This article, where Dr. Brooke Stuart was interviewed by the IJY Staff, was featured in the Spring 2019 Issue of It’s Just Yoga Magazine. Here, they discuss what holistic medicine means and how it may be of interest to you. For the official copy, click here and you will find it on p. 16 & 17 (p.14 & 15 in the printed version).

When you think about holistic medicine, a few common stereotypes may come to mind. You likely may think about the use of all-natural remedies or the fundamental connection between body, mind and spirit. And, you may also think that Holistic medicine is the same as Functional medicine, which is the same as Alternative medicine, which is the same as Integrative medicine, and is NOT the same as Conventional medicine. And you would be right! AND you would be wrong.

There is not enough space in this inaugural edition of the “IJY Magazine and Event Guide” to fully explain the commonalities and differences of these practices of medicine.  Many times, the terms are used interchangeably. “Google” even appears confused. What started out being referred to as “holistic medicine” has evolved into also being referenced as “functional medicine” and/or also being referred to as “integrative medicine,” by our friends on the internet.  For purposes of this article, we will be referring to holistic, functional and integrative medicine somewhat interchangeably for purely selfish reasons! Otherwise this amazingly clever title does NOT work!

To cut through all of the internet “noise” and learn more about ways to improve our health, have a better quality of life, and be the best version of ourselves, the IJY staff contacted Dr. Brooke Stuart, a Doctor specializing in Functional Medicine and Holistic Counseling.  Dr. Stuart, a Central Florida native, is the creator of “The Let Go & Grow” Philosophy. (You need to “LET GO” of what isn’t working and optimize or “GROW” what is!) She is also a frequent guest on WKMG, Channel 6.

Dr. Stuart spent several hours with the IJY staff and we appreciate her knowledge, her insight, and her willingness to provide valuable information to our readers.  

Dr. Brooke explained that many people would know EXACTLY what to do if they came back from vacation to a closed house – and one of their favorite house plants was a withering, wilting “shell” of a plant.

Why of course!  You would give your plant plenty of attention, clean water, open the window for some fresh air and direct sunlight!  Maybe re-pot it in some nutrient rich soil and give it some TLC. You recognize instinctively that the plant’s bleak environment, while you were away, is what caused the plant to wilt and wither.    Dr. Brooke said in medicine, this concept is called an “evolutionary mismatch.” The plant was in a situation where it was NOT going to thrive and entered into a state of survival.

However, when it comes to our own bodies, Dr. Brooke explains that we “often feel helpless, confused, and disempowered like” our health is “up to chance, a genetic roulette.”

In this hectic world we live in, we have created our very own “evolutionary mismatch,” says Dr. Brooke.  We spend most of our time indoors. We are under tremendous pressure – between working, spending time with loved ones – children, partners, parents, friends – and handling the various crises that arise.   We get through the day by drinking caffeine in the morning (or all through the day) and a glass of wine or ten at night. Many of us depend upon pharmaceuticals to help us cope. (Not that there is anything wrong with that!)  And this is BEFORE we have to get on I-4!

Rather than taking the time to nurture ourselves, like we nurtured the plant, we’ve done the landscaping equivalent of painting the leaves green.  However, Dr. Brooke Stuart, and Doctors like her, believe that there is another, very promising option. And that is functional medicine.

According to the Institute for Functional Medicine, “Functional Medicine is a personalized, systems-oriented model that empowers patients and practitioners to achieve the highest expression of health by working in collaboration to address the underlying causes of disease.”

In functional medicine, doctors use the best of modern and ancient practices, to recommend supplements, sophisticated devices, mindset techniques, diet, and lifestyle changes.  Dr. Brooke creates a personalized treatment plan for each of her patients, incorporating all of these areas. She supports the process and partners with the patients with counseling, acupuncture, and therapeutic intervention to balance the system.   

She also interacts with conventional doctors re: certain medications or tests, if she feels this is necessary. Functional medicine is not in “competition” with other types of medicine. It incorporates all factors from the diagram on the left, which helps in the healing of her patients’ whole self, both mind and body!  

Dr. Brooke defines functional medicine as:

  • Holistic – addresses all aspects of the person, including their body, mind and life as a whole.  Reset your system. Clear the slate and reduce the noise, so you and your doctor can really see what is going on under the surface.
  • Personalized – every treatment is unique and different because every person is unique and different.
  • Patient Centered – what YOU want – your desires, vision and objectives are the focal points of your work together.  Take ownership of your experiences. No one knows your mind and body like you do.
  • Participatory – the practitioner and patient enter into a partnership. You are empowered and encouraged to take an active role in the healing process.  You can own things. You need to make things happen FOR you, not TO you.
  • Root-Seeking – seek to get to the heart of the problem through a variety of simple and sophisticated means, ranging from simple questionnaires to lab work.  Are you tired and run down? Is this due to thyroid issues, anxiety? Your mind sends you signals of safety and you need to learn what is best for you. You need “Space plus Grace.”  Space to process and grace to learn and grow.
  • Evidence Based – work is based on the latest research.
  • Restorative – designed to build you up.  A foundation is set for you, and the focus is on forward movement, no regression, and improving your overall life.
  • Safe – the treatments have mild to no side effects, and other unrelated complaints often improve as a positive by-product of your treatment.
  • Proactive – treatment is more than just preventative.

Conventional medicine may seem that it is reactive and disease oriented, and perhaps the doctor is just “putting a band-aid” on a problem, versus really trying to find out what the underlying cause is.   YOU need to be your biggest advocate and choose an empowered path and provide your body with the right tools to set it free.

In order to better understand how functional medicine is used, during our conversation we created a “real-life” example so we could understand the basics of the process.  Everything Dr. Brooke said made sense, and seemed reasonable, but we wanted to see it “in action.”  

One of the largest stressors in our area currently is Interstate 4.  We asked, what we thought was a basic question. “What tips could you give our readers about stress and dealing with I-4?”    Dr. Brooke answered, “Well, first I’d have to figure out what is the underlying cause of the stress. What is causing the reaction to the construction?     Do you make it more stressful by overscheduling and running from appointment to appointment without leaving time in between? Do you have a hard time saying no? Trouble with time management? In essence, how can we reverse engineer your experience to find a solution?”

If you picture yourself as the above I-4 driver, are you the plant that receives nurturing and is thriving and finds out WHY you are stressed, and corrects the underlying cause?  Or are you the plant that paints your leaves green, is not healthy, and keeps repeating the same patterns day after day?

One of the main questions functional medicine can help to answer is why? And then, the journey begins to unfold.

Dr. Brooke takes it a step further and helps answer questions such as “who? What? and where?” you are- as she believes this can accelerate the healing process. Who? You are the creator of your reality because you have the power to choose. What? You are important, unique, capable and so much more. Where? You are in the present moment. From this space, healing can begin.