The Functional Healing Matrix© – Where to look when you need more answers

By Beth O’Hara

Ten years ago, I started having flare ups where I was unable to walk or work because of joint inflammation and severe chronic fatigue. I have had debilitating panic attacks, anxiety, and depression on top of painful gut issues and tortuous, chronic insomnia. My food sensitivities got to the point to where I had only have thirty safe foods. I saw over fifty doctors and healing practitioners in the span of twenty and tried hundreds of approaches. A few of these helped, and many made me much worse. At one point, the top holistic doctor in this area told me he reached the end of what he knew to do. As you can imagine, I felt very alone.

Eventually, I decided I had to take responsibility for my own health. I set out on a journey to learn what was causing my health issues and what might be underlying chronic conditions for many others who struggle to get better. While I do still have occasional joint and fatigue flare ups, now only when I severe stress or injury, I am significantly better than I was several years ago. I no longer suffer from panic attacks or anxiety, I eat a variety of foods, my gut is much better, and my body continues to heal.

Now that I am doing so much better, my passion and mission is to share what I have learned with others, as an advocate and support for those who are on their own healing journey. Today I want to share with you the Functional Healing Matrix© of the nine interconnected areas essential to health and wellness that I developed while exploring the different facets connected to healing.

Be wary of one size fits all solutions to health.

All nine of the Functional Healing Matrix© areas are important in wellness. Sometimes when people have chronic health issues, they get lucky and land on a couple of easy solutions in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, this is a rare occurrence, though, and many chronic issues are multi-faceted, requiring a comprehensive approach.

For example, L-glutamine is often recommended for leaky gut and is a great supplement for gut healing for many people. It gave me horrific anxiety, insomnia, and inflammation. For those with genetic variants causing issues with glutamine breakdown, this supplement is actually contraindicated. Similarly, fermented foods and bone broths are often considered necessary in healing the gut, however for those with histamine issues, these foods can be highly inflammatory. They cause itching and bloating for me.

By exploring the nine areas of health and wellness, I was able to find a personalized approach to healing my gut. My approach consisted of a low histamine, low oxalate diet, doing a glutamate and ammonia protocol, digestive enzymes, and gut soothing foods like fennel, cardamom, and green smoothies. The important thing to remember is your biological and genetic makeup are unique to you, and health approaches work best when customized specifically for you.

Here is the Functional Healing Matrix© I use for my own healing and when creating a personalized wellness plan for my clients. All these areas are interrelated and affect one another.

Diet - The area of diet involves choosing foods that are right for your body and lifestyle. Most people know they should eat whole foods and avoid processed foods and trans-fatty acids. Beyond this, should you follow a gluten free, vegetarian, paleo, low fat, low protein, or low carb diet? And what about fats? Some people actually need higher levels of saturated fats, like in grass fed butter, ghee, and coconut oil, in order to promote hormone production and nervous system health.

Those with inflammatory and gut issues may need to also consider whether histamines, glutamines, oxalates, lectins, nightshades, and fructose are creating symptoms. Individual and familial history of cancer bring more factors into the equation. For those with diabetes and/or are overweight, a low glycemic diet may be a better choice. Intermittent fasting can reset hormones related to diabetes and obesity, lower inflammation, and reduce cancer risks. For others, intermittent fasting can make symptoms worse.

How to eat is a very individual choice, based on your body’s needs. There is no one diet for everyone. Food is the building block to health, and it is essential to choose what your body needs, not a one size fits all diet, for optimal wellness.

Exercise – The importance of exercise to health parallels diet. Exercise is essential for cardiovascular health, detoxification, balancing neurotransmitters, and stimulating the immune system. It helps regulate blood sugar and, in appropriate amounts, decreases inflammation. Over exercising, however, can increase inflammation. The best types and amounts of exercise are different for everyone. Some people do best with high intensity, interval training. Others do better with endurance exercises. For others, slow, steady, gentle exercises are best. With chronic fatigue, exercise levels need to be carefully chosen so as not to exacerbate symptoms. Looking at your personal genetics for muscle fiber composition, exercise recovery, aerobic exercise potential (VO2 max), and exercise injury risk can help guide fitness plan choices.

Infections – Undetected yeast, bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections can play havoc on the body. For those with chronic yeast, Lyme, or other infections, an important question to explore are in what ways is the body is out of balance and why is the immune system not managing the infections. When normal infection protocols have not worked, genetics often have answers as to how the immune system is out of balance. For chronic yeast infections, diet, hormones, and genetic variants may be a factor.

