Integrative Functional Medicine: Why I Practice Healing the Way I Do

I regularly try to step back from myself and take a clear-eyed look at what I do, how I do it, and why.

I think it’s only fair to report my findings to my readers.

What I practice is called integrative functional medicine. You might see similar practices calling themselves holistic, integrated, restorative, complementary, or whole body medicine.

We’re all in the same good boat.

My goal is to integrate the best of western medicine’s extraordinary technologies with the best of nature’s proven healing powers.

That’s the integrative part—collaboration.

Functional? That means it works.

What do I mean by “the best of western medicine”?

Let’s start with the Hippocratic Oath that all physicians are guided by: First, do no harm.

I’m sorry to say that many western technologies and approaches to medicine do harm.

Yes, some surgeries, medicines, and procedures alleviate the symptoms of various high-profile diseases, but often at a terrible cost in side effects and complications—and with sometimes questionable results.

Some of the most powerful treatments keep symptoms at bay for years, for example—only to see them reappear, more vehement than ever. And we already know that radiation and chemo treatments can kill healthy cells along with diseased cells. Worse, it now appears that some chemo practices are a potential cause of cancer, not a cure.

So let’s say that the best western medical technologies deliver results ranging from effective to mixed. Can we say they do no harm?

It’s a balancing act. If we’ve tried our most effective natural remedies without success, and there are no alternative therapies, I’d say OK, hardship done, but not harm. Mixed results and side effects are the best we’ve got, the price we have to pay for what will, as we learn from our mistakes, amount to small steps forward.

But can integrative functional medicine do better?

There is overwhelming proof that we have alternative, natural therapies for many medical conditions, with positive results and rare side effects, if any.

Indeed, some of our natural preventive and restorative treatments, when administered alongside conventional therapies, significantly reduce miserable side effects and increase treatment efficacy.

These integrative, complementary interventions have helped profoundly improve western medicine’s successes.

Nevertheless, we still see western medicine (with help from Big Pharma) cheering new “breakthroughs” built on laboratory-made, synthetic substances that do not exist in nature.

Indeed, the health havoc caused by non-natural substances, very much including the “food” we eat, looks like chemical-biological warfare to me, with lingering, long-term damage.

But Dr. Connealy, you ask, haven’t there been huge improvements in western treatments and success rates? Don’t all these drug makers mean well?

Here’s a hint to help you answer that question.

My own frightening experience

From 1941 through 1971, some 3 million pregnant women in the US were prescribed the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES).

My mother was one of them, pregnant with me.

DES is a synthetic, lab-built form of the female hormone estrogen. It was thought to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and other complications.

It didn’t do any of that, and faded from widespread use, but remained under scrutiny.

Today, DES is known to help cause cancer, birth defects, and other developmental abnormalities. And the effects are greatest when DES exposure occurs in utero.

That’s me.

As a so-called DES Daughter, I have a 40 times greater risk of developing a certain genital tract cancer than women never exposed to DES.

Thankfully, this type of cancer is rare, but that doesn’t mean I live comfortably with it. Especially when there’s now evidence that my children might also be at risk.

So I’ve got skin in this game—literally.

Takeaway? Respect nature. Do not do what nature has never done. You’re not smart enough to beat Mother Nature at her own game.

Instead, Big Pharma, here’s how to make my ‘best Western medicine list.’

When you’re cooking up that new “breakthrough” lab-borne substance, that’s never existed in nature—ask yourself what could possibly go wrong?

The truth hurts—Big Pharma

There’s another huge difference between my practice and Big Pharma’s ways.

I don’t lie.

Big Pharma’s lobbyists have repeatedly hidden proof that their new breakthrough drug does harm, and distorted or denied mountains of evidence that natural substances may be the best medicine.

These lies have killed people who weren’t told of the risks they were taking with a new drug. They’ve killed people who were denied an effective natural treatment that would heal them, not kill them. This is terrible behavior.

While we await a change of Big Pharma’s heart, if there is one, we can gratefully use what are truly western medicine’s best offerings.

The best diagnostics no longer hurt

We have remarkable diagnostic tools to search for early signs of disease, especially those that show no visible symptoms. We can now not only spot them, but also see the best treatment for them.

Take prostate and breast cancer, for example.

Until relatively recently, we needed biopsies to confirm or deny the presence of breast and prostate cancer cells. Biopsies are painful, invasive, stressful, and never guarantee that your microscopic extractive needle actually hits the right cluster of cells at the right time in their growth.

Today’s imaging technology can often help us find a single cell, gene, protein, neurotransmitter, receptor site, nascent tumor colony—you name it. If the target site or substance is aiding or abetting harm, or threatening to in the future, we can often prevent the harm. If it’s bringing aid, we can help make sure it gets through.

This is an invaluable, lifesaving help when we’re dealing with a disease that develops under the conventional radar, showing no visible symptoms until it’s grown, for example, from a renegade cell to a flourishing tumor.

