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How To Become a Present, Loving Parent: The Functional Medicine Approach

Aug 10, 2022

Hardworking parents who have been ‘burning the candles at both ends’ often start displaying physical symptoms - fatigue, anxiousness, achiness, headaches, brain fog, maybe even gut or skin or immunity issues. Or you might just not feel like your ‘old self’ or like you’re bouncing back from late nights, intense exercise, or long work days, like you used to. 

Your body can only handle so much stress, before it starts breaking down.

If this is you, you have likely visited your GP to run some blood tests, only to find that everything is ‘fine’. Or you’ve appointed Dr Google to diagnose your symptoms. This has likely confused you more…or frankly, scared you (doesn’t every symptom point to cancer?!).  

You’re probably at the stage now where you’re thinking: “What the hell is wrong with me?”


My Body Breakdown Moment

Looking back at my teens and early 20’s, I had some lingering health issues. But it wasn’t until I started having babies (while also juggling work, study and a business), that these issues really fared up. I had a very traumatic birth with my first baby. It caused so much nerve damage to my bladder that I could not wee - like I literally had no sensation to urinate, nor could I ‘push’ anything out. Because of this, I had to use an internal catheter for the first 4-months postpartum, and take a bucket load of antibiotics to prevent UTI’s. I ended up getting several infections anyway, and ended up in hospital with the IV drip pumping MORE antibiotics into my system. My gut health was not only ruined, but I was also dealing with sleep deprivation, postpartum depletion, a big workload, and a baby that WOULD NOT STOP CRYING. Let’s just say all these stresses overflowed my bucket, and month by month my body (and mental health) started breaking down. I struggled with depression, anxiety, mood imbalances, rage, low libido (sorry Chris!), acne, heartburn, low-immunity, back pain, exhaustion…the list continued, to the point where I felt wafer-thin, and it was really impacting my ability to be a mum and wife. I was the ULTIMATE Dragon Mum - snappy, screaming, losing the plot - and a cold and frigid wife. 

During this time I visited the GP and they ran all the tests. My thyroid was slightly off, but besides that everything looked ‘fine.’ The doctor brushed my symptoms off, saying: “you’re a new mum, it’s normal to feel this way.” I went home feeling even more deflated and misunderstood.

So I jumped onto Dr. Google, only to be overwhelmed by the mountain of information of all the things that could be at the ‘root cause’ of my body breakdown. I started seeing some natural practitioners, all of whom were lovely and helpful, but I didn’t feel like there was any comprehensive diagnostic work or treatment. While some symptoms improved a little, I was still struggling. And I definitely hadn’t got to the root of my health issues yet.

On my quest to better health, I studied and became a Clinical Nutritionist, then specialised in Functional Medicine with the Kalish Institute of Functional Medicine. It was at this point that I finally got to the root of my physical symptoms (at least from a body system imbalance, point of view).


The Better Way: Test Not Guess

Functional Medicine teaches to TEST not GUESS. Instead of making assumptions based on Dr Google or what your friend thinks is wrong with you, TEST what’s wrong. In our practice, we use specialised functional lab testing to identify what major body systems (i.e. the brain, the hormones, the mitochondria, the gut, the detoxification pathways - see our body systems model below) are out of balance and causing symptoms. These tests go far beyond what your usual GP or even medical specialist would test for, and often discover some serious functional imbalances that can lead to physical symptoms, conditions and diseases. 


When I did my own testing, I discovered I had pathogens like h.pylori, parasites and candida in my gut, a dysbiotic microbiome, depleted dopamine, imbalanced hormones, mitochondrial dysfunction, blocked detox pathways AND an unhealthy vaginal ecosystem (yep, pretty much everything that could be wrong, was wrong in my body!). There is plenty of research that tells us that imbalances such as these can result in body burnout symptoms such as fatigue, high-stress, digestive issues, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and low-immunity.          .

Once I had identified the imbalances in my body systems, I then had to treat these imbalances. This included a combination of killing-off the nasty stuff (i.e. microbial pathogens, toxins, etc) and/or kick-starting the good stuff (i.e. hormones, neurotransmitters, nutritional deficiencies, etc), with a combo of therapeutic nutritionals, as well as diving-deep into healing my mind, behavioural patterns, and environment - all of which cause body burnout in the first place.


You Have No Hope Unless Physiological Needs Are Met

The thing is, you can’t become a present, loving parent and/or successful professional (or even human being in general) without having your physiological and health needs met first. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model demonstrates this beautifully:

Maslow’s model argues that needs lower down in the hierarchy (such as having good health) must be satisfied first before an individual can attend to needs higher up. If you try to achieve a sense of connection with your loved ones, or becoming the best version of you, WHILE your body is failing you, you will have a very hard time attaining these higher needs/goals.


Self-Tests You Can Do Right Now

While we always suggest to test not guess what is going on inside your body using specialised lab testing, I want to leave you with some self-tests that you can perform right now, to gain a better insight into potential imbalances in your body. These are tests we do with our own clients (in addition to the functional lab testing), and we would love to gift them to you so you can start understanding at a deeper level potential physiological issues:

  1. Vagal Tone - How is your nervous system functioning? Check out my instructional video to test your vagus nerve.
  2. Hiatal Hernia - Is your stomach causing gut issues, anxiety, heart palpitations or breathing issues? Check out my instructional video to test for a Hiatal Hernia.
  3. Diaphragmatic Breathing - Could dysfunctional breathing patterns be affecting your energy and mental health? Check out my instructional blog to test your breathing pattern.

And to understand at a deeper level how you can test and treat body system imbalances with functional medicine, sign up for our 10-Part Hormonal & Gut Burnout Mini-Course. 


Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.

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