Exercise – A review of daily habits will often show why the symptoms are occurring. Not only can inactivity lead to problems within each bodily system, but can lead to deficiencies of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. If the individual’s lifestyle does not include much physical activity, by adding a 30-minute workout or light cardio, the benefits to the body and mind include assistance in operating at the most effective levels possible.

4. Coaching and Counseling – People have a tendency to neglect traumas, or other areas of life that cause discomfort by mere mention or recommending change. When life becomes unmanageable or generating feelings of unhappiness, working with a life coach or licensed counselor can be the catalyst needed to make positive changes. A large part of why functional medicine is successful is because the practitioner will take the time needed to get to know each client. Reviewing the patient’s history, decision-making patterns, and other factors helps ensure that the tailor-made treatment plan developed and utilized is more effective. Better than generic treatment, individualized care meets a patient where they are in the moment and throughout the treatment process.

5. Changes in Habits or Environment – Identifying parts of one’s daily routine will indicate shortfalls and show areas that need to be changed. Sometimes, even our environment could be working against us. For a person with a desk job, drinking large quantities of coffee or caffeine will often lead to mental health symptoms as the person is providing energy to their body which is not being used appropriately. For an individual who is sensitive to neurotoxins in their daily environment, a look at chemicals used in their home or place of work may also point towards factors that are contributing to their symptoms.

The Best Opportunity for Mental Healing

overcome medication dependenceAlternative to Meds Center uses the functional medicine model and expands on the benefits it provides patients. Through personalized treatment plans, recommendations for long-term health are included each inpatient resident’s daily schedule and provided upon returning home from treatment. A typical treatment stay at our inpatient mental health center in Sedona, Arizona includes a 60-day rehab, after which most individuals are given a holistic wellness plan that helps encourage optimal health and well-being.

We have helped many patients overcome long-term medication dependence by treating symptoms in a natural way. For those wanting to try a healthier treatment plan for anxiety, depression, past trauma, or diagnosis of bipolar, mania, or schizophrenia, our team is here to help review your circumstances and provide a healthier way of being.

If you or a loved one is in need of assistance, please review information about admission to our licensed inpatient holistic psychiatry center.

Originally Published Feb 18, 2019 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Functional Medicine Success in Mental Health Treatment
Medical Disclaimer:
Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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