Group Care – Top Ten Benefits

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The Top 10 Benefits you can expect to experience as part of Functional Medicine Group Care:

You may be feeling exhausted and overwhelmed? By coming together and realizing you are not alone, there is a wonderful opportunity to learn and share some ways to improve your health outcomes in a safe space.

  1. Accountability: Signing up and showing up. Being part of something bigger than yourself moves you forward in a transformative way. The group facilitator is there to guide you in the group in uncovering your WHY. With this in mind, when faced with choices that don’t optimize your health, you circle back to what made you curious to improve your health in the first place.
  1. Relatability: This is your opportunity to realize that you are not alone. Through the support of others in the group, we share in one another’s wins and challenges. The virtual room is an inspiring and motivating space, where despite different lives, you all come together to move your life forward with better health and vitality.
  1. Community building: While in group care, you build relationships with people, and together you are stepping into your power. You support one another, and the feeling you had before of your health challenges ruling your life is less amplified.
  1. Value: Accessing Functional Medicine in the group care model allows you to spend more time with the healthcare team at an affordable price point.
  1. Client Led approach: Group care is not a webinar series, there is an educational component to the coaching, but ultimately we explore what we need for your group on the day. The time belongs to you, and the facilitator is the guide.
  1. Focusing on what works: For a long time, you may have identified your health challenge as the barometer for who you are in the world. In group coaching, we look towards your strengths rather than your weaknesses. By focusing on the positive, change organically emerges.
  1. Meeting you where you’re at: In this collaborative process, you will be heard, and there is plenty of time for you to explore your health vision. You are not trying to get to any specific place; you are taking steps at your own sustainable pace.
  1. Power in Numbers: Think of trying to play a football match on your own. Okay, you can’t. Well, that is the power of group care. Every member of the team counts and is there to make a difference. Every member of the team has the opportunity to be a role model to someone else.
  1. Empowering environment: Group work allows you to experience your humanity and similarity, creating an empowering conversation for change.
  1. Behaviour Change: The group care facilitator is there to listen actively, ask questions and allow you the space to explore what your life may look like if you choose to try on a new way of looking at your life for the future. The secret here is finding a way to close the gap between knowing what you have to do and then going ahead and doing it. The magic happens in the group.

Group Care is launching at the practice this August. Be sure to get in touch with our team to reserve your place.

Guest blog – FunctionalDX

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How optimal testing can help you deliver improved health outcomes

As a clinician observing the current state of health in the UK, you may well be feeling like the general approach to healthcare and conventional tools available to you aren’t helping you to deliver big changes for your patients. Do you find that your patients keep coming back to you, despite blood results coming back “normal” and getting a clearer picture of what is going on for them feels like an insurmountable challenge? The functional medicine approach and the use of testing that uses optimal ranges could be the answer. Keep reading to discover how optimal testing could help you to deliver improved health outcomes for your patients, with this guest blog post from Jonathan Cohen, Clinical Director at FunctionalDX.

Why we need to adopt a functional approach to healthcare

We’re living in populations that are getting progressively sicker. And with doctors limited to such short appointments with each patient, it’s nearly impossible to take a sufficient look at all aspects of a patients’ lifestyle to make sustained changes that will really make a difference for them. According to the NHS, medically unexplained symptoms account for up to 45% of all GP appointments, and half of all new visits to hospital clinics in the UK. Underlying any of the labels that these conditions may be given is what we term as “the health iceberg”; this could involve gut toxins, inflammation, neurotransmitters, digestion, absorption, life issues etc.

But with your private practice and a preventative medicine approach, you can make that difference. With functional blood chemistry testing and health reporting, you can demonstrate the science behind what your patients are experiencing.

“I’m really excited about FunctionalDX, because this is the blood testing that we use at our practice, and patients find it really eye opening.”

Dr Indra Barathan

What is optimal testing?

This is the revolution in blood chemistry analysis, taking blood testing and turning that into meaningful, individualised reporting. Of course, the first test you always reach for as a GP is a blood test, but one of the problems with conventional tests is that what you get back is just a list of markers.

