In the last decade, seismic shifts have occurred in the way healthcare is delivered, with a re-examination of every aspect of our challenged system. However, an even more critical change is occurring in how a patient is cared for – holistically, going beyond just the physical to encompass emotional, social and spiritual issues. These tenets of integrative and functional medicine are illuminating a transformative new path to wellness, one that is fully embraced by local internist Uday Jani, MD, a long-time proponent of holistic care and its benefits.
"This represents a complete change in the way we approach medicine," said Jani. "Replacing the outdated acute-care traditional models of the past. Those have proven ineffective in preventing and treating chronic disease because the whole patient is not considered.
"Western medicine has evolved to treat people as isolated entities, when in fact, we all exist within an intricately woven matrix of family, friends, jobs, homes, neighborhoods, geographical areas and psychological and cultural environment, all of which can influence health and disease."
Evaluating the foundation of each patient's lifestyle forms the basis of the approach. Up to 90 percent of chronic disease is directly attributable to lifestyle, explained Jani, which encompasses what you eat, how often you exercise, how much stress you live with and how you handle that stress. Functional medicine also considers other, nontraditional aspects, including a patient's spiritual practices, even the role of nature in their lives.
"Spirituality, which used to play a crucial role in health care, has been neglected in favor of a more technological focus," said Jani. "While this has led to phenomenal, life-prolonging advances, it's also elevated the measurable and physical aspects of a person over those harder to measure, such as mind and soul, the part of ourselves that is transcendent."
Recent research by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Understanding the Role of Spirituality in Medicine, shows a true yearning on the part of most patients to discuss spiritual issues as part of their medical care: 70 percent of patients would welcome physician inquiry into their beliefs, yet only a small number of physicians do so. A growing body of evidence may spur change, with more than 3,000 studies pointing to the powerful impact of spirituality on health.1
"It can begin with a simple set of questions that opens the dialogue with patients," said Jani. These can include the HOPE questions, developed by Brown University School of Medicine:
H - Where do you find comfort or hope in times of illness? When things are tough, what keeps you going?
O - Does organized religion have a place in your life or in your family's life?
P - Are there spiritual practices or beliefs that are important to you personally?
E - Are there ways that your personal beliefs affect your health care choices or might provide guidance as we discuss decision about your care near the end of your life?
Human spirituality is not necessarily religious, but can be found both in organized traditions and on a uniquely personal basis (The Search for Well-Being, humanmedia.org).
The essential component is connection, whether it's to a higher power or to others in your community. Spirituality can improve the ability to cope with life's challenges and provide a sense of meaning. The benefits to immune, hormonal, cardiovascular and nervous systems are significant.
It helps to visualize the functional medicine paradigm as a tree, said Jani. "We look at the foundation, or the roots and soil, as sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress levels, relationships and genetics. These are influenced by predisposing factors, triggers and ongoing physiological processes that may cause imbalances at the trunk, resulting in disease, represented by the tree's branches and leaves." Conventional medicine considers the symptoms (branches and leaves) first, and treats them with drugs, completely overlooking the root causes.
"Our goal is to break that unending cycle of chronic disease – diagnosis followed by drugs – and repair the foundation. Practically speaking, it is easier and much less expensive to prevent the onset of a disease than it is to treat it once developed. But the real difference this approach makes in the way patients feel over the long term. Functional medicine helps restore health, and in doing so, the joy of living," said Jani.
About Dr. Uday Jani
Dr. Uday Jani, a board-certified internist specializing in functional and integrative medicine, blends both into his private practice at Shore View Personal Care. He completed training at The Institute for Functional Medicine in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and earned an Integrative Medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona, recognized as the leading integrative medical education program in the world.
Jani's personalized care/concierge medicine practice is located at 28312 Lewes-Georgetown Highway in Milton. For more information, call 684-0990 or go to udayjanimd.com.