And we can do it all using the healing tools nature has given us.

Hippocrates would love this.

Heal naturally, from the inside out

Where my practice really comes together into a coherent, integrative, functional whole, is in one foundational principal—that the origin of most diseases, and their symptoms, is rooted in unhealthy diet, a toxic environment, and a sedentary, stress-infested lifestyle.

My job is to first recognize the symptoms of those threats, if any. How, for example, does a serious vitamin D3 deficiency show itself? What does pre-diabetes look like—from the outside?

Finally, what natural healing remedies can we use, then, to eliminate or reduce the causes—inside? Our tool chest is vast.

This “outside-in” methodology is vastly different from conventional medicine’s “outside-only” approach. For Big Pharma, the best solution to a serious disease is to quell its symptoms—but not cure it. If every disease could be cured, there go billions of Big Pharma’s repeat business profits.

And if the drug for one symptom causes a new, different symptom, great! Another drug is for sale to suppress it, and this whack-a-symptom marketing machine rolls on.

Eat and drink your medicine

Our ancient mentor, Hippocrates, said “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”

It only makes sense. Our bodies today don’t differ much from those of our ancient forebears. But there’s a world of difference between their environment and lifestyles and ours.

They spent their days breathing clean air, eating clean food, and being physically and socially active.

Toxins? Certainly no heavy metals, antibiotics, fertilizer and pesticide runoff into their waterways or spewed into their air. Occasionally a natural toxin—a bad mushroom, or a snakebite, for example, which an ancient healer would have added to a growing list of what nature, on its own, has provided for us. And still does.

Sugar, salt, and chem-lab overdoses of preservatives and artificial flavors in every meal? Not invented yet.

The sedentary life, tied to a TV or an office desk for hours a day? No TV, no offices.

In short, we’re asking way too much of our bodies to remain healthy in the face of our diet, environment, and lifestyle today. We’re incredibly durable, but years of wrong living take their toll. We need help.

The Standard American Diet alone, for example, is blamed for at least half of all causes of death in the US, and that’s not the only threat we face.

Yet somehow, it’s the rare mainstream doctor who asks a new patient about his or her eating, exercising, and social habits. I hear this from almost every new patient, who comes to me with everything from an active cancer to a life-threatening cardiovascular disease to depression:

“Dr. Connealy, none of my other doctors ever asked me all these questions.”

That’s because most other doctors seek symptoms, not cures for whatever causes the symptoms.

It’s not at all amazing that simply changing your diet can radically change your health. What’s amazing is that most doctors don’t start there, working from the inside out.

I don’t have space here to go into the best diet practices—for everyone—but look up the Mediterranean Diet and follow it.

Change your mind, change your health

Another core belief of my practice: the power of our minds to create good health, to prevent and heal disease. This belief is central in practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, tai ch’i, and other techniques of Asian origin, now spreading worldwide.

The simplest of these techniques is mindfulness. It’s like training wheels for meditation. Do it any time, anywhere—just close your eyes and clear your mind of everything but the sounds and motions of your deep breathing.

Studies have proven that just giving your busy mind a few minutes to relax stimulates production of calming hormones, like serotonin, can reduce your blood pressure, on the spot, and delivers a happy host of other interactions that point the way to good health.

I urge all of my patients, older, younger, healthy or not, to take up one of these practices. That’s unlikely to be the case with most mainstream doctors. Their business model depends on ordering tests and writing prescriptions, not on practices patients can do for free.

I’m equally passionate about exercise—again, not an argument your mainstream doctor is likely to espouse.

And again, a small change in behavior is all it takes—as simple as getting off your desk chair for five minutes every hour.

What else do I have to offer my patients? The power of safe, natural, effective, affordable health and well-being. Natural substances like curcumin that healers have used for centuries, now on the front lines of preventing, lowering, even reversing, nearly every disease condition it’s been tested for, including numerous cancers, cardiovascular problems, neurodegenerative conditions, gastro-intestinal troubles, and a long list of other heavy hitters. No side effects, no astronomical costs, no prescription needed.

Curcumin is one of a long list of phenomenally effective natural healers I rely on—for my patients and for myself. Big Pharma keeps telling you they’re “unproven”—but they’re proven. Would I use on my patients or myself anything I was unsure of? Big Pharma’s resistance alone tells us they’re worried.

At the end of the day, I’m here to work with you to help you be the healthiest and happiest you can be. Using the best of today’s powerful, non-invasive diagnostic tools to see if, where, and when you need help, helping some harsh conventional therapies do their jobs sooner and with reduced side effects, and tapping into our wondrous arsenal of natural remedies for optimum health.

My fondest dream, and I’m working on it night and day, is to replace as many harsh Western chemo and radiation and surgical interventions as possible with safer, more effective, and more affordable natural alternatives.

Count on me to keep on keeping on. We’re all in this together.

Take good care.