For the past 44 years, Cindy Tedrow, now age 66, has steadily endured an encyclopedic list of ailments: fatigue, unexplained seizures, hypothyroidism, autoimmune deficiencies, dysautonomia, arthritis, migraine headaches, blood sugar issues.
There’s more: fainting spells, mitral valve prolapse, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome, among others. Her conditions, combined with the work of raising two now-adult children and teaching school, left her physically and emotionally drained.
“I can’t tell you how many doctors I’ve visited over my lifetime,” said Cindy, who lives with her husband on a farm in Delta, Ohio. “They would treat each individual symptom. But no one knew how to cure me.”
That is, until recently.
Weary of searching for answers for her chronic illnesses, but determined not to give up, Cindy read about Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine and its 10-week “Functioning for Life” program.
Cindy enrolled in the program under the direction of Mark Hyman, MD, an internationally recognized leader in the field of functional medicine, which seeks to improve the management and prevention of complex chronic diseases by treating the body as a whole organism, rather than simply a collection of organs.
According to Dr. Hyman, Cindy achieved a more than 60 percent reduction in all disease symptoms after just eight weeks in the program. Why? Because his collaborative team of physicians, nurse practitioners, dieticians, behavioral health therapists and other specialists assessed the causes of her symptoms and treated them in a coordinated fashion.
“I like to joke that we take care of people with a ‘whole’ list of problems, which is why we call ourselves ‘holistic’ doctors,” Dr. Hyman said. “Functional medicine is about connecting the dots, a model of thinking that tackles the whole puzzle of complex chronic diseases.”
Because most medical practitioners are oriented toward acute care, which is the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness of short duration (like appendicitis or a broken leg), they often do not have the training, tools or mindset to recognize and treat interrelated chronic conditions like those affecting Cindy.
“We talk in-depth with each patient and map out all the predisposing factors that could cause each problem,” Dr. Hyman explained. “We’re looking beyond the symptoms to discover the triggers for each disease.”
In Cindy’s case, her Functioning for Life team quickly determined her food intake was out of balance and that she had massive nutritional deficiencies, including low levels of vitamin B and magnesium. After changing her diet and some medications, Cindy almost instantly began feeling better because the inflammation in her gut and other areas of her body, which had caused many of her symptoms, at last began to dissipate.
Enjoying the simple things
As a result of Cindy’s new lifestyle, she lost 80 pounds over the course of nine months, stopped having seizures and regained control of her life. She has resumed driving and can now accomplish simple tasks that once thoroughly exhausted her.
“I remember calling my mother, and saying, ‘Mom, I just vacuumed the living room!” recalled Cindy, who plans to begin exercising for the first time in years. “My goal now is to be off all medicine, lose a few more pounds and get toned.”
While functional medicine is not designed to be a weight loss program, Dr. Hyman explained that the pounds often drop naturally when the body is once again in balance, as it is now for Cindy.
“Hers is such a remarkable story,” he observed. “I hope it inspires others to take this step and get this kind of help. Functional medicine provides such a simple roadmap. It’s doable.”
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