Functional Neurology
of Middlesex County
Gregory Symko, D.C., D.A.B.C.N.
747 Main Street Suite 205
Concord, MA 01742
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Posts about the topic: Functional Medicine

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, and Functional Medical Practitioner and the Evolution of Health, Part Two.

Evolution of Healthcare, Part Two

Image result for old fashioned doctor

Western medicine is very good at acute-care but is not the panacea for disease prevention. There needs to be a change the way we handle chronic disease.

Healthcare has often been called ill to the pill medicine. For example, someone has a complaint about high blood pressure, arthritis, heartburn, acid reflux, or depression and there is a pill for that. For every single disease that is labeled, it has a pill attached to it, and insurance continues to pay for this.

The incentive for Western medicine is to get paid for a diagnosis, and not an outcome. For many years health care has named the problem, blamed the problem, tamed the problem with medication, and then billed for it.

The problem with this approach is that it’s not improving our overall health. We are not thinking about functional medicine, or about getting to the underlying cause of someone’s ailment. No one is looking at the whole person’s body, mind, emotions and spirit in looking at how all our systems interact.

The 2009 World Economic Forum discovered that chronic disease is the most severe threat to today’s economic development.
In 2010 the United States spent over $8 billion on therapy. Most of this is going to therapy such as cholesterol-lowering medication, antidepressants, and anti-psychotics.

In 2013, Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine stated, “the nation’s current health trajectory is lower in success hiring costs than it should be.”

According to the World Health Organization, 70 to 90% of all colonic disease is related to lifestyle and environment.

I’ll finish with a quote by Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

But don’t despair, Part Three will have some solutions to our challenges!!

Eat that Cow!

Meat has gotten a terrible rap, and it’s unfortunate that not enough good information about why meat is necessary exists. For the past 50+ years, we have been fed information suggesting that animal proteins and fats from meat and eggs are bad for us. We’ve been told we will live longer if we avoid them. That kind of information – put out over and over again – has become so embedded into our brains that we don’t question whether it is true or not.

I’m here to tell you; it’s not.

Eat That Cow

There are a lot of reasons why eating meat is beneficial. Here are the top three.

  1. We need protein! Our genes are made of protein so for the body to replace cells that get invariably depleted or damaged, it needs protein so it can make more DNA. As well, enzymes are protein. Many of our cells have enzyme receptors on them and to turn a process on in a cell, an enzyme (or protein) has to bind to that receptor. Think of a key needed to turn the engine of your car on. The fact that our ancestors – those cave people – ate meat is, in fact, a large reason why our bodies were able to grow and develop. The amino acids we get from meat are the building blocks needed for the brain to function normally.
  2. We need the fat! Fat is another thing that has gotten an unfortunately bad rap. The essential fatty acids (“essential” meaning the body can’t produce them; you have to eat them) found in meat are necessary for almost all of the chemical reactions in your body. And our cell walls – which are the gatekeepers for the body, keeping certain substances in and harmful ones out – are made of fat. Eating it contributes to the cell wall’s strength.  But perhaps most importantly, fat helps our brain function by making sure that the nerve pathways are insulated, and don’t interfere with each other.
  3. We need the vitamins! Vegetables are quite nutrient dense. No one will argue and eating a lot of them is certainly beneficial.  But meats – organ meat, beef, fish, and shellfish – are nutrient dense as well. They provide the body with many key vitamins from B to iron to zinc, and two very important fat-soluble vitamins (A and D) that many are deficient in. These vitamins play a key role in many areas of human health from promoting healthy immune function and fertility to regulating calcium metabolism and reducing inflammation. And they are in concentrated           amounts and found almost exclusively in animal foods.

Next time you hear someone tell you that you will die early from eating meat remember not to believe everything you hear. There are too many factors that can affect that statement and we should question them – like the source of the meat (grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic) because that matters.  We should question what we pair the meat with (breads and sugar-laden condiments vs. fresh vegetables).  That matters as well.

