Young people in the ages 15 to 25 are establishing health patterns that will have enormous influence on their adult health and wellbeing – setting the course for a healthy, vibrant and illness free life for many years or – on the opposite end of the spectrum – establishing changes in their core body functions that will lead to many years of chronic un-wellness – often filled with much pain and limitations in their ability to participate in meaningful relationships, careers and recreational activities. In addition to the personal toll, you can imagine the differences in the out-of-pocket health care costs of those two very different life courses.
These are the years where young men and women are beginning to define themselves as individuals independent of their families of origin. The choices they make as they seek to identify who they are and how they fit into the world will be the behaviors that they will settle into and maintain – usually for the rest of their life.
Along with the dramatic physical changes associated with puberty there comes changes in the way individuals see themselves in the context of their family and peer groups. Earlier childhood is often spent with children seeing themselves comfortably in the confines of their nuclear families. Alternatively, there may be family dynamics that are associated with insecurities of a variety of forms from trauma, frequent moves, to emotional abuse or neglect. We are now aware of the immensely powerful effects of early childhood adverse events on long term health. In the teen years their relationship with peers gains in importance and this poses several challenges. Teens especially begin comparing themselves to others and this often leads to lots of questions that have to do with self-image, self-worth and frequent feelings of either inadequacy or a tendency towards bravado. Adolescents may take on attitudes of indifference (life is empty and meaningless) or dig into an ethic of perfectionism that leads to feeling of needing to be in control and may lead to obsessive and compulsive thinking and behaviors.
Individuals in these critical, formative years may be adjusting their nervous and endocrine systems to a state of resiliency and capacity for joy or to a state of hypervigilance that will begin to take a toll on their bodies. This is the time to intervene to turn the course of events in a good and healthy direction.
Some evidence exists to indicate that anxiety and mood disorders (they often go together) may affect as many as one third of American young adults and that these disorders when they begin in these early ages will persist into later years with enormous cost to the individual in happiness and success in jobs, marriages and social relationships. Breakdowns in normal functioning of neurotransmitters and stress hormones is associated with many other symptoms. Our central nervous system controls our sleep, appetites, digestive and immune systems. So, breakdowns in these systems are frequently part of the clinical picture and may often dominate the picture so that the relationship between anxiety, stress, indigestion, fatigue and many other symptoms may make for a confusing picture where the family is uncertain about which came first. This may lead to many different consultations with psychiatry, gastroenterology, neurology, cardiology and sometimes even infectious disease or physicians specializing in auto-immune illness or rheumatology.
Adolescents and young adults that come to the Plum Spring Clinic have often seen a half-dozen other physicians and the family may have spent many thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket expenses on diagnostic testing and often with many attempts to control the symptoms with medications – usually to little or no avail.
Our patients find answers with us and are guided on a path to good health and wellbeing that lasts and sets the stage for healthy aging built on sound science and good health behaviors.
Why our approach is different
1) It is holistic. Our core belief is that everything is connected and that approaches that attempt to reduce complex problems to simple answers are doomed to failure except in rare instances. Our curriculum always includes assessment, plans and SMART goals for progress in all the key areas that lead to wellness: sleep, stress resiliency, nutrition, exercise and toxin avoidance and elimination.
2) It is collaborative: individuals, by and large, can’t find a path to wellness on their own. The science is now quite clear that programs for healthy living have to be developed within a community of support. Our programs are designed around this simple truth.
3) It is based on the testing we perform to understand root causes. We believe there is no other clinic in the world that combines our functional medicine diagnostics approach to understanding root causes. Supplements that correct root cause disturbances lend strength to every other component of the individualized plan.