Identifying Root Cause for Better Treatment Outcome

Identifying the root cause of disease is the cornerstone of Functional Medicine. It requires an understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors, and leverages that data into personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes. How does a clinician unravel the complexities of a disease to uncover the underlying cause? In the following video, Erminia Guarneri, MD, FACC, explains her approach, and how she explains that approach to patients.


I’d like to look at this and see a tree because when I first learned that way of thinking: “Don’t just go up and cut
off the branches; go into the soil,” it really changed the way I practiced medicine. When I look at this, I see a tree that says, “What is our soil made of?” It’s made of how we sleep at night; it’s made of our micro and macro nutrition. It’s made up of our relationships, our community, who we are in the world. Are we exposed to a toxic environment – emotionally, like adverse childhood events – or in the air? Our soil has so many pieces
to it.

You can always look at it and say, “I have this problem here, it’s called hypertension, or it’s called diabetes, or it’s called hyperlipidemia, and you teach the patients, and then say, ‘What’s going on in your soil that’s contributing to this problem?’” The way I teach it to the patients is: I say, “You have this problem. We can [give you drugs] or we can go into the soil . . . What does your life interact with? Your DNA.” So that’s how I like to teach it to patients. You may have the DNA for diabetes; you may have the label for diabetes, but let’s look in your soil. That’s the way I like to look at it, and that’s the way I like to present it to patients.

I really love to live in the bottom part of the Matrix because that’s where I do my work. That’s where I get people to identify everything. But it’s when I go down in the bottom part of the Matrix that I can really mobilize people to make change. That’s the part that I find . . . you know, I love doing the detective work, but when somebody comes in and says, “I can’t believe it all my energy is back,” or they say, “I cannot believe how good I feel,” to me, yes, I had to go in and identify food sensitivities leading to inflammation, untreated sleep apnea, and a whole bunch of other things, but I also had to pull in all the nutrition pieces, deal with his stress issues, get him to have a good night’s sleep and so on . . . that ultimately lead him to full health.

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