“Finding what’s going on underneath the hood. That’s really my passion.”

Jonathan Cohen, FDX Clinical Director

Functional blood chemistry is the process by which complex and comprehensive blood biomarkers are organised, analysed and interpreted to provide a comprehensive assessment of the state and trends of the main body systems, the supporting body accessory systems, along with the status of nutrients and trends towards and away from clinical dysfunction. This is not about diagnosis; this is about preventative healthcare.

Conventional GP testing suggests there are two states that exist: sick, or you’re healthy. And when you look at “normal” blood testing, you see that statistically 95% of a population will fall into an area that is plus or minus two standard deviation points, and to be outside of that “normal” range means that a patient needs intervention. The problem is, when the population gets bigger, and the graph and the curve get bigger, then it starts to take in those who would have previously been considered outliers, or not in the normal range. We find that suddenly sick become the new healthy because the ranges change.

Normal ranges really represent average populations, not optimal health. With optimal ranges, we take a functional physiological range where we’ve identified optimal levels and where people fall outside those functional physiological ranges, they become functionally high or functionally low; and we can see where they’re trending.

Putting your patients back in the driving seat

With functional blood chemistry testing from FunctionalDX, your patients can review the report themselves, they can see their markers, they can read about it, and they can start their own research; it’s a great way of educating and getting compliance from patients. Covering 13 body systems, seven accessory systems, seven macronutrient systems, 14 nutrient deficiencies, clinical suggestions, you’ll get a clear picture of what’s going on “under the hood” for your patients.

“When a client comes in, they can see the whole map of their health laid out in front of them.”

Jonathan Cohen

Wellness is a process of becoming aware of making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life. This is really important for your patients. This about more than being free from illness. It’s a dynamic process of change and growth. It’s important for everyone to achieve optimal wellness in order to subdue stress, reduce the risk of illness, and enjoy positive interactions.

Where to go for optimal testing

FunctionalDX doesn’t provide conventional blood testing, linear reporting, normal ranges or a look at one biomarker at a time. FDX helps you to look at health trends with optimal ranges, interactive and comprehensive reports which demonstrate the status of 13 body systems, 7 accessory systems, 7 macronutrient systems, over 40 nutrient deficiencies, assesses over 40 clinical dysfunctions, and so much more. This is the best and most affordable blood testing and health reporting available anywhere in Europe.


Case Study

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36 year old female – Assess and Test Package

5 year history of food sensitivities and digestive symptoms including burping, nausea, acid reflux, loose stools with mucus and undigested food.

Underlying root causes included stress, antibiotic use and a stomach upset whilst away travelling.

Initial recommendations were around actions to improve her digestion and testing with a comprehensive digestive stool analysis. This looks at markers of digestion, gut inflammation and immune function as well as a thorough analysis of the microbes in the gut.

Following her nutritional therapist assessment she was advised to follow our Food Discovery Plan for a minimum of 3 weeks. This removes commonly sensitising and pro-inflammatory foods to allow the gut to heal. She was also advised to take a supplement with meals to support her digestion.

During her health coach assessment details of her current lifestyle factors were discussed and she was supported to set goals to work on improving sleep and managing stress.

Once her results were back her team at Dr Indra SFMP put together her health plan which was discussed at her further doctors appointment.

Recommendations included anti-microbials to treat pathogens including parasites and ongoing digestive support. It is crucial that food is completely digested for efficient absorption of nutrients to occur. Partially digested food that cannot be absorbed provides food for microbes in the gut often feeding the less friendly ones resulting in IBS like symptoms.

She opted for an ongoing Transformation package receiving support from each member of her team every month.

Progress so far has been good with much improved digestion and bowel function and a corresponding drop in symptom score.

Treatment is ongoing with support for gut healing, restocking with healthy bacteria and the aim is to retest at some point to ensure the parasites in particular are eradicated. She has been supported re reintroduce previously eradicated foods and to note any potential reactions. We are all so individual it is important to work out what foods suit your unique biochemistry, immune system and genetics.

