Knowing how to let your body function as well as it could—for as long as it could—is at the center of a new approach called functional medicine. At the conference titled “Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice” (AFMCP) at the Manila Marriott Hotel recently, doctors from different specialties came together and exchanged views on the topic. The discussions were aimed at discussing approaches that could help patients lessen, or better yet completely abjure, all pharmaceutical drugs.
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The first AFMCP in Southeast Asia, the conference has the wellness institute, Romlas Health Group (RHG), at its helm. Michael Angelo “Mitch” Genato, group chief executive officer for RHG, walked us through what he calls their “central piece”—the LifeScience center.
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Genato cites that in Southeast Asia alone 70% of the 650 million-strong population has non-communicable diseases. To manage these diseases, most doctors would just prescribe pharmaceutical drugs. Then, they’d advise their patients on what to avoid—in general: food high in saturated fat, refined sugar, salt, etc.
In functional medicine, Genato says, the doctors use the person’s unique biology and biochemistry to give him or her specific steps to “avoid, avert, or event reverse their health conditions.” These steps can take patients out of their maintenance medicines, if possible.
But the science and all its argot are only part of the process. The first step is as simple as retrospection. “That’s ultimately where the consultation starts,” he says. The centers ask its patients, among other questions: When was the last time you felt well? What did you do before the disease occurred? What did you eat? What was your work then?
The next step is performing a buccal swab—or taking DNA from inside the cheek. LifeScience then sends the specimen to its partner lab in Austria, where it goes through genome sequencing (mapping out a person’s DNA). A genetic counselor—who is a medical professional that specializes in genetics and counseling patients about possible risks—then disposes of all junk information, and sends the filtered results to the client’s doctor in the Philippines. Through these pieces of information, doctors will know the root cause of the problem, or if someone is predisposed to a certain disease.
Genato, for example, after taking the tests at the center, found out that he is predisposed to cardiovascular diseases. “My ability to detox, from air pollution to grilled food and all that, is not so good,” he shares. “My intervention is to take antioxidants, specifically ubiquinol.”
For those who are skeptical of functional medicine, Genato says, “Give me someone with an autoimmune disease. It is the red carpet to functional medicine.”
The article by Reader’s Digest called, “12 Scary Reasons Millennials Need to Worry About Autoimmune Diseases” reveals that autoimmune diseases are becoming more alarmingly prevalent, and that 80% of those affected are women. Moreover, there isn’t enough discussion over the matter.
In treating people with autoimmune diseases—and other chronic diseases—LifeScience studies the deficiencies and excesses of the body. A healthy human body is naturally resilient. But when it stops healing itself, functional medicine will find out why. Does the body have enough nourishment? Does it have an excess of certain elements—lead, mercury? Or maybe a person is unaware of certain food allergies that are causing his or her body to malfunction.
At the AFMPC, speaker Kristi Hughes, M.D., talked about elimination diet, which allows doctors to know which food are causing certain diseases and which among them can prevent diseases. Ultimately, all diseases start in the gut.
"Functional medicine considers every detail of every aspect of a person’s life. “We’re not Lego pieces taken apart, we’re Lego pieces put together,” Genato explains. The center tries to read “the mind, the body, and the spirit,” including relationships.
“How do these pieces come together in terms of you expressing your health?”
Is it for everyone?
Genato—a former media practitioner, who co-founded RHG with siblings Marv and Cris Romero-Salas in 2009—says not to let their office’s physical address (Bonifacio Global City complex, Taguig) fool people into thinking that functional medicine was made for just the elite. The trio started the center because they’ve lost family members to diseases. None of them are doctors. “All three of us are coming from a patient’s perspective.”
“We meet patients where they are,” he clarifies. He says that they have created programs in poor and middle class communities, to demonstrate the power of functional medicine. Although the space is designed for an international market, he reiterates that they have a “broad and diverse set of clients.” Paying for the complete diagnostics and the tests just means that the intervention is “a lot simpler,” and process takes faster to complete “because then we can measure.”
He concludes, “It’s the most universal, to me, the most scalable and replicable model to be able to create health.”
Genato admits that the idea may make a lot of people uncomfortable. Some may think it’s expensive because these are things that they have never spent for in their lives. But the merits do outweigh the investment. “When you get hospitalized, your bill over three days is already more expensive. It’s a matter of mindset.”
RHG has many divisions under its umbrella: LifeScience Institute, which is in charge of educating people about functional medicine; LifeScience, it’s center for health and wellness; Global Medical Technologies, which provides tools and technologies.
In the next month, they are planning to open a clinic that will bring functional medicine into dermatology, through Skin+Nutrition. Their technology will help reverse common skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, skin asthma, etc.
It’s not like they’re saying they can predict the future, but they’re certainly giving people a preview. In our fickle environment, that’s more than enough security that we could hope for. One of the people behind it says so himself. “That’s my way of embracing uncertainty.”
The LifeScience Center for Health and Wellness is at ACCRALAW Tower, 30th street corner 2nd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Visit lifescience.ph for more information.