Functional Medicine 101

From Dr. Mark Hyman, Author of Eat Fat, Get Thin

As a Functional Medicine physician, I approach the illness in the same manner as all imbalances in the body. I don’t assume the human body is subject to illness when the proper diet and lifestyle precautions are taken. These precautions all start with the diet. Here are my steps for preventing and dealing with illnesses, like a summer cold or the flu, if you are misfortunate enough to catch it. Rule #1? Let food be your medicine.

1. Avoid simple sugars such a sweet treats, desserts, white flour and refined grains. Refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours after ingested.

2. Include protein with each meal. Proteins are the building blocks of the body, including your immune and detoxification systems. Organic, clean and lean animal protein, as well as plant-based proteins (legumes, nuts, seeds) are important to consume with each meal and snack.

3. Add garlic, onions, ginger, and lots of healing spices (oregano, turmeric) to your soups, vegetable, main dishes and bean dips and sauces. Garlic and onions offer a wide spectrum of antimicrobial properties. Eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamins C and A and phytonutrients that support the immune system. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes and squashes. Aim for three to four servings of fruits and four or more servings of vegetables every day!

4. Drink plenty of fluids: with the dryer air inside and out, winter can be a particularly challenging time to stay hydrated! Consuming adequate fluids supports all of your body’s functions including the immune system.

5. Make soups and broths (from scratch with fresh vegetables is always best) and enjoy them throughout the week.

6. Drink herbal teas like ginger and echinacea daily.

7. Keep a bottle of filtered water with you at all times.

8. Avoid concentrated fruit juices and sweetened beverages because the sugar content is harmful for the immune system. If you do drink juice, dilute it with 2/3 water!

9. Try a daily saline flush. Along with staying hydrated, flushing your sinuses with mild salt water helps to keep mucous membranes moist, protecting you from microbes. You can use a neti pot, or easy to carry plastic bottles that come with saline packets to take with you when traveling or working at the office! Be sure to rinse them well with warm water and soap and air dry between uses. Studies have also indicated that flushing one to two times daily is appropriate and you should not go over this.

10. Get sufficient sleep! We all know sleep restores and heals the body. Without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible! On dark winter nights, try heading to bed earlier and aim for seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Incorporating various relaxation and breathing techniques throughout the day to help relieve stress and allow your mind to rest is also very helpful!

11. Take the following supplements:

  • High-quality multivitamin/mineral
  • Vitamin D3 (studies have shown that people with vitamin D deficiency are 11 times more likely to get a cold or flu)
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc citrate
  • Probiotics
  • Natural antiviral/Antibacterial herbs (many herbs have broad-spectrum antimicrobial or immune-enhancing effects; look for formulas contain different immune boosters such as astragalus, echinacea, green tea extract, elderberry, andrographis, goldenseal, monolaurin, various immune-enhancing mushrooms, and beta 1-3 glucan)
  • Cordyceps and mushrooms extracts (these provide immune supporting properties; cooking with medicinal mushrooms, like shitakes, is also helpful)

Want more from Dr. Mark Hyman? Read this guide to going gluten-free. Then learn how to make an easy weeknight meal!

The New Potato and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or ailment. All content on The New Potato (even when supplied by a medical professional) is intended for educational and conversational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any new diet, exercise regime, or wellness routine.