WATERLOO, Iowa --- For three minutes, Nic Zrostlik sat, eyes closed, body relaxed.
On the computer screen Amy Putney, a specialist in quantitative electroencephalography assessments, watched as Zrostlik's brain waves were captured for later analysis.
Putney's business, Brain Matters, is just one piece of the Center for Functional Medicine, a clinic where providers seek to address the underlying cause of a disease by focusing on the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Dr. Marilyn Hines, an obstetrician and gynecologist, opened the center in 2010. In addition to her work at Partners in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hines also serves clients at the center as the owner of Integrative Medicine for Women.
"You get old enough and you start to wonder why you are seeing certain trends in health care," Hines said. "You see the same people every year and we seem to be seeing more cancer ... more thyroid disease. People are getting fatter. We have more ADHD and autism."
As Hines' interest in those topics grew so did her desire to help. In December she completed a fellowship in anti-aging, regenerative and functional medicine.
"We try to look at the root cause of a problem and see how it might affect several different systems in the body," Hines said. "We look a lot at nutrition and changing lifestyle habits, biochemistry and individual responses to things in the environment."
Hines regularly works with menopausal women and those with unexplained fatigue or pain. She can also test for Lyme disease, though she doesn't treat it.
"If you've got a lot of symptoms that don't fit together, or don't seem to fit together, if something seems to be multisystem, we can try a lot of things," Hines said. She starts her consultations with a detailed health and environment history. She often uses elimination diets to begin tracking down the root of the problem, but said she can also do lab tests that many traditional doctors don't usually access.
"It's just a different way of thinking about our health. Some of it we can do and change and fix without medicine," she said. "But I'm not against medicine. We use it, we use it all the time. This is for people who want to try and do something without it. We try to help them do that."
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Putney treats everything from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to dyslexia and anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders. She cannot treat structural damage. For Zrostlik, Putney will take the EEG reading and convert it to a quantitative EEG, where the results will be compared against others with his same traits, like age, gender and dominant hand.
"We have to know what is going on in the brain to know how to treat it," Putney said.
Zrostlik, 26, was diagnosed with dyslexia in elementary school. He's worked around the impairment, but would like to find a permanent solution. Putney said if the QEEG shows dyslexia, she can then attempt to "heal" Zrostlik's brain through a process called neurofeedback. Neurofeedback conditions the brain to operate in optimum frequency ranges.
During a neurofeedback session Putney uses sensors on the scalp to detect brain waves. When the brain is responding within the desired frequencies, a movie or game will play on the screen. When the brain stops behaving, the movie or game stops playing. Like Pavlov's dogs, the brain will eventually realize what it must do to receive its reward and oftentimes respond appropriately.
"This isn't a silver bullet or a stand-alone treatment. It is a piece of the treatment," said Putney.
Putney also uses biofeedback, which monitors an automatic bodily function, like breathing or body temperature, to help a client gain voluntary control of the function. She said this treatment is often used for anxiety, tension headaches or migraines and even to prepare the body for peak athletic performance.
Neither Hines nor Putney submit their services to insurance companies, but both said some of their services are covered by some insurance companies, and patients are encouraged to submit their own claims.
Hines is also trying to bring other functional medicine practitioners to the Cedar Valley, including people who would work with young autistic patients; provide tests to determine if a person would respond to specific medicines for conditions like anxiety and depression; and provide more detailed genetic testing. She would also like to find practitioners who could administer specific intravenous therapies for people whose gut has been damaged and can't absorb specific nutrients; and those who can help patients manage chronic health infections, like Lyme disease.
"These are things that work in California, but they won't be big players here for awhile," Hines said. "They do ozone treatments, hyperbaric oxygen treatments in the office, not just in the hospital that few people have access to."