Tag Archives: Functional Medicine

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.

Image result for functional medicine

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 drsymko@gmail.com.  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 drsymko@gmail.com or 978-369-7070.

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about depression and what can be done about it.

Sad face

At least a third of us will experience depression at some point in our lives.


There are several types of depression, the most common being melancholic depression.  Melancholic depression can be broken-down, more specifically, into episodic or chronic depression.  Episodic is often associated with a specific event, such as the loss of a loved one, a struggling marriage or other stressful situations.  Chronic depression usually cannot be attributed to one specific event or occasion.

The medical explanation for depression is the lack of serotonin, which is a brain neurotransmitter.  Thus, the traditional treatment is something called SSRIs, which try to boost serotonin levels.  (SSRI’s are used for both episodic and chronic depression.)  What typically happens is the SSRIs work temporarily, but eventually begin to wear off so the individual needs a stronger dose, a different SSRI or a combination of several drugs to have a beneficial effect.

Functional medicine’s approach to depression is quite different and doesn’t come with all the side effects of prescribed drugs.  (For more on that, please read my previous article on the effects of drugs on the body.)  As a functional doctor, I want to know why the serotonin level is low in the first place.

Serotonin can be deficient because of inflammation, and research is beginning to link inflammation to depression.  Researchers have found that individuals with inflammatory disease such as arthritis or diabetes often have depression associated with it.  You could say that they are depressed because of the disease, which might be true, but chemistry reveals the link between inflammation and low serotonin levels.

The chemicals that are released in the body because of inflammation actually block the production of serotonin, so it pays for your body not to be inflamed.

There is a functional way of reducing the inflammation in your body, therefore easing the depression you might be experiencing.  The interesting part is that you might not even be aware that you are inflamed!! We can help, to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 978-369-7070 or e-mail drsymko@gmail.com.

Immune system

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about Peripheral Neurogenic Inflammation.

Nervous system and the link with the immune system:

NervesImmune system

The nervous (particularly the nerves that travel to your legs and arms) and immune systems are traditionally thought of as serving separate functions. But research and studies are showing that these two systems are, in reality, closely related.  This is happening because of the discovery of Peripheral Neurogenic Inflammation.

There are nerves that their only job is to transmit feeling to your brain.   These nerves respond to the same pathways that the body’s immune cells do.  This sets up a network with the immune system that helps keep the body protected from foreign invaders.

It is like the communication network supports the front line troops in fighting all the problems our bodies face every day.

This is a great asset, but can also cause problems.  If there is autoimmunity or any allergic disease, like Asthma to MS, the peripheral nervous system can become inflamed and cause not only an increase in these issues, but an increase in pain.

So what is the solution?  It seems that a complete treatment program involves treating both the nervous system and the immune system.

The question is, “Can this be done?”.  And the answer is yes.  There is a new therapy involving a cream called “Prologel.”  This was developed by the team that developed Prolotherapy.  The beautiful thing about this is, like eating the correct food, this is a therapy that can be done at home.


Peripheral neurons also seem to contribute to immune dysfunction in autoimmune and allergic diseases. Therefore, understanding the coordinated interaction of peripheral neurons with immune cells may advance therapeutic approaches to increase host defense and suppress immunopathology.

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about how long it could take to get well. Part 2

In last week,s blog, I addressed how the length of time that someone is ailing before they seek treatment will directly affect how quickly they recover.  This week, I would like to discuss how age can affect the healing process.


Age is one aspect of getting well that no one has control over.Everyone ages and grows older.  the reason it is harder to recuperate as we get older has to do with ATP, otherwise known as adenosine triphosphate.  ATP is the fuel that our bodies need to sustain life.

Our bodies use this fuel to perform ll our bodily functions.  Everything from thinking about running to actually running is fueled by ATP.  It is also crucial in the healing of our bodies

As we age, the amount of ATP we make decreases, we have less fuel to do the functions that our bodies need to run optimally.If you injure your knee of back, it can be harder for your body to heal that injury.  These injuries can be even more difficult to heal when there are other contributing factors such as diabetes, obesity, lung disease caused by smoking or any other chronic condition.

Does this mean we are doomed as we get older to be continuously sick or injured?

I say absolutely not.  Your body might be producing less fuel, but your body is smart because although it is less fuel, it is enough.  Our younger bodies produced enough fuel so that we had a surplus.  As children, we tend to get in more trouble physically ans mentally, so the body makes sure there is plenty of energy available to help correct the damage we did our bodies.  (Too much alcohol, not enough sleep, too much work,etc.)

How do we make as much fuel as possible for our aging bodies?  It is simple, get plenty of exercise and eat non-processed foods.  Appropriate exercise and healthy foods allows your body to produce as much fuel as it can.  Not exercising or eating processed foods rob the body of what it needs to make fuel, therefore negatively affecting our overall health.

Boston area functional health care provider Dr. Greg Symko D.C. writes about the power of combining functional neurology and functional medicine.


Many functional health care practitioners do one or the other – either functional medicine or functional neurology.  In my office I combine both.  That is why I coined the term “functional health care”.  Here’s an example of how powerful combining the two can be. A patient came in to see me for anxiety, stiffness and pain.  The pain and stiffness were getting worse and he had been trying to deal with this for over two years.

After taking an extensive history, reviewing his blood work and a thorough functional neurological exam, I pinpointed both a dietary issue and a neurological issue.  Treatment consisted of both diet and brain exercises that he could do at home.  I saw the patient two weeks later for a follow-up and I’m glad to say the anxiety is almost gone and the pain and stiffness is 50 to 60 % improved.   Not everyone can get results this quickly, but you can see that combining both Functional Medicine and Functional Neurology is very powerful.