As I was saying in the preceding article, Dr. Carolyn Tanchi Pedro had arranged for Functional Medicine doctor, Dr. Raymond Escalona, to give a talk on Health right after the tea party.
I was in and out of the utility room as we tried to gingerly start cleanup while the people in the room were listening to Doctor’s talk. One of the phrases I heard him say was that he likes home-cooked, natural food so this appealed very much to me as I consider my business’s menu as “home cooking” or “home cuisine.” I thought this was a timely blessing to know this information. After the whole talk was over, I came up to Dr. Escalona to ask for a short interview and he was kind enough to say yes! I’m sharing the rest of what he said in case you would be interested in this too! Taking care of the temple is part of stewardship!
Here is that chat:
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): For someone who is interested to find out what functional medicine is, can you tell me a little bit about it?
DR. RAYMOND ESCALONA (RE): The goal of Functional Medicine is to look for the root causes of the disease… We ask ‘Why’ things are happening as opposed to today’s system which only asks ‘What’. We take a look at the interplay between one’s genetics and the environment that he/she lives in. In this interplay, we ask what are the things that are imbalanced? Are there things that this person is getting too much of? Or is there something that this person is getting too little of? By bringing the system back in balance, we are able to have great results. Whatever your illness is—whether it’s cancer, hypertension, diabetes— we are doctors who can navigate you through using our understanding that the body is a system. It’s not just, “Here’s the medicine. We’re done.” That’s what’s happening now. In our practice we create partnerships…doctor-patient partnerships wherein I commit to you for forty years. We are a long-term relationship in the making.
BITS: You mentioned about how our choice of food affects our overall health. I heard you say something like, “if you’re this age, you’ll be functionally younger because of your choices?..”
RE: Oh yeah, age… diseases are really controlled by the environments that we live in. About 40-50% of that is really the nutrition that we have. So if you just start shifting to whole foods, unprocessed, you start changing the expression of your genes. If for example, you’re the gene that says you should have hypertension now, you can turn it off through the food that you’re eating. But it’s not just food.
The eight roots of the tree I mentioned:
- Stress you’re managing
- Sleep you’re getting
- Movement you’re making
- Food you’re taking
- Relationships you have
- Previous trauma
- Chronic Infections
- Toxin Exposure
These eight we take care of or if you look for it, you take care of your exposure to these things, then you don’t get sick for forty years. Your genes start shutting down, they start to protect you rather than giving you illness at the end of the day.
BITS: What trauma, like a medical trauma?
RE: We found that previous trauma leads to long standing effects on the body for example, if you’ve had a head injury, your stomach bacteria/ gut microbiome are not as complete leading to nutrient absorption abnormalities.
BITS: So these are all physical traumas, not other kinds of trauma?
RE: Emotional and mental trauma also…
BITS: … will affect your health…
RE: Yeah, of course. If you have a patient who’s an abused patient, psychologically she’s going to be kind of different. Now you have to manage her differently. But it’s not a medication. What we’re trying to do in medicine now is [if] you have a psychological trauma, we’ll do a bit of counselling but you’re a deficient person in this medication. It’s not [just] that. You have to ask, “why are you sick, what’s happening?”
BITS: So your approach would be how?
RE: You have to get the patient, do a really good consultation—two to three hours worth of history. We do it differently in my practice (functional medicine). We take you. We map out your entire life from birth to now… even before birth, even how your mom had you. Then we try to see when you got sick. What were the things you were doing when you got sick. What are the possible triggers, then what are you doing on a day-to-day basis that keep you sick.
BITS: As far as nutrition is concerned, what would be the best approach?
RE: Whole foods unprocessed.
BITS: For those who are illiterate about that, can you…
RE: Lutong bahay. No processed food. No packaging. From scratch. Simplest.
BITS: Traceable food, like you know that is chicken…
RE: No. YOU bought the chicken. You bought the carrots, lettuce.
RE: We found out that the more you process food, the more the nutrients are removed. Even the taste starts going away. To compensate for that, the food industry injects additives, preservatives, or food colouring or [substances] that are not really nutritious. That now becomes a toxic burden to the body. Remove the toxic burden. We have enough toxins to deal with. We’re breathing air from Metro Manila. We’re exposed to heavy metals, etc.
