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The State Of Functional Medicine 2020: Insights From Cambria DeMarco

3X4’s new State of Functional Medicine series features interviews with a diverse range of active practitioners and established thought leaders to learn more about why they chose the field of functional medicine, what excites them most about their work, the most common misconceptions they hear from patients, and most importantly — how they see the field evolving in the years ahead as healthcare shifts to be more personalized, proactive, and preventative. 

Functional medicine practitioners play a key role in helping patients understand who they are so they can improve their quality of life which is what we’re all about here at 3X4. Our goal with this new series is to celebrate the work these practitioners are doing and inspire others to explore the exciting field of functional medicine.

The following is an interview we recently had with Cambria DeMarco, ACNP-BC, IFM Practitioner/ Walsh & Bredesen Protocol Certified Practitioner, Functional Medicine Specialists.

Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?

CD: I was drawn to Functional Medicine out of my desperation to help my son. 

Twenty years ago I was working with the best Pediatrician in California when my son was diagnosed with Autism and a brain tumor. I painfully discovered that neither my esteemed Pediatrician nor all my education from UCLA and Columbia was enough to ensure my son would have a chance at a functioning life. Yes, he had neurosurgery by an exceptional surgeon; but after that, all they could offer was Resperidol and ABA. Surely antipsychotic medication could not be the only answer for a 3 year old. I set out on a path to learn anything and everything that could possibly help my son. I sought out supplement companies that could make good tasting applicable nutrients. I changed his diet, I sued the school district and advocated for the appropriate services and educational setting. I learned and I learned. I sought out education from occupational therapists on sensory integration disorder, and studied through IFM, Dr Walsh and Dr Bredesen. When we found stealth biochemical abnormalities, we addressed them. I am happy to say that 20 years later, my son who was slated to be disabled and terminally high needs, had graduated from College, drives and has a job. He has a chance at a functional life. There is no doubt in my mind that this would not have been on the agenda if it was not for Functional Medicine, and my desire to look elsewhere for answers when the ones they were offering did not seem correct or palatable.

Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey? 

CD: Dr Jeff Bland, Dr Dale Bredesen and Dr William Walsh have been my mentors. I also adore Dr Roundtree and many of the IFM physicians.

What excites you most about your day to day work? 

CD: I love when I can help those who are struggling to regain their vitality and strength. I am fascinated by the resilience of the body and brain. I enjoy analyzing a client’s biochemistry, correcting it and watching the magic that happens when you give the body (and brain) what it needs to heal and thrive.

What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work? 

CD: I wish Functional Medicine was covered by insurance. I feel this type of medicine should be available to everyone. Sometimes we can get some coverage by PPO Insurance but unfortunately it is not yet widely accepted in the insurance world.

What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine? 

CD: Some people do not know how truly science based Functional Medicine is; especially done by those trained through IFM. There are concrete reasons for what we do; and there is a tremendous amount of data behind our interventions.

What’s holding the field of functional medicine back? 

CD: Standardization and acceptance. Cleveland Clinic has done a lot with getting FM into a formal traditional medicine establishment. We need more studies showing the long term benefits of Functional Medicine and we need to prove that it is actually a cost effective way to address chronic disease.

What has your experience been with genetic testing? 

CD: We are just scratching the surface with genetic testing or lifestyle genetic testing. I am thankful for the work that has been done and the knowledge we are gaining. Many genes are important, but it is just as important to assess the biochemistry that is behind the genes. Is the gene expressing itself? We need to also assess the downstream biochemical effects of the gene in question because there may be other genes in play that we don’t even understand yet. Expression equals genes plus environment; and most genes do not express in isolation. 

How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead? 

CD: Hopefully, IFM curriculum will make its way into Medical Schools and our interventions will be the wave of the future.