What we don’t need to question is whether we should be eating meat.  That question can be left out to pasture – with the cows.

What is Frozen Shoulder?

It is important to know the source of shoulder pain so treatment can be effective and prevent further damage to the shoulder and surrounding structures.


What do we know about shoulders?

  • The shoulder is a very complex joint that is important to many activities of daily living.
  • Adhesive capsulitis is used to refer to a problem with the shoulder itself.
  • Secondary Adhesive Capsulitis refers other issues affecting the shoulder and not the shoulder itself.
  • Active range of motion will most likely be limited and painful in both cases, but decreased passive range of motion, which is often painful as well, most likely indicates problems with the shoulder joint itself.
  • Adhesive capsulitis, most commonly referred to as frozen shoulder (FS), is an idiopathic disease with two principal characteristics: pain and contracture.
  • Limitation of external rotation (*which is the first direction affected) is due to contracture of the coracohumeral ligament which prevents the greater tuberosity from further movement.

As you can see by the above, it takes a great deal of careful examination to figure out why there is a frozen shoulder.  Look here for more and how it might be treated.

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist and Functional Medical Practitioner, continues to write about back pain.

It is clear to me that we do not know enough about back pain.

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One morning a long-time patient whom I hadn’t seen in a while asked if he could talk to me about a problem he had for over eighteen months.

At first, he stated that he had back and hip pain.  Before our appointment, he went to the orthopedic doctor who prescribed physical therapy for the back; however, his back felt worse after the treatment.  (He was doing a whole range of back and hip exercises.)

He then received a series of cortisone injections in his back and hips.  The injections did not help, but in fact, aggravated the pain, making it worse.  Even walking up and down stairs was problematic.

I examined him which included discussing his symptoms, like what type of pain, where did it hurt, how does it hurt, what makes it hurt and what makes it feel better. Once I had an idea as to what might be the problem, I performed a few orthopedic tests to help me confirm what I thought the problem was.

I determined that the primary issue was his hip, which was causing pain, but also causing a problem in his lower back.  He had a physically demanding job, and it has taken a toll on his hip, and because of this, his back was also affected.

I directed treatment to his hip, which only helped a little, so I then suggested an MRI of both hips.  The MRI revealed that he had a tear in the ligament supporting his hips.  One was worse than the other.  He needed surgery.

It is hard to say, but if the issue was figured out eighteen months before his visit with me, chances are his hips would not have been as bad.

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about what we need to be healthy. Part One.

Our brain and body are amazing and can immediately respond to positive activities.  We understand that most diseases, especially chronic, are caused by our lifestyle.  As a Functional Healthcare Medical Office, we help individuals who are suffering from chronic problems through lifestyle changes to achieve complete health. 

What are the easiest things to do to help your body function efficiently?

First, is food, but how can we make this simple?

Let’s look at what our bodies need to survive.

  1. A good source of protein.
  2. A good source of fats.
  3. A good source of minerals, vitamins and micro-nutrients.

What are the best sources of these?

  1. For protein and fats: animal protein.
  2. For minerals, vitamins and micro-nutrients.
  3. For fats: coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, and avocado oil.

Notice, there are no carbs and no fruits, the above is all that you need to survive and flourish.

The plate above should be filled with three-quarters vegetables and one-quarter protein.


Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about what it means to be Functional.

Baby with Carrot Juice

Many health care providers are starting to call themselves Functional Medical Doctors or Functional Neurologists. I call myself a Functional Healthcare Practitioner. The name sounds interesting, but what does it mean?  If you look up the word in the dictionary, one of the definitions is “of or having a special activity, purpose, or task; relating to the way in which something works or operates,” and “there are important functional differences between left and right brain.”

A Health Care Provider looks at how well our bodies function.  Many times, a Functional Healthcare Practitioner will have an understanding as to why someone suffers from migraines, MS, Alzheimer’s or other chronic issues. They deal with those issues as opposed to trying to alleviate the symptoms with drugs, supplements or treatment.  Treatment may vary from acupuncture, chiropractic or physical therapy.

