Welcome to the inaugural column of Optimal Self, a column designed to offer helpful insights for achieving ideal health. Over the last 12 years, I’ve seen thousands of patients in what I call a “pre-disease state,” where the body sends an alarm signal that comes in the form of vague, unsettling symptoms. Functional medicine emerged as a field to determine why the alarm is sounding and how to shut it off naturally before a disease occurs. I will never take the place of your primary care doctor but will partner with him or her to take the best care of you. My role is that of a consultant, taking you further down the road of investigating the root cause of your health issues. In order for you to maintain your edge, maintain your energy, and engage in your life, you have to take care of your health every single day. I believe in prolonging the health-span, not just the life span. My heart is that of a healer, and my passion is discovering the root cause of disease and suffering in my patients. I will share these insights in the hopes that you will discover your Optimal Self.
Those nagging symptoms mean something.
Are you on overdrive in your life? So overloaded taking care of business and other people that you don’t have time to pay attention to your most valuable asset, your health? Most people assume that achiness, weariness and digestive issues are normal as we age, but they’re not. These are actually early warning signs that something’s not right. When you have hard to define symptoms that have accumulated over time, the root cause can be hard to uncover without proper investigation and testing. Most conventional medical professionals don’t have the time to dig deep into the underlying causes; that’s why so many people end up on the ‘quick fix’ prescription medications. A functional medicine specialist has the tools to help identify and provide your body with what it needs to correct a pre-disease state. Don’t ignore those nagging symptoms. Bring them to the attention of someone who can help you puzzle them out, so that you can get back to the business of living a full life.
The road to recovery starts with identifying the problem.
Maybe you’ve spent years going from doctor to doctor with vague, unexplained symptoms that no one has been able to diagnose. Maybe your symptoms suddenly become acute, but the medicines are not working or are making it worse. By looking deep into the body’s complex network of symptoms, a functional medicine physician can identify patterns of dysfunction, help restore balance in the body, and begin the road to recovery and achieving wellness. Nutrition, digestion and absorption, immune dysfunction, inflammation, detoxification, energy metabolism, hormone balance, and a calm mind are all critical facets of health. Partnering with a good health detective can help you overcome these challenges and achieve optimal health.
Holistic treatment of the body
My goal for this column is to provide insight into the many complex systems we are dealing with when it comes to overcoming the challenges of staying healthy in an increasingly unhealthy environment. I treat the whole body, not one specific problem. Everything is interconnected, so it should be treated as one issue with many facets for optimal healing.
Some of our topics will include:
- Digestion, including proper absorption and assimilation of nutrition
- Mental and physical energy and what’s possibly missing or interrupting these intricate pathways
- Metabolism and how inflammation from our diet and environment is influencing it
- Nutrition and detoxification and why they are both so very important to a balanced system
- Hormones and the endocrine system as a whole, including adrenal, thyroid and sex hormones
- Immune function and helping to calm an overactive immune response by removing offending triggers like certain foods, chemicals, and chronic infections
If you have a specific question or see a topic that you’d like to learn more about, I’d love to hear from you. Submit your questions to www.katherinebirchenoughmd.com/contact/.
About Dr. Birchenough
Katherine Birchenough was the fourth MD in the state of South Carolina to be certified through the Institute for Functional Medicine. A South Carolina native, Dr. Birchenough is a University of South Carolina School of Medicine graduate, board-certified in pediatrics and emergency medicine, and has recently devoted herself full-time to her wellness practice. Dr. Birchenough practiced traditional medicine for more than 12 years, diagnosing and treating diseases but not really getting to the root cause. Over the years, she watched as unhealthy environments and poor lifestyle choices affected the health of her peers and her patients, at one point even herself, and knew that something had to give. She realized the pursuit of health, beyond just the absence of disease, is a specialty in and of itself but wasn’t available to traditional medical students. This realization brought her to a new career path in functional medicine and has fueled her passion to treat the patient, not just the symptoms.