July Newsletter

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This month’s newsletter includes our latest blogs on the benefits of purple food and Dr Indra’s account of the recent Institute of Functional Medicine conference.

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Constantly Learning

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As a doctor and a functional medicine specialist, I need to be constantly learning.  All of our practitioners take pride in reading and researching about new advice and findings in order to provide our clients with the best care possible.

Recently, I attended the Annual International Conference for the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM). Previously, I have attended this conference in person as it is a chance to meet other practitioners, make new friends and see what is happening around the world but, with the world the way it currently is, this year it was online. The IFM was set up thirty years ago by Jeffery Bland and his colleagues, to support the new approaches they were using to support patients’ health; representing the birth of functional medicine, as we now know it.

The conference is a three-day event, based in America (which made for a few late nights), focusing on a general theme, with many different lectures to choose from.  This year’s theme was resilience.  Amy Mack, the CEO, opened the proceedings with an emotional presentation about the history and the passion of the people who came before us, and set the foundation for what would be a truly inspiring and eye opening few days.

The main highlights for me, included:

The first learning point, unseen or unconscious discrimination, is viewed by one’s ability to earn money, buy foods, learn how to look after yourself and how this has an impact on our health. The lectures did make me think about how this can be a stressor for our patients and one that we may have not considered when managing them. For example, if someone is on a low income, this may result in them having limited options regarding their health journey; is this a barrier for them adopting a healthier lifestyle and do they feel judged?  In functional medicine, to support patients with chronic illness we will consider genetics, their past medical history, family history, incidents in their life that would have changed how their body works but we also take into account the social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of our patients.

The next fascinating highlight from the conference was the poly vagal theory, discussed by Dr Stephen Porges.  This helps us to explain the effect of the nervous system on how the body works.  My understanding is, the vagus nerve has the parasympathetic and the sympathetic parts to it and we are wanting to get into the parasympathetic phase.  This is where the body is able to rest, digest and heal. Dr Porges states that another pathway is also triggered in the oldest part of the limbic system which makes us freeze and shut down. By knowing this, we can use manipulation of breath, posture, vocalisation and listening to provide ways to calm the autonomic nervous system via the vagal pathways, promoting both mental and physical health. This system is the body’s quest for safety.

Throughout the many lectures, what I found so interesting is that we are seeing more conventional medical doctors using the functional medicine approach to support their patients. This included a vascular surgeon who gained a better understanding of how the immune system works and what it needs to heal.  He found by incorporating this approach, his patients with chronic ulcers and wounds were healing better.  Another example was from a chronic pain consultant who presented some papers on how Omega 3 EFA seemed to reduce pain, Vitamin C reduced the prevalence of complex regional pain syndrome, and Vitamin D improved pain scores.

The final main takeaway from the conference was the need to fully understand the fundamentals of life and how this information can be transformative to people whose lives we are supporting, educating and empowering throughout their journey at the practice.

The main foundational pillars being:

Overall, the conference reconfirmed my passion for this complex and ever-changing way in which we can help people.  It certainly gave me many things to consider, especially the need for group care programmes for our existing patients along with new ways we can work with people embarking on their health journey. Watch this space!

The Power of Purple

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It is common knowledge, and there is plenty of research evidence, for the health benefits associated with eating a varied ‘rainbow’ of vegetables and fruits.

The different colours all contain a number of plant chemicals called phytonutrients that together support our ability to fight infections and cancer, support a healthy heart, liver, kidneys, brain, reduce inflammation and more.

A study in 2009 showed that 8 out of 10 people had a “phytonutrient gap” meaning they were not eating the full range of food colours resulting in implications for their health.

Purple is one of the colours that is most often missing from our plates, particularly the savoury dishes.

Purple, blue and black colour pigments contain a group of phytonutrients like anthocyanins, resveratrol, chloragenic acid which have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune supporting benefits.

