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Chronic disease is on the rise

The last few decades have witnessed a sharp rise in the incidence of several lifestyle disorders including diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks, and stroke. It has been found that the number of people living with two or more chronic conditions is increasing at an alarming rate.

There is a need to understand the pathogenesis that underlies the development of co-morbidities so that the implications of multiple co-morbidities can be avoided.

Some common underlying causative factors to chronic disease and co-morbidities include: inflammation, infections, immune dysregulation, toxic exposures, nutrient deficiencies, lifestyle choices…

Your body is equipped to cope with a certain level of inflammation or toxic load. However, when we don’t address underlying factors, our body can become over-burdened resulting in a cascade effect where one condition becomes a more complex series of co-morbidities.

Functional and Naturopathic medicine provide effective strategies to overcome the risk of multiple co-morbidities by identifying and eliminating their root causes.

Read on to learn more about the implications of comorbidities and the role of functional medicine in the prevention of these diseases.

What are co-morbidities?

Co-morbidities refer to the development of more than one chronic disorder that seem to have common causes or share similar pathogenesis owing to the similarities in their risk factors. Comorbidities are more likely to affect patients with diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, obesity, kidney disease, arthritis, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease and childhood asthma….

Implications of comorbidities
Chronic diseases often cluster together due to the shared risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, obesity, kidney disease, arthritis, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease and childhood asthma…. and nutritional deficiencies. The implications of multiple comorbidities include recurrent hospitalizations, poor quality of life, increased healthcare costs, and even premature death. Furthermore, comorbidities may also serve as the drivers for the poor outcomes in patients with cancer, chronic kidney diseases, and stroke.How do comorbidities make you more susceptible to future diseases?

Most chronic diseases share similar causative factors. This means the presence of any one risk factor may put the patient at a risk of developing multiple diseases. This can trigger the development of co-morbidities with the patient developing multiple chronic diseases.

Which are the common underlying risk factors for co-morbidities?


Inflammation is at the root of many diseases and is frequently linked to acidity and pH imbalances. It can trigger the development of multiple chronic diseases including diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The use of nutritional and herbal anti-inflammatory agents together with the avoidance of inflammation-promoting factors like consuming highly processed ‘foods’, having a high intake of sugar, soft drinks, alcohol and low intake of fresh whole foods may help to minimize inflammation in the body.

Immune dysregulation

A weak, poorly functioning or overly stimulated immune system can reduce the efficiency of the body’s defence processes which protect against the disease-causing agents. It can deprive the body of its ability to resist the development of acute and chronic diseases include infections, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.

A healthy immune system relies on a healthy digestive system and is supported by ensuring a diet rich in fresh whole vegetables and fruit, as well as safe sun exposure for good Vitamin D levels.

Toxic exposures

Exposure to toxins in the form of additives and preservatives in foods, chemicals in cosmetics, pollutants in the air, heavy metals (in tap water), sprays (pesticides and herbicides) and from mobile towers can result in significant damage to the healthy tissues.

This can put you at risk of several co-morbidities including skin diseases, allergic diseases, COPD, inflammatory bowel diseases, depression, ADHD, metabolic syndrome, anxiety, cancer and many more!!!

Minimizing your exposure to toxins can be a great way to protect the vital organs against toxicity. Supporting your body’s natural detoxification methods can help eliminate toxins and prevent their build-up in the healthy tissues.

Nutrient depletion

Lack of adequate nutrients in the diet can deprive the body of the support it needs to perform various physiological functions. Nutrient depletion can result from poor gut function, increased need (during pregnancy and breast feeding), poor diet, the presence of other health conditions or malabsorption.

It is important to ensure your gut is functioning optimally and assimilating the nutrients present in the food. Your diet should contain all the essential macronutrients like carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins and micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to maintain good health and prevent co-morbidities. 

Lifestyle habits

Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, high alcohol intake, and lack of physical activities can play a huge role in triggering the development of co-morbidities such as lung cancer, alcoholic hepatitis, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks. Stress is another major trigger for disease and comorbidities.

Role of functional medicine in the management of co-morbidities

Functional Medicine is aimed at understanding and identifying the critical physiological factors that underlie the development of diseases. This approach can create a positive ripple effect by addressing the development of multiple diseases.
Being aware of the common risk factors shared by chronic diseases can enable you to adopt healthier strategies in order to avoid the risks while protecting yourself against severe illnesses and achieving long term health and wellness.


Co-morbidities are commonly associated with more complex clinical management, worse health outcomes, and lower quality of life. Addressing the key physiological dysfunctions by adopting the strategies recommended by the functional medicine approach might lead to an improvement in multiple downstream diagnoses and even reversal of the disease states.


The above is based on an article written by Deborah Freudenmann BHSc