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes with Functional Health Care and regaining one’s health can take some time, but it addresses the core of the problem so that real health can be achieved and maintained without drugs, surgery, large amounts of supplements or treatment.  In my experience, if someone is not getting well I have missed something.  It is a challenge to the Practitioner, but it is a challenge worth taking, because if all those other things worked; drugs, surgery, supplements, and treatment, I wouldn’t be here.

Functional Medicine: What it is and What it is not.

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Since practicing Functional Medicine, I have met quite a few patients who have a misconception of what Functional Medicine (FM) is. And it makes sense.  Even though practicing health care in this way isn’t completely new, it is still a relatively new way of looking at and naming health.

What is in a name?

The name Functional Medicine Practitioner can be deceiving. We tend to hear it and understand the “medicine” part because that is what traditional doctors do – they prescribe medication. But the “functional” part is what people don’t tend to understand and is what needs more clarification.

Simply put, Functional Medicine is medicine by cause, not by symptom.  An FM Practitioner does not treat a disease but rather your body’s ecosystem as whole.  Nothing in the body functions alone; everything is interrelated and FM digs deep to find the root cause so all related parts can be addressed and treated as well.

There are many practitioners who claim they practice FM when in fact what they do falls short of that. It is important to educate yourself about just what a FM doctor does and doesn’t do in order for you to get the care you need, and deserve.

Is your doctor Functional?

Your practitioner is not practicing Functional Medicine if:

  1. They never asks about the quality of your bowel movements and the quality of the results of your bowel movements.
  2. Prescribes hormone replacement therapy, no matter what the source of the hormones.
  3. Puts you on more than six supplements that have no stop date.
  4. Never talks about food and how it affects your health.
  5. They do not investigate how hormones are working in your body and doesn’t do important and complete hormone testing.
  6. You have  the sense that they are just trying to sell you supplements.

Your practitioner is practicing Functional Medicine if:

  1. They want to get to know you and how your body is functioning or not functioning, and become familiar with your individual issues.
  2. They begin the process of discovering why certain parts of your body are giving you trouble – this can be from your brain to your bowels.
  3. They order tests that are designed to look at the complete chemistry process of your body. They are looking for clues as to what might be wrong.
  4. They always start with food. Chances are food is playing a major role in how someone feels.
  5. Supplements may be prescribed, but they are what is called targeted supplements. A Functional Practitioner would prefer the problem be solved with food.  What I like to tell new patients is that my goal is to have them feel the best they can with as little outside intervention as possible.
  6. The feedback and information they give you is all specific to you and your particular makeup.
  7. They want you to live a happy and healthy life to the fullest.  It is not about money, selling you a lot of supplements or unnecessary treatments.  It is about how you can live a healthy life free of pain, brain fog, or chronic fatigue.

Functional Medicine, like Functional Neurology, is one of the most important discoveries in healthcare. It truly speaks to what makes a person healthy.

Does FM sound like something you could use to help you heal?  We can help! Connect with us:  978-369-7070 or  Your health is our concern.



Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about why hormone replacement therapy and bioidenticals are not effective.

Hormone patch

In my last post, I wrote about hormones and how they impact one another, most people don’t realize that sex hormones can impact your thyroid hormones or adrenal hormones.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or bioidenticals, are being prescribed for weight loss, libido issues, hair loss and many other things. They can help, but there is also a downside.


In my practice, I have seen many individuals who have been prescribed hormones with no supporting documentation as to why they take them. It seems to me as though the Prescriber is guessing, which is surprising because there are inexpensive ways to check hormone levels, thus eliminating the need to guess.

Putting that aside, I’d like to address the effects of introducing a hormone into the body. These hormones are call exogenous hormones.  Research has shown that exogenous hormones cause the overall hormone balance in the body to become skewed. (Please refer to my previous blog about hormone balance.)