Some of the cardiovascular benefits are that these phytonutrients protect the inner lining of blood vessels from damage and relax vessel walls resulting in reduced pressure i.e they help to lower blood pressure.

Brain benefits are in part due to anthocyanins which cross the blood brain barrier to exert their benefits on brain cells. Blueberries and strawberries contain pigments which reduce inflammation and inhibit DNA damage resulting in reduced risk of cognitive decline and improved memory. Berries contain resveratrol and quercetin which are beneficial for the production of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is involved in the survival and maintenance of nerve cells.

Purple foods to consider:

Tips for including more purple foods:

Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.

Please do let us know the ways you have found to include more purple power!

Purple Power Salad

Inspired by a recipe from The Medicinal Chef Dale Pinnock

Serves 2

1/4 red cabbage, finely shredded or grated

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 large beetroot, grated

1/2 pomegranate deseeded

2 tbsp flax oil (or hemp oil, extra virgin olive oil)

1 tsp honey

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Fresh herbs to garnish

Mix the shredded/grated/chopped vegetables in a large serving bowl.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or blend together in a blender.

Pour over the salad and mix well.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and garnish with your choice of fresh herbs.

Purple Power Smoothie

The amounts and ingredients are not crucial, you can vary what goes in depending on the season and what you have available.

I used:

A handful of mixed berries (can be fresh or frozen)

A chopped fresh beetroot

A chunk of purple cabbage

100ml coconut kefir (could also be natural yoghurt or dairy kefir)

250ml non-dairy milk

2 scoops of collagen powder

So simply whizz all the ingredients in your blender and it’s ready to drink!

June Newsletter

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Our latest newsletter is now available to read.  This month we look at the importance of breathing correctly and the benefits of vitamin D.  You can also register for our two events by following the links.

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Vitamin D – Shedding Light on the Sunshine Vitamin

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I really enjoy this time of year with lighter nights, sunshine, blue skies and the sound of harmonious birds tweeting away. Recently, I’ve been taking time out to truly pause, connect with nature and immerse myself in glorious sunshine whenever the opportunity arises.

A staggering number of people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D with one of the main reasons being that we are not getting outdoors enough. So, it doesn’t surprise me when I often get asked the question ‘What vitamin D rich foods or supplements could I recommend?’ My immediate response is ‘mother nature has gifted us sunshine and this is the most natural way to synthesise vitamin D through skin exposure’. Just 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight per day between 11am and 3pm plus sufficient intake of vitamin D rich foods may help us meet our vitamin D requirements. However, there are a number of factors that we need to take into consideration to avoid vitamin D deficiency, such as seasons (you obtain virtually no vitamin D from October to March in the UK), the elderly, pregnant, breast-feeding women, vegans, modern housebound living, and those of Black African, African Caribbean or South Asian descent with dark skin.

You probably know vitamin D to be a key nutrient to help our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus from food for it’s important role for bone health. However, vitamin D also has a wide range of biological actions such as its involvement in insulin secretion – researchers have linked low vitamin D levels to insulin resistance and diabetes. Additionally, the steep rise in allergies has been linked to vitamin D deficiency due to its role within the immune system. The link with depression and low mood is another area of interest as vitamin D receptors have been found in the brain.

Obtaining vitamin D entirely from foods is not so easy as few wholefoods naturally contain vitamin D. The richest source of vitamin D include: oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, fish liver oils, beef liver, egg yolks, butter, sundried mushrooms such as Shitake and Portobello as well as fortified foods. The good news is vitamin D is fat-soluble, so when you get plenty of it, some of it gets stored in your fatty tissues and your liver, enough to carry you into the autumn and winter months.

You can get your vitamin D levels assessed with a simple blood test via your GP or under the care of your health professional.

Every Breath We Take

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We take breathing for granted, it just happens. We breathe in oxygen and we breathe out carbon dioxide. What could be simpler than that!

Actually the way that we breathe can alter our mind and body in so many ways. Altering the way we breathe is an easy way to make a big difference to our physical, mental and cognitive health and it costs nothing!

