We all know the saying that the "past predicts the future" and nothing could be truer than when it comes to lifestyle-related, chronic diseases. Recently, I've had a lot of clients with chronic conditions that are really quite a puzzle for them to solve! They're the inspiration behind this article.
What is lifestyle-related, chronic disease?
You don't just wake up one day with a chronic disease. It happens over a long period of time where tiny biochemical changes take place, slowly tipping you into a diseased state. A long-term illness or chronic health condition is any condition lasting six months or longer, such as asthma, arthritis, cancer, obesity, diabetes, chronic pain or heart disease.
Many long-term illnesses and chronic conditions are caused by a number of different health factors occurring at the same time. A great analogy for picturing this is a 1000 pieced puzzle or a leaky roof - it takes some detective work to solve!
For me, the real hallmark of these diseases starts with making the wrong choices for your unique genotype and biochemistry. Often this happens unintentionally because our parents and/or ourselves are just not empowered with the right knowledge. The problem comes in when we repeat these bad choices over and over again across a long period of time. This compounding effect, together with your unique genetic predispositions, will eventually result in presenting with the symptoms of lifestyle-related, chronic disease.
What frustrates me is that we are all too familiar with the terms type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease or arthritis instead of the biomarkers that lead to these conditions such as inflammation, oxidative stress, lipid metabolism, methylation, detox, insulin regulation, thyroid function, GUT health, cellular defence and hormone health. These biomarkers are your puzzle pieces and you need to make sure that they are the best fit for YOU.
The role of Functional Medicine
In Functional Medicine, we believe that you need to start in the "roots of your tree". While traditional medicine looks at the fruit of your disease, Functional Medicine looks deeper into your unique biochemistry to determine what has gone out of whack!
If you are already in a chronic disease state, become your own health detective. This starts by looking at these important milestones in your life:
- What were or are the health challenges your grandparents and parents faced?
- What was your parents' health like at your conception? Did they smoke, drink, take drugs?
- What was your mother's health like during her pregnancy with you? What did she eat, did she smoke, was she stressed, was she exposed to toxins?
- Where you born vaginally or by Caesarian?
- Where you breastfed?
- Did you have colic or difficulty feeding?
- Did you have antibiotic treatments from very young? How many?
- Where you vaccinated?
- What was your diet like as a child?
- Where you overweight?
- Where did you live and where you exposed to many toxins growing up? Like fertilizers, paint, herbicides, etc.
- What was your stress exposures? Divorce, bullying, anxiety, death?
- Any hospitalisations?
- Any side effects to medications?
- Did you suffer recurring infections?
- Did you have any allergies?
- Did you feel loved?
- Did you play sport?
- Did you sleep well?
- After school, did you make healthy choices or did you start to drink and party?
- What is your health like today?
Plotting it all out using a Functional Medicine Health Timeline
Documenting your life story on a health timeline is the real "ah-ha" moment. Once you have this snapshot, together with your DNA results, you can clearly see where the major impact points. The beauty of this is that you can go back and start to make choices to rectify.
The Health Timeline records the following:
|Measurement||What is it's significance|
|1. Antecedents||This helps you to record health information that you know about grandparents, parents, and siblings. This provides you insight into what type of chronic diseases plagued are close relatives.|
|2. Preconception||This looks at the health of both your parents at the time of your conception. Their health at the time of your conception could mean that they pass on epigenetic changes to you.|
|3. Prenatal||This looks at the health of your mother while you were in her womb. Her choices will inform you of the type of exposures you had in the womb.|
|4. Birth||The type of birth you had will indicate your first exposure to antibiotics (Caesarean birth) and how much of your mom's microbiome was passed on to you. Here you can record whether you were breastfed or not.|
|5. Childhood||Here you can record childhood illnesses, allergies, toxic exposures, childhood diet, stresses, accidents.|
Here you can record teen illnesses, allergies, toxic exposures, teen diet, stresses, accidents.
Here you can record adult illnesses, allergies, toxic exposures, adult diet, stresses, accidents.
Here you can record current illnesses, allergies, toxic exposures, current diet, stresses, accidents.
Here you can jot down what you have noted that triggers a health event - this can be physical or emotional.
|11.Mediators | Perpetuators||Here we look at things that keep your symptoms going or relieves them.|
|12. Signs, symptoms or diseases reported||Here you can record signs, symptoms or illness that you remember throughout your life.|
Where do I start?
Generally speaking, I think that the best place to start is with a DNA test and/or the GI-MAP GUT health test. Depending on how you answered the above and plotted out your Functional Medicine Health Timeline will determine the starting point.
Once you have some important scientific information to work with, you can start to personalize your daily choices - swapping out historic and current bad choices for better ones.
Our DNA quiz - WHICH DNA TEST IS RIGHT FOR ME is also a useful tool in helping you to decide the best starting point for you.
On a personal note, after my ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2010, I plotted my Health Timeline and I recall thinking "No one has ever asked me this stuff before" and "Shoo - when you put it all together, my health journey hasn't been so good. No wonder I got cancer!".
Your past doesn't need to predict your future but rather you can learn from it! If you would like to plot your health story, contact me for a coaching session and I would be happy to "play detective" with you.
CEO of MY DNA CHOICES
BA (Speech, Hearing & Lang Therapy) Hons | FMCHC | ReCODE Coach | HMX Genomics & Biochemistry (Candidate)