What is the implication?  Let’s take estrogen, for example.  Estrogen has been linked to an increase in breast cancer.  Let’s look at a hormone called DHEA, which is found in many skin care products as well as protein drinks for body builders.  DHEA has been linked to excess acne and emotional issues.  These are just two examples.  Progesterone is also problematic. In itself, progesterone is a precursor to other hormones.  If there is a hormone issue such as too much estrogen, giving progesterone will only increase estrogen production.

So is there a better way?  Yes, there is, by looking at all the hormones and their relationship to one another.  By doing this it can be determined what is the real issue and why a certain hormone is too high or too low.  Once this is done a non-hormone therapy can be applied, which allows the body to naturally balance its hormones.

Although this approach may take a little longer than simply taking a hormone, there are no side-effects. If you would like more information, or have had bad reactions to hormones replacement, we might be able to help. Email or give us a call at or 978-369-7070.

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about male hormones and hormone replacement.

Concerned male

It is high time someone writes about how men can be helped with their hormone imbalance naturally, without resorting to testosterone replacement with all of its dangerous side-effects.

An important aspect of men’s health is their hormones and sexual function; however, it is often ignored. The adrenal gland (also referred to as the stress gland) has a huge impact on male hormone levels.

If a man’s adrenal gland is unbalanced, his male hormone levels will also be unbalanced. Taking testosterone, in the form of a cream, pill or injection, adds a hormone to a system that is already not working, and this addition can actually make it work worse.

Another piece of diagnostic information that is often ignored is that only testing for testosterone does not give the complete story.  There are at least ten hormones that need to be looked at in order to determine where the potential problem is in regards to why the maleness is not working.

Salivary testing captures all ten hormone levels and gives a more comprehensive picture of what someone’s hormone concentrations are and how to balance them.

If you are a male with erectile dysfunction, low libido, chronic fatigue or have lost you zest for life, and your doctor tells you it is because your testosterone is low, wouldn’t you want to know why it is low?

If you want to truly solve your ED, low libido, fatigue and lack of zest, call my office at 978-369-7070 or email for an appointment.  It is easier than you think!!

PS: and women, this can also apply to you!!

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about how certain foods can be good for one individual but not others and what to do about it.

Ever since I have been working with patient’s and the food they eat it has been a mystery as to why certain foods bother one person, but not another. 


It has given rise to specialized blood testing to evaluate each’s food sensitivities. These tests are extensive and can be expensive yet are incomplete and can be frustrating. They don’t always get it right, and multiple follow-up tests can change showing more foods that were once OK now become potentially harmful to eat. It can be frustrating and can give an individual pause as to what to do next.

Well, they may be a definitive answer: When we eat regular unprocessed foods our body has the enzymes to break them down to the building blocks that makes up these foods. In other words, all the minerals, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A etc.. are all in these foods and our bodies digestive enzymes breaks these off the food for use by our bodies.

These building blocks of food or “elements” our body recognizes and can use with no trouble. Therefore, there is no need for the immune system to get involved because your body has no allergic reaction.

What happens when these foods are not broken down into their elements? Your body can’t use partially digested foods; they are foreigners: your body’s immune system doesn’t recognize them and then attacks them. Here is where inflammation comes in and possible autoimmunity.

If you have a history of eating highly processed foods, your body’s enzymes don’t know how to break these down, and partial foods get introduced to your system. The real problem comes in when you start to eat unprocessed foods. Because of eating these highly processed foods your body’s enzymes are so deficient that you don’t even break these down, and your body doesn’t recognize them. Thus you have reactions to carrots or blueberries or even eggs or bacon.

There is a solution. New testing can determine if you are allergic to say, cooked carrots, but not raw. There are also new strategies to increase what we call “Oral Tolerance “to foods. This is so that the diversity of foods you can eat increases over time not decrease.

It is possible to eat again.