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What is Your Daily Stack?: A Naturopathic and Functional Medicine Approach to Health Plan

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on October 3, 2023

"Medical stacking" or "stacking" in the functional medicine community refers to the practice of combining different therapies, treatments, supplements, or lifestyle modifications to address and manage a patient’s health concerns. The term isn’t strictly or widely accepted in conventional medicine but is more common in holistic and alternative medicine circles.

Functional medicine itself is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on interactions between the environment and the gastrointestinal, endocrine, and immune systems. Practitioners often use a patient-centered approach, seeking to treat the “whole person” rather than just addressing isolated sets of symptoms.

Here’s a general outline of how "stacking" might be approached in the functional medicine community:

Multiple Interventions: Stacking involves integrating various treatments, therapies, and lifestyle changes, including dietary adjustments, exercise, nutritional supplements, stress reduction techniques, sleep improvements, and sometimes medication or alternative therapies.

Personalization: Treatment is often highly personalized based on the patient’s unique genetics, health history, environment, and lifestyle.

Synergy: The combined interventions in a stack are expected to work together synergistically to enhance each other's effectiveness, offering a broader and more holistic impact on health than a single intervention might achieve.

Adjustment Over Time: As the patient’s condition evolves, practitioners may adjust the stack by adding or removing elements to improve efficacy and respond to the patient’s changing health status and needs.

Risks & Limitations:

Lack of Evidence: Many functional medicine practices, including stacking, lack robust scientific evidence to support their efficacy and safety. Some of the treatments and supplements used might not have been thoroughly tested or approved by regulatory bodies like the FDA.

Potential Interactions: Combining multiple supplements and treatments without a clear understanding of their interactions can lead to unintended side effects and complications.

Expense: Functional medicine treatments, tests, and supplements can be expensive, and insurance doesn’t always cover them.

The Daily Stack

The term "daily stack" commonly refers to the regimen of supplements an individual takes regularly to support their health and wellness. However, its application is much broader, encompassing a variety of interventions that people incorporate into their daily lives to enhance well-being and function. These can include not only nutritional supplements but also various therapies, such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy, designed to improve specific aspects of health and quality of life.

Lifestyle modifications, like incorporating a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, practicing stress reduction techniques, and getting adequate sleep, are also integral components of a daily stack for many. These elements collectively work together, complementing each other to promote holistic health, and can be tailored to meet the unique needs and goals of each individual. The daily stack, therefore, can be viewed as a personalized toolkit for health optimization, with each tool playing a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing the individual's overall well-being.

Indeed, "daily stacking" can be seen as a multifaceted approach to health, with various habits, supplements, or therapies strategically combined to enhance one's well-being. Below are a couple of examples illustrating how individuals might integrate different elements into their daily stacks:

Nutrition and Cognitive Function Stack: For those aiming to boost brain function and energy levels, a morning routine may include a cup of coffee enriched with MCT oil and lion’s mane mushrooms. MCT oil is praised for providing rapid energy since it's quickly absorbed and converted into fuel for the body and brain. Meanwhile, lion’s mane mushrooms are believed to offer cognitive benefits, potentially improving memory and concentration. This combination can be a powerful start to the day, providing both mental clarity and sustained energy.

Therapeutic and Recovery Stack: For individuals focusing on muscle recovery and relaxation, a combination of hot and cold contrast hydrotherapy and targeted supplementation can be beneficial. Hot and cold contrast hydrotherapy involves alternating between hot and cold water baths or showers, which may help to improve circulation, reduce muscle soreness, and enhance recovery. Supplementing this with essential amino acids or branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) can further support muscle repair and growth. Including anti-inflammatory supplements, like turmeric or fish oil, can additionally assist in reducing inflammation and promoting overall recovery.

Each person's daily stack will differ, depending on their specific health goals, needs, and responses to various interventions. As always, individuals should consult with healthcare professionals before starting any new supplement regimen or therapy to ensure it's safe and appropriate for their particular health profile.

Considerations:

It’s essential to consult with qualified holistic healthcare professionals, such as licensed naturopathic physicians, before starting any new treatment or therapy, even those that are part of a functional medicine approach.

If you’re considering functional medicine and stacking as part of your health strategy, working with a provider who has experience and training in this area is crucial.

Always discuss with your primary care physician before starting any new treatment regimen, especially if you’re considering combining multiple therapies or supplements.

Approach Customizing Your Daily Stack with Caution

While stacking might offer benefits for some individuals, it’s important to approach it cautiously and under professional guidance due to the risks and limitations associated with combining treatments without strong scientific backing.

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