The Functional Medicine Timeline

 In Functional Medicine

Fans of James Maskell and Gabe Hoffman’s Functional Forum know of its partnership with The Institute for Functional Medicine.  The July Functional Forum scheduled for 5 pm PDT and 8 pm EDT on July 11, 2016, is going to “dive deep into the central core of the Functional Medicine operating system, the Functional Medicine Matrix.”  Maskell explains, “the Functional Medicine Matrix provides a systematic way to understand the expression of health or disease in each individual.”  The keynote presentation from Patrick Hanaway, M.D., Medical Director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, and IFM’s Chief Medical Education Officer, is taken from the flagship, “Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice,” a five day course held three times per year in 2016, which teaches practitioners the core skills needed to practice functional medicine at home.  It is also one of seven required courses for certification through The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFMCP).   

Today’s blog is a primer on the Functional Medicine Timeline which is the first step in creating the Matrix.  Excerpted from my monthly foundational talk, Brain Tune Up! I explain how the functional medicine timeline is about you, the individual, and what makes you unique.  It is about identifying your specific imbalances and correcting them, to change your trajectory from that which is headed toward chronic disease and its consequences to one of health, vitality, and resilience.  It is personalized, and it is participatory.  It is not what your doctor or the drug is going to do to you.  It is about working with your health professional to identify where and how you need to make changes to correct or avoid problems.   

These changes may involve several areas:

  • Identifying and correcting vitamin, mineral or fatty acid imbalances
  • Removing high glycemic load food and other foods that might be contributing to allergies/sensitivities
  • Identifying and correcting imbalances in gut microbes
  • Identifying and eliminating toxin exposures, including heavy metals and chemical pollutants
  • Treating chronic infections (mold, virus, or virulent bacteria)
  • Supporting detoxification pathways
  • Supporting mitochondrial function (the energy producing engine of every cell in your body)
  • And directing our attention to stress because it has a huge impact on the immune system, the gut, hormones, and the brain. 

In my office this begins with a detailed history, the Functional Medicine Timeline.  The Functional Medicine Timeline is different from the standard history that is performed in doctors’ offices around the country.  Typically, when you go to the doctor the doctor will take a history focusing on the chief concern.  This is called the “History of Present Illness.”  A History of Present Illness of migraine might begin with the age when you first experienced migraine, how it has been managed, tests that have been done, and a detailed description of your migraine.  But the History of Present Illness does not place the current concern in the context of a person’s entire life.  The Functional Medicine Timeline tells the story that helps us understand those presenting concerns whether they are migraine or any other condition.  Because each of us is unique the things that cause disease in one person may be different than the things that cause disease in another person, even when the disease is the same.  For example, two people who have multiple sclerosis.

functional medicine timeline 

The Functional Medicine Timeline begins with understanding where you were born, who were your parents and grandparents, your mother’s pregnancy history, whether you were born by natural delivery or cesarean section, and whether you were breast or bottle fed.  I will want to know about childhood and adult illnesses, how they were treated, and family dynamics.  Was your childhood nurturing?  Was there a lack of parental guidance or was it strict?  Was there abuse, neglect, or divorce? 

I will try to identify what factors in your life (genetic or acquired) may have contributed to the illness or condition (antecedents), the final tipping point leading to the expression of illness (triggering event), and at the factors that are ongoing and prevent the resolution of the problem for which you are seeking help in the first place (mediators).  I will ask you about modifiable lifestyle factor that have a tremendous impact on health or illness—how well you sleep, your current approach to food, whether there is significant movement/exercise in your life, how you deal with stress, and what is the nature of your connection to others.   

Functional Medicine MatrixThis information is mapped out on the Functional Medicine Matrix so that we can see where your most significant areas of imbalance exist and determine a concrete action plan to address those areas.

Owner of Sharlin Health and Neurology, Dr. Ken Sharlin is the Ozarks only independent neurologist and functional medicine-trained physician in southwest Missouri, and one of the few Institute for Functional Medicine-trained neurologists around the world.


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