Most of our ideas of healthcare revolve around the doctor’s office and prescriptions, which is where functional medicine differs. With over 30 years under his belt, Dr. Doug Pucci is a board-certified natural health practitioner who treats each patient as a unique individual. He works tirelessly to get to the root cause of his patients’ health issues rather than just treating their symptoms. Today he shares with us the most common complaints around the country and what we could all improve for general wellness. Click play below to listen to the interview or read on to see our highlights!
What prompted you to study functional medicine?
I first started my career as a chiropractor, which went very well. We had many successful patients but at some point I started getting a bit frustrated. I wasn’t able to help everyone that I thought I would be able to help. Sometimes people would come in three times a week for an adjustment but their bodies wouldn’t hold onto them. So I went back to school and started to study functional neurology to try and figure out why.
Once I was in the field it was like a light bulb went off. I was amazed they weren’t teaching these things in chiropractic school! I started treating people from a brain-perspective after realizing that conditions like chronic pain, for example, can often be neurologically based. Unless you try to to re-balance the right and left hemisphere in the body it won’t hold the benefits of therapy, whether it be chiropractic work, acupuncture, even orthopedic work.
Why do some people find it so tiring to go about their day?
Your brain really is your greatest asset. We should all be trying to nurture that as much as we can. Some people can wake up in the morning ready to conquer the world while others are really struggling. They’re forcing themselves to go to work, take care of their families, do everything they need to do while they’re exhausted all the time. I hear brain fog as a constant complaint from young people as well as middle aged or older. It’s a sign of an endurance problem in the brain, or energy deprivation.
There are many different factor at play such as hormones, gut bacteria, and inflammation. People living on processed foods and hydrogenated oils who don’t eat a lot of vegetables are basically killing off all the good, healthy bacteria in their gut. It’s shifting their gut microbiome into an imbalanced state of bad bacteria, yeast, and fungi. Your gut houses trillions of organisms and bacteria; tens of thousands of viruses, fungi, and yeast that all lives together in an ecosystem. This regulates the production of vitamins and nutrients.
Why do people have low energy and how can functional medicine help?
Brain fog really is an energy problem in the brain. Your brain is the greater consumer of energy more than any other organ in the body. Its first fuel source is going to be glucose, so someone whose blood sugar is either too high or too low will have blood sugar dysregulation. This will immediately impact their physiology, moods, energy, and so forth.
A lot of factors affect fatigue, but thyroid is a good place to start. Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism to produce energy on a cellular level. Often we’ll see people have normal, healthy thyroid levels and hormones, their physiologically is fine, but they still have brain fog. That’s when you go deeper into a chronic fatigue area.
Aging is really the loss of mitochondria. Every decade of life we lose a percentage of mitochondria, which is like losing a cylinder of your car over time. You’ll be trying to run the car the same but with less cylinders, so it’s not going to work out. Obviously aging is inevitable, so it’s important to figure out what is damaging your mitochondria prematurely to prevent premature aging.
**Prefer to watch? Click play to take a look at our livestream with Dr. Pucci!**
What are the most common bad habits you see in patients?
You have to macro-manage before you can micromanage. The very first thing we have to assess with somebody is their lifestyle. Stress levels, their diet, sleep habits, exercise; what are the fundamentals that they’re doing or not doing? From there we can cover the basics, then look into targeted nutrition, supplements, therapy, etc. This is because there is no amount of products you can throw at someone that will make a real impact if they aren’t putting in the effort themselves.
What are the biggest challenges your patients have?
After being in the business for over 30 years I can say that today more than ever people are suffering from autoimmune diseases and chronic health issues. People go to Dr. Google and find lots of good information, but they will also find a lot of bad information. They will see conflicting opinions and information and they’ll get overwhelmed. Everyone is uniquely different, which is where functional personal medicine comes in.
Headspace is a big one. People want a simple solution to complex problems. They want me to give them one diet to follow or one or two supplements that will change everything, but that’s not how it works. The people that are willing to invest time and effort in themselves are the ones who are going to see results. People are used to doctors prescribing something to fix everything, and unfortunately this is pushed on by insurance. Insurance is paying for sick-care, not for health. So at least right now, health is something you have to invest in yourself.
How has your practice adapted around COVID-19?
COVID has forced many doctors to completely change their practice. Now, my practice is 90% virtual so I can see people all around the country. It took a while to get used to the software and technology to make this all possible but now we’re able to reach so many people I couldn’t reach before. It’s more convenient for my patients and more effective, we can send labs to you directly, and I can easily show you your results and go over them with you in the comfort of your own home.
I spend a lot of time making free, educational videos now because I find that is really what people need. They need to be more educated into what health is and how to achieve it on their own.
What are some of the basics of functional medicine that people should try to apply?
Pay attention to your blood sugar
Blood sugar (glucose) is like gasoline for a car’s engine. If your blood sugar is too high your cells aren’t absorbing it correctly. If your blood sugar is too low it’s like you’re running on empty. Not getting enough glucose is a physiological stress response so it’s going to kick in stress responses and stress hormones, which then have collateral effects. An easy question to start is how do you feel after eating a meal? Do you feel tired? Do you feel more energetic or focused?
The correct answer should be that you don’t feel any changes at all. If you feel tired after a meal, that is an indication of insulin resistance. That’s an indication that the carb load was too heavy and your body can’t process those carbs. On the flip side, if you feel better after a meal you likely have something like hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. In either case, you’re pumping out stress hormones.
Make healthy diet choices
This is old news- if you want to get healthy you have to start eating healthy. It doesn’t have to be complex, just start focusing on whole foods instead of processed foods. There are a lot of marketing for products that have the allure of being healthier. A good example is gluten-free products, which usually have something else added to make up for what is missing. But if you flip the package over and check the nutrition label, often the sodium content will be more than a regular product. Sodium pulls more water into your vascular system and it ignites your immune system. So if you’re already dealing with an autoimmune disease or brain fog the sodium will be igniting that.
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Sleep is vital
There is so much research coming out about sleep. That needs to be high in your priority list because a good night’s rest is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. There are a lot of strategies surrounding sleep and sleep aid, and everyone is different in the amounts they need. I can’t even start to talk about how important it is for your body’s functions and your immune system. Experiment with your own sleep schedule and sleep habits to find what your body needs and thrives on.
Again, exercise doesn’t need to complicated. I understand that time can be hard to find and people have families they need to prioritize. That’s why I have to stress that it’s more about consistency than intensity. 10-20 minutes a day is going to go a lot farther than trying to crank out two hours every Saturday at the gym. Take your family on a walk with you, or do a quick 10 minute workout before your morning shower. Get creative in ways you can exercise to find something you enjoy doing and will make time for.