Lots of conditions affect the way we breathe, like asthma, allergies, COPD, heart conditions, anxiety, obstructive sleep apnoea. What if changing the way we breathe could help us to manage such conditions?

I first became aware of the science behind breathing when I was sitting in my dentist’s waiting room about 10 years ago. I picked up a book called Close Your Mouth by Patrick McKeown. It was all about a method called Buteyko breathing which it claimed could help with anxiety, cure snoring and manage asthma without medications. Even back then I was interested in finding drug free ways that patients could help themselves to manage their chronic health conditions.

There are a number of problems with the way that most people breathe.

The first is that 25-50 % of people breathe through their mouth rather than their nose. Our noses are designed to warm, moisten, filter and condition the air we breathe so that we are able to extract more oxygen from the air. A nasal breath results in 20% more oxygen than a breath through the mouth. When we breathe through our mouth we are exposing our lungs to everything in the environment that the nose would usually filter out. One of the main instructions with Buteyko breathing is to spend as much time as possible breathing through your nose.

Mouth breathing at night is associated with snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA has associations with depression, cognitive problems, metabolic issues like diabetes, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and raised blood pressure.

Breathing difficulty at night causes poor quality sleep, teeth clenching and grinding, waking with headaches and temporomandibular joint pain (due to clenching and grinding)

The second problem with the way we tend to breathe is that our breaths are too rapid so there is less time for the crucial gas exchange across the air sacs of the lungs.

The third issue is that along with this rapid breathing we tend to only use the upper parts of our lungs so not using them to their full capacity. This may be alright in a relaxed state when our muscles (including our heart) don’t need as much oxygen but we want to be able to take in oxygen more efficiently when we are active to provide oxygen to our muscles.

What can we do to improve our breathing?

  1. Be aware of whether you are breathing through your nose or your mouth and try to breathe more of the time through your nose. It won’t change overnight but the more you can breathe through your nose the better you will feel. When you breathe through your nose the tip of your tongue should lightly rest on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth.
  2. Some people find that sticking a 1cm strip of tape such as micropore across your lips at night is enough to remind yourself to keep your mouth shut. Just using a tiny piece of tape is not enough to stop you talking or breathing through your mouth if you need to. It shouldn’t feel claustrophobic. I tried this and for a few nights I found in the morning I had removed the tape at some point in the night. I sleep much better when I manage to keep the tape on all night and I’m less likely to need to get up to use the toilet.
  3. Count how many times in a minute you take a breath. Try to slow it down aiming for around 6 breaths per minute. As a rule, try to make your exhale slightly longer than your inhale, for example inhale for a count of 4 and out for a count of 6 or 8. It shouldn’t be too difficult, if it is start with fewer counts and gradually build up. There are lots of simple phone apps that can instruct you in various breathing patterns e.g Breathly, Breathe
  4. Think about breathing into all parts of your lungs. Remember they are a 3 dimensional structure so fill them in all directions. Start by placing a hand on each side of your chest, take a deep breath and feel the sides of your chest move outwards. Next place a hand at the top of your chest and at the bottom, take a deep breath and feel your hands move further apart. Lastly, put a hand on the front and the back of your chest and as you take a deep breath feel your chest expanding front and back.
  5. When you visit your dentist ask them to assess for dental problems that might affect your breathing especially if you snore at night. They can make you a night splint which holds your lower jaw forward when you sleep so that you are less likely to snore.
  6. Explore Buteyko breathing. Apart from breathing through your nose it involves training to pause on the exhale and lengthening this pause before inhaling again. Try exhaling gently and hold your breath for a few seconds until you feel a strong desire to inhale. Practice this multiple times per day.

If you want to find out more about breathing you may find the following resources useful:

May Newsletter

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Please take a look at our recent monthly newsletter, giving you an update on the Practice and links to our two latest blogs which focuses on ways to improve your mood and ways to balance your hormones. You can also access the job description to our current vacancy here, too.

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