BITS: If someone who doesn’t know you and would like to know, “who’s this doctor?” can you tell me a little bit about your background?
RE: I’m Dr. Raymond Escalona. I graduated in Ateneo School. I practice functional medicine. I started this as an advocacy. It’s very non-traditional, my God, I’ve been called “albularyo”na before. I think that we have to address chronic disease differently. We’re all getting sick. We’re all dying. So we have to shift the thought process. I’m not saying it’s incorrect. I’m just saying maybe it’s kind of incomplete the way we’re doing it now. For the past two years, I’ve been engrossing myself in Functional Medicine/ Lifestyle Medicine. I found it! We have to look for the root cause of illness. Apparently, this [kind of] practice has been around in the US for about forty years. But in the country, there are only about ten of us who do it and we’re all in Metro Manila. So we’re trying to get people to buy into this kind of system.
BITS: When you say, “ten,” do you work together with the ten?
RE: We’re a network. I have my own clinic. The others have their own clinics also. But we cross-refer.
BITS: What got you interested in this?
RE: I love treating chronic disease. I’m a Public Health guy. I [was] ten years in Public Health— two years in DOH (Department of Health) for Bureau of Health Policy and Development, another eight years NGO’s in different areas of the country. Lots of people were just getting sick. My family has a lot of hypertension, diabetes. My lolo died early from heart attack and stroke, my dad’s best friend died from cancer. My best friend’s dad died from cancer. So.. we have to fight. We have to get this solved or else… nothing will happen.
BITS: So your approach is not “You come to me, I give you a prescription, and then I’m done with you.”
RE: No, no, no. Completely not. If you come to me, we’re going to do a two and a half hour consult. You’re going to answer an eighteen-page questionnaire. I’m going to know your life from start to finish… everything about you. Then, we navigate you. I can give you medications to control things, I’m a licensed physician. But then, the root cause and the root answer to things is not medications.
BITS: What is it?
RE: It’s shifting your life. The food you’re eating. The stress you’re managing. The movement you’re doing. The relationships you have. Sleep you’re getting…
BITS: You mean to say you’ll have a say in the relationships that a person has?
RE: If a person has a toxic relationship, I ask him to get counseling. If a person doesn’t have any involvement in any social activity [or] has no purpose in their life, we look for purpose.
BITS: Oh even that…
RE: That’s part of the whole thing. I’m not just your doctor. I’m your best friend.
BITS: Oh you’ll have so many best friends.
RE: Yeah (laughs). Your health is intimately tied to everything about you. It’s not just body. It’s your heart, your mind, your spirit. AND your body. So we have to get all of those in line for you to get better.
BITS: Is there some kind of hindrance because this is a bit more probing than the normal medical exam. Is it a problem to get the answers that you want?
RE: I let my patient tell their story. I always tell them, “I’m only as good as your story. My analysis of you, the science that I know of your body, how they’re all biochemically tied is only as good as your story. So if you leave out certain points, I’m not gonna be treating you. That’s what you get. I’m so transparent. It’s a very transparent practice.”
BITS: Would you like to share anything else with Butterflyinthespring’s two readers?
RE: I would like to tell people that there are doctors like us who are here for them. People who take a more personalised approach toward their healthcare bringing back the notion of what its like having a family physician or a super generalist practitioner.
BITS: Thank you so much.
This evening’s talk was Dr. Escalona’s 92nd; he is booked until Talk Number 104 before he leaves for the United States late August 2016 until 2018 to pursue his Master’s Degree in Nutrition for Wellness at Bastyr University but the advocacy “Bridging Lifestyles and Health” will be continued by his doctor colleagues even in his absence. If you would like to catch him at one of his talks in August, you may reach him at his email address:
Upcoming Talks (Open to those who would like to attend)
- August 16, 2016 (Tuesday) 7pm
Room 11-12 Santuario de San Antonio, Makati
- August 18, 2016 (Thursday) 7pm
3rd floor Multipurpose Hall
CCF Alabang (right across B Hotel in Madrigal Business park behind Citibank )
Prime st. corner Enterprise Madrigal Business Park