Refer to two critical and over-lapping functions in the systems that govern how the body works. Traditionally structural integrity refers to membranes within and surrounding the individual cells, as well as the musculoskeletal structure of the body. Transport, most generally, refers to blood vessels and lymphatics. But the definitions can be broadened widely to encompass critical, life-supporting aspects of human nature.

When we think about structural integrity, we must consider what is necessary for repair and maintenance of structure, and even replication of tissue. In the intestines, it is structural integrity that creates the selectively permeable barrier that allows nutrients to enter the blood stream while excluding toxins and infections. When this selectively permeable barrier is disrupted the result is a “leaky gut,” or what is more properly referred to as “increased gut permeability.” In the cranium, there is the blood-brain barrier, analogous to the gut barrier. This structure prevents the unrestricted exchange of substances between the blood and brain tissue. Structural integrity can also refer to changes at the molecular level when transport proteins and receptors are altered in some way to affect their function.

Transport, beyond the blood circulation and lymphatic system, can encompass all aspects of biology from the whole organism to the individual cell and its subcellular organelles. Transport applies to situations where conveyance from one part to another part is required for function. While this can mean transportation of oxygen in the heme molecules of red blood cells, nutrients and hormones in the blood stream, it can also refer to transport of electrons through the electron transport chain of the mitochondria, the transport of messenger RNA into the cytoplasm where it is transcribed into protein, and the efficiency of transporter molecules in the blood and cell membranes for hormones, fatty acids, essential minerals, and glucose. The modifiable lifestyle factors of Sleep, Movement, Nutrition, Stress, and Relationships should be evaluated for areas of need and corrective measures taken to improve balance within structural integrity and transport in the functional medicine matrix.


Imbalances in structural integrity and transport can therefore result in a variety of recognizable diseases. These include problems with the spine and joints which contribute to chronic back and neck pain, arthritis, some muscle and connective tissue disorders. In the arena of transport the most common concern is high blood pressure and lymphedema, coronary artery disease, and stroke.


Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which give structure to many tissues of the body. But consider, as well, the critical role of lipids which form the fluid bilayer of cells throughout the body, including the brain. Therefore, dietary factors play an important role in these two nodes where essential amino acids are defined as those which cannot be synthesized from the body and must therefore come from food. Likewise, there are essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which also cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from food. While the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA can be synthesized from ALA the conversion is slow. These two fatty acids are not only important in membrane structure, but play a role in controlling inflammation. The best source of these nutrients is the cold water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, and but they can also be found in chia, hemp, flax seeds, and walnuts, for example. Grass fed beef is higher in omega-3 fatty acids compared to grain fed beef. Eggs from free-ranging chickens are a wonderful source of protein and healthy fats.


To further evaluate imbalances in STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY and TRANSPORT the following tests may be helpful: Amino Acid Testing (Genova), Fatty Acid Profile (Genova, Boston Heart, Quest), evaluation of lipoprotein particle size, and vascular imaging studies such as carotid ultrasound, echocardiogram, and angiograms performed through a variety of techniques. There are several assays available for determination of gut permeability, and Cyrex laboratories has the Array 20 which helps to determine if there has been disruption of the blood-brain barrier.
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Understand The Seven “Nodes” on the Functional Medicine Matrix


Please click to learn about the Assimilation node of the Functional Medicine Matrix. Assimilation refers to digestion and absorption of nutrients in the gut, as well as the health, diversity, and balance of the microbes that inhabit the digestive tract.


Please click to learn about the Biotransformation & Elimination node of the Functional Medicine Matrix.Biotransformation & Elimination refers to the way in which the body handles products of metabolism, toxic elements, drugs, and other chemicals, and eliminates waste through the urine, stool, and sweat.


Please click to learn about the Communication node of the Functional Medicine Matrix. Communication refers to hormones, neurotransmitters (the chemicals nerve cells use to communicate with one another), and inflammatory mediators called “cytokines.”

Defense & Repair

Please click to learn about the Defense & Repair node of the Functional Medicine Matrix.Defense & Repair refers to chronic inflammation, how different parts of the body influence the immune system, and the factors that lead to a breakdown in the normal role of the immune system.


Please click to learn about the Energy node of the Functional Medicine Matrix. Energy refers to the way that every cell in your body creates the fuel that it needs to carry out normal biological functions.

Structural Integrity & Transport

Please click to learn about the Structural Integrity & Transport nodes of the Functional Medicine Matrix. These refer to two critical and over-lapping functions in the systems that govern how the body works.

Read Neurologist Dr. Ken Sharlin’s Blog