When people think about the future of medicine, most likely, they think of cutting edge technology like artificial intelligence, stem cell therapy, and new generation of drugs to treat major illnesses. However, there is a growing movement of people who think differently. These people believe that the future of medicine is functional medicine.
Functional medicine is an approach to the practice of medicine that helps people manage their general health and well-being rather than solely treating their diseases based on symptoms. It goes beyond the “what” and looks into the “why” — addressing the root causes of our disease, instead of just suppressing the symptoms with synthetic drugs.
It is not a treatment or sub-specialization but an approach; a kind of paradigm shift from doctor-centric to patient-centric. Doctors are not gods and gatekeepers of medicine who have the monopoly of knowledge when it comes to health. Instead, they become “therapeutic partners” of the community they serve.
In the Philippines, Dr. Rolando “Doc Oyie” Balburias is considered a pioneer in the practice of functional medicine. In fact, there are only four certified functional medicine practitioners in the country right now and the other three were trained by Doc Oyie. All of them are currently based in Metro Manila.
Thanks to siblings, Atty. Susan P. Cariaga and Atty. Neil P. Cariaga, who are among the first Davaoeño patients of Doc Oyie, functional medicine is now gaining ground in Davao City. And with the help of Rotary, Doc Oyie is bringing the practice of functional medicine to the communities that need it most.
Last Saturday, August 31, 2019, the Rotary Clubs of Downtown Davao, Central Davao, West Davao, and East Davao held a joint meeting at EMCOR Bajada, Davao City dubbed “Health is Wealth: Rotary Helping Prevent Chronic Diseases” with Doc Oyie as their resource speaker.
These four Rotary clubs in Zone 2-C of Rotary International District 3860 under the leadership of their Assistant Governor, Dr. Marilyn “Bolyn” P. Puno, a dentist at the Davao City Health Office, functional medicine is helping Rotarians transform their approach toward preventing and treating diseases, which is one of Rotary’s areas of focus.
“We do not need to have a lot of money to be healthy,” said Doc Oyie. “The resources and tools to live a long life with vitality are accessible to everyone. We just need to open our minds and be willing to question the myths fed to us by the big profit-driven food and pharmaceutical industries.”
A personal health crisis led Doc Oyie, a Board-certified physician and a Fellow in Internal Medicine, to the functional medicine practice. Like most people, he used to have what he calls “three MDs” — multiple doctors (one doctor for every disease and symptom); multiple diagnosis (one diagnosis or assessment for every disease and symptom); and multiple drugs (one drug for every disease and symptom).
“I was seeing multiple specialists and taking multiple drugs but I still did not feel very well,” Doc Oyie shared.
He explained that a lot of chronic diseases are caused by the food we eat, the lifestyle we lead, and environmental factors that are commonly overlooked and disregarded.
“Our body is an intelligent system and it has a lot of inherent ability to heal itself. We have persistent symptoms because that is our body warning us that there are imbalances that we need to correct so symptom suppression as a form of treatment is not always the best approach,” he stressed.
In his “past life,” Doc Oyie headed the Emergency Department of The Medical City in Ortigas, Pasig City. He also served as unit head and consultant director of The Medical City Hospital Center for Wellness and Aesthetics. Now, he has his own private practice called The Functional Medicine and Health Optimization Clinic at The Medical City Tower. He recently launched his online platform, www.gotohealth.ph so he can reach more people and communities with his practice.
Doc Oyie became a certified functional medicine practitioner in November 2018 after undergoing years of training with The Institute of Functional Medicine, which included training in the famous Cleveland Clinic in the United States, the leading hospital in the world for treating heart diseases. He also trained in nutritional medicine and anti-ageing medicine in Brussels, Belgium. He is European Board Certified in Nutritional Medicine and in Anti-Ageing Medicine. He has professional and advance training in Mind Body Medicine in San Francisco, California.
Doc Oyie, who is a regular featured doctor at GMA Network’s “Pinoy MD,” is very impressed with Davao City’s trailblazing public health initiatives. That is why he believes health-conscious Davaoeños would be the best partners to mainstream the functional medicine approach to health.
With the Rotary Club of Downtown Davao, Doc Oyie is supporting the “Eat a Rainbow” project which will teach school children to eat healthy by eating diverse and colorful vegetables and fruits packed with macro and mirco nutrients and advocate for government subsidy to provide healthy meals in all public schools. This is part of the Davao Food Revolution started by Mothers for Peace in 2012 in partnership with the City Government of Davao and the Department of Education.
After visiting the “College Behind Bars” at the Davao City Jail in Ma-a, Doc Oyie was inspired to partner with Atty. Susan P. Cariaga, a co-founder of this award-winning and innovative program providing opportunities for inmates to finish their college education while in jail, to develop a mind body medicine approach to rehabilitation of drug dependents and violent offenders.
Doc Oyie also visited Huni Farm in Wangan, Calinan upon the invitation of its owner, Louella Garcia, and immediately saw that it is an ideal place for restorative healing vacations. He found a kindred spirit in Louella, who is a fierce advocate of organic farming and healthy food.
“Food can be your medicine, the kitchen can be your pharmacy or “farmacy,” and your lifestyle is your physician,” Doc Oyie insisted as he told Louella that he will set up his clinic in her organic farm.
As people and society get more complex and chronic illnesses, short-term, quick fixes just won’t cut it anymore. And even though we may not have any obvious and bothersome symptoms, it does not mean our health is optimal. Functional medicine aims to help people have bodies functioning at optimal levels and living lives that are not only longer, but with vitality.
Doc Oyie emphasized that having vitality is not something that your body will automatically take care of; it is something that people have to start working on from a young age.
“What is the point of reaching the age of 80 if you can’t move or function properly?” he asked.
But he also stressed that every individual is unique so a one-size-fits all approach is not going to work.
Diversity is something Davaoeños value and consider as their community’s source of strength. That is why a preventive, predictive, personalized and participatory approach to medicine is something that makes sense to them.
By Patmei Bello Ruivivar