Approaching a health condition can look different depending on who you ask. Healthcare consists of several different perspectives in treating illness, ranging from strictly conventional to wildly alternative. In most cases, a conventional medical perspective prioritizes treating symptoms to manage a condition or disease. This can look like prescribing medication, surgery or other interventions that alleviate the discomfort that comes with symptoms of a disease. Often this is an important part of the healing process, especially for acute conditions that can be life-threatening if untreated. However, only relying on this approach can ignore a crucial aspect of why symptoms occur in the first place, or a condition’s “root cause.”
What is “root cause”
While attempting to understand root cause, it is helpful to illustrate the concept with an example. Consider the simple example of a splinter. A splinter, or a small, jagged piece of wood that has been lodged into the skin on accident, will cause a certain amount of pain and damage to the body. To intervene, a bandage could be placed over the wound. If pain persists, over-the-counter pain medications can be administered to calm the brain’s pain receptors associated with the wound. If the wound starts to swell, anti-inflammatory topical creams or pills can be used to reduce inflammation. In other words, the wound’s symptoms can be managed, but the cause of these symptoms has still not been addressed: the splinter itself. In this example, the splinter is the root cause of the symptoms that are occurring systemically. The only way for the symptoms of pain and inflammation to subside long-term is to locate and remove the splinter.
While this is a cursory illustration of the significance of identifying root cause, it portrays a process that can be applied to many larger health conditions or illnesses. For instance, a singular underlying reason (or root causes) of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes is inflammation. These diseases can be managed with medications, or they can be addressed (or even better, prevented) by understanding how lifestyle behaviors impact inflammation in the body. Here, inflammation is the root cause and an intervention can look like lifestyle changes through smart nutrition, consistent exercise, high-quality sleep, and other health promoting behaviors. Over time, this can help remove the “splinter,” or in this case, inflammation.
How to analyze and address root cause
To begin understanding the root cause of your condition, seeking a medical provider with a vast knowledge and credentials in both conventional and functional and integrative medicine is a good first step. This provider must also be able to spend time with you to understand your unique health profile, carry out and interpret comprehensive blood tests, and get to know your lifestyle behaviors. Using a functional and integrative medicine approach to analyzing root cause means looking beyond symptoms and to the direct source of a disease or condition, whether that is inflammation, food sensitivities, environmental toxicity, or other factors that ultimately lead the body into a disease state.
Then, instead of approaching a health condition by masking symptoms with medication, a provider will “prescribe” lifestyle modifications, personalized supplements, or other integrative protocols that can help address the root cause of an illness. This approach to care gives patients tangible strategies other than medication or surgery to support the body in course-correcting towards healing.
Of course, with any health condition, both conventional and functional medicine interventions may be necessary, which is why both approaches are useful to consider based on an individual’s unique situation. For instance, it may be necessary to prescribe high blood pressure medication to a patient whose blood pressure is dangerously high. However, a long-term course of action to lower blood pressure, like healthy diet and exercise habits, can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure in the first place, and even reverse the need for medication over time.
Root cause analysis is a fundamental principle of functional and integrative medicine and is typically overlooked in strictly conventional practices. Conventional medical models are often incentivized by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe medications, and by insurance companies through quantity over quality reimbursement policies. This leaves many providers without much choice in how they treat patients. Precision Health Care strips away these barriers and in its place, leaves a model of care that prioritizes time spent with a provider and more options to address disease from the inside-out, and eventually promote optimal health and longevity.
See the difference in how we approach disease management by scheduling a Meet & Greet with one of our providers today.