Can Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Change Lives?
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The field of functional medicine has grown significantly in the past few decades, as healthcare practitioners seek alternative options to treat their patients.
We sat down with practitioner Joseph Lamb, MD to learn more out what functional medicine can provide for both practitioners and patients.
What inspired you to join the field of lifestyle medicine?
I think starting around 7th grade it was pretty clear that I wanted to be a physician. My family doctor was the major reason for that. He was a GP from the days that people graduated med schools and did a rotating internship, and they became general practitioners. The care that he gave people and the way he knew people, I always found impressive.
He had taken care of my grandparents and my parents, and he was a really big influence for me, going into medicine. Nothing about his practice was functional or integrative of other techniques. But all of those things were kind of secondary to recognizing that the person in front of you is not a disease; they’re a person, which is one of the major tenets for delivering good healthcare.
What excites you about lifestyle medicine?
I think the thing that excites me about lifestyle medicine is, it acknowledges the person as the important entity in the picture. They are the ones making the lifestyle changes. They’re the ones who are in control. They’re the ones who have to get up in the morning and figure out if they’re going to exercise, or if they’re going to have protein and a vegetable or a fruit for breakfast instead of having coffee and a donut.
By making those choices, by so much of it becoming something that can become proactive, lifestyle medicine addresses that potential chronic progression of loss of function. What really excites me about functional medicine, about lifestyle medicine, is our opportunity of empowering people to pick the destination they want for their health, not waiting for an acute disease to present.
You don’t wake up one morning having a heart attack and having heart disease; there is a real long preclinical phase where maybe you had hypertension, or maybe you were a smoker, or maybe you had high cholesterol, and things slowly happened, and you got to the point where you had heart disease. The opportunity is to help people in that preclinical phase.
Because the sad thing about myocardial infarctions, about having a heart attack, is that somewhere between 1 in 4 to 1 in 3 present as sudden death, so if you have that heart attack, that may be the end for you, so helping to prevent that makes a huge difference. That’s the thing that excited me about lifestyle medicine—that the patient is front and center, not only as someone we respect and care for, but that we empower them to hopefully change their life.
And even when they do have diseases present, lifestyle medicine is very strong and can bring them back to function from where they are in ways that many other options may not.
Can you tell us how you’ve seen lifestyle medicine change specific patients’ lives?
I did work while I was at the Functional Medicine Research Center doing a case series using supplementation of taurine, N-acetyl cysteine, vitamin B6, green tea, and magnesium.
There was a young woman with fairly profound anxiety that was really reducing the quality of her life, a lot of social phobias involved; she was very competent at her work, but she was very isolated. She really couldn’t bring herself to go back to her hometown because she didn’t want to see people. Just getting to work was difficult, and certainly going food shopping was beyond her, and her mother was actually even doing that for her.
She went through one of the case series that we did at the Functional Medicine Research Center. She went on nutritional supplements; she went on a lifestyle change program, which included a Mediterranean-style low-glycemic-load food plan, exercise to about 5,000, 10,000 steps a day by pedometer and vitamin D support with a phytonutrient-enhanced multiple vitamin and fish oil support.
Over the course of 12 weeks, her symptoms were very directly reduced. She went from a Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale score that was in the high moderate range—she was in the normal range by the completion of the study in 12 weeks with the program. It really, really changed the quality of her life.
Another example of someone who I’ve just seen recently was a young woman who presented with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, and we identified that she had an abnormal Western blot for Lyme disease. With the combination of medical foods, nutritional supplements, and also appropriate antibiotic support and probiotic support over the course of a six-month period of time, we took her from being a young woman in constant pain with brain fog and the inability to work to not having her symptoms and being back at work and being back happy in her life.
About Joseph J. Lamb, MD
Joseph Lamb graduated with distinction from the University of Virginia and completed his graduate education at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia. He did his Internal Medicine residency at Presbyterian University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia.
Dr. Lamb is double board-certified in Internal Medicine and Holistic Medicine/Integrative Medicine. He is a Founding Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine, and in 2013 he achieved certification as an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner.
He is the past Director of Intramural Clinical Research at the Functional Medicine Research Center for Metagenics. Past clinical experiences include nearly 17 years of private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, at the Integrative Medicine Works.
Since 2015, Dr. Lamb has worked at Hypertension Institute at the St. Thomas Medical Group in Nashville in partnership with his patients to create optimal health and well-being by using lifestyle modification, herbal and nutritional therapies, and cognitive therapy approaches.
He has lectured internationally, edited several books, authored book chapters, and authored and co-authored academic papers and website presentations on a variety of Functional Medicine topics.
Dr. Lamb is the Medical Director for Nature’s Sunshine Products in Lehi, Utah, and a member of the Metagenics’ Medical Advisory Board. He is also the president of the Commonwealth Consultants Foundation, which provides opportunities for economically deserving children and young adults.