Genetics – We all have genetic variants. These are what make us unique. Some may not pose any problems and some are even beneficial. Chronically ill people who struggle to get well often have genetic variants that cause inflammation, reduced detoxification abilities, and impact the methylation cycle. Genetic variants can also cause food sensitivities, digestion issues, chronic fatigue, circulation and heart problems, increase cancer risk, and cause difficulty with energy production. Some genetic variants also create challenges assimilating certain supplements.

If you have inflammation, chronic illness, concerns about cancer risks, and/or feel worse after taking supplements, you may get answers through exploring genetic variants related to your symptoms. Genetic variants can be managed through carefully chosen supplementation to support the effected pathways. Gene expression can be affected through diet, supplements, herbs, exercise, and meditation.

Hormones – Hormone imbalances can cause a variety of symptoms and also affect gene expression. Saliva hormone testing is usually considered more reliable than blood hormone testing. If you are suffering ongoing health issues, hormone testing may be an important avenue for you. Always choose bioidentical hormones over synthetic to minimize side effects and health risks.

Gut – Gut health is paramount to healing. The gut is highly involved in the immune system, in autoimmune conditions, and in neurotransmitter production. Numerous factors can impact gut health: candida growth, intestinal flora imbalances, leaky gut, high histamine and glutamate levels, oxalates, lack of digestive enzymes, and nutritional imbalances. Genetic variants on genes such as FUT2 can also also affect gut health, and may benefit from supplementation with digestive enzymes and carefully selected probiotic strains, all chosen based on your personal makeup.

Environmental Factors – Environmental Factors related to health and wellness include having clean air and clean drinking water. Mold, toxin, heavy metal, pesticide, allergens, and chemical exposures can be too much for the body, especially for people who are genetically predisposed to have detoxification challenges, chronic infections, and methylation issues. Ensuring your body is not being overloaded with toxic elements is crucial to healing as well.

Nutritional Imbalances  - Nutritional imbalances can be caused by poor diet, illness, and genetic variants. People with certain genetic variants need much higher levels of nutrients, like B12, selenium, and molybdenum, than can possibly be consumed through diet alone. Those who have had severe food sensitivities may have nutritional imbalances from limiting their diet. Nutritional imbalances can also occur from a diet high in processed foods. Long term use of many medications can also deplete nutrients. Genetic and nutritional testing can help identify these imbalances.

Stress/Relational/Spiritual – The emerging area of Psychoneuroimmunology explores the effect of stress, mental states, and emotions on the nervous system and immune systems. Those who had greater stressful childhood experiences have much higher chances of developing autoimmune and inflammatory conditions than those who did not, due to the effect of stress on gene expression. The good news is this gene expression can be altered through meditation, diet, self-care, loving-kindness practices, yoga, spiritual practices, laughter, living in a pleasant environment, and having healthy, loving relationships.

Conclusion

The light that got me through my darkest days was a faith that one day I would be able to put together the pieces of my health puzzle through continuing to learn and try new approaches. I was through this process, I put together the Functional Healing Matrix© to keep all these puzzle pieces in mind while looking for solutions to my health issues.

Many of those who struggle to get well are missing elements of the Functional Healing Matrix© and/or are trying one size fits all solutions that just don’t fit for them. The are of the matrix most often overlooked is genetic variants, which can set the stage for inflammatory and other chronic conditions.

Regardless of where you are in your healing journey, I hope this information shines some light on the next step toward wellness and helps to keep that light lit for you.

Need an advocate in designing your wellness plan and making decisions about your next healthcare steps?  Contact Beth O’Hara for a 15 minute complimentary phone or in-person consultation to see if Holistic Health Coaching is right for you. Beth is trained and highly experienced in understanding how the facets of wellness are interconnected and how to support your body’s natural pathways of healing. She can guide and educate in prevention and wellness in each of these core areas.

 

Author

Beth O’Hara is a Holistic Health Coach, Life Coach, Iyengar Yoga Teacher, and Certified Enneagram Teacher. . She holds a Bachelor's degree in Physiological Psychology from the University of Louisville and is currently working on a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is also pursuing a Doctor of Naturopathy degree specializing in Functional Medicine Approaches. Beth is also a certified MethylGenetic Nutrition™ Practitioner.

She has been studying Nutrigenomics extensively for the past five years and has work with hundreds of clients to improve their health and well-being. Her listening skills, empathy and intuition make her a compassionate, effective and gifted coach and teacher. She is experienced in working with client's to transform areas that include health and wellness, relationships, self-understanding, self-esteem, and life balance.

 

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