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IFM’s 2016 Annual International Conference presents strategies to transform recent scientific findings on the benefits of sleep, restoration, fitness, and movement into actionable prescriptions for health. Learn the skills and science behind new technological tools and clinical innovations that can help patients sleep better, relax, and increase their activity levels.

Explore conference topics by clicking on different areas of the graphic below.



Achieving Optimal Balance Between Sleep, Rest, Movement, and Exercise

What does the AIC 2016 graphic symbolize? Kristi Hughes, ND, discusses the modifiable lifestyle factors to be explored at the conference.
Clinicians are well aware that lifestyle and epigenetic factors are at the center of today’s most prevalent diseases. Yet despite the bounty of evidence supporting the importance of lifestyle interventions,  fewer than half of patients report receiving clinical counseling on physical activity.1 Discussions of sleep and restoration habits are even less common. This year, IFM’s Annual International Conference (AIC) gives you the tools and techniques to help patients make meaningful, lasting lifestyle changes in four critical lifestyle areas: sleep, fitness, movement, and restorative practices.

This year, IFM’s Annual International Conference is all about how to collaborate with patients to help them see the value in these important lifestyle changes and implement them sustainably.

The realms of sleep, restoration, fitness, and movement represent  gaps in conventional medical training. This conference provides the research and tools to bridge those gaps and approach lifestyle modifications with confidence through a Functional Medicine lens.

"The function of protecting and developing health must rank even above that of restoring it when it is impaired."
A panel of researchers and clinicians will present the causal mechanisms between these lifestyle factors and chronic disease as well as the tools you can use for addressing these factors in your office. Expert practitioners will discuss methods for working with patients—even in short clinical encounters—to make the changes necessary to transform health.

Exhaustion feeds chronic disease—as does a sedentary lifestyle. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the benefits of activity counseling are moderate to substantial for overweight individuals with cardiovascular risk factors.2 Lack of physical activity is also a risk factor for stroke, depression, sleep disturbances, bone loss, cardiometabolic syndrome, and early death.3 To make a difference, patients and clinicians need personalized tools to connect behavior changes to outcomes and to measure patient progress.

Join IFM in San Diego and you’ll return to your practice with clinical tools you can use immediately, including:

  • Sleep & Restoration Prescriptions
  • Exercise Clearance & Exercise Prescriptions
  • Restoration and Movement Patient Education Tools
  • Mindful Meditation Benefits and Strategies
  • Self-Care Wellness Questionnaire
  • And many more!

The AIC Expert Committee is responsible for the planning, structure and composition of the annual conference. Each member of the committee brings expertise that is invaluable in the preparation, germination and final organization of the program. Click on the names below to view a full biography:

Elizabeth Frates, MD

Kristi Hughes, ND

Dan Lukaczer, ND

Dan  G. Tripps, PhD

Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD

Developing Optimal Sleep Prescriptions for Your Patients

The CDC has declared sleep insufficiency to be a public health problem that increases risk of cardiometabolic issues, cancer, depression, and mortality.4 Gallup polls indicate that 59% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep.5 Patients are flocking to clinicians for assistance with sleep problems. A recent study found a 29% increase in patients listing sleep disturbance as the reason for their office visit (a total of 8,237,000 visits), and prescriptions for sleep-related problems increased 293% from 1999 to 2010!6

Deep, restorative nighttime sleep is a cornerstone of wellness, but sleep can be one of the most difficult lifestyle factors to deal with as a clinician. Some patients are unaware that their sleep is disturbed, while others have obvious sleep problems with no apparent cause.

How do we optimize our patients’ sleep in a practical way? Kristi Hughes, ND, introduces the key concepts regarding sleep that will be covered at this year’s AIC.
At AIC 2016, you’ll learn about the pathophysiology underlying sleep disorders, how to uncover the underlying causes of sleep dysfunction, and how to treat patients with sleep issues.

Expert clinicians and researchers will show you how to identify and treat these underlying causes in most of your patients, as well as when to refer patients to a sleep medicine expert. Presenters will discuss when and how to use treatments, including therapeutic light, cognitive therapy, exercise, food, and pharmaceutical options to treat sleep disorders. You’ll also hear from a group of IFM Certified Practitioners who have developed strategies to improve sleep for patients who have chronic insomnia, trauma-induced insomnia, PTSD, and chronic stress.

The topic of sleep at this year’s conference will be complemented by a discussion of new devices and technologies that help patients track their sleep, which can inform diagnosis and treatment decisions and improve patient motivation. Addressing sleep effectively in office visits can greatly improve outcomes for your patients with chronic diseases. You’ll come away with new tools for assessing and treating sleep dysfunction, such as:

  • A sleep questionnaire to evaluate patients for referral or intervention
  • A sleep and restoration timeline
  • A sleep apnea questionnaire
  • Resources for wearable devices and technology to identify and track sleep patterns

When you return to your office, you’ll be able to assess sleep problems and write a useful, practical sleep prescription that will help your chronic disease patients sleep a lot easier.

Create Sustainable Restorative Practices

In our highly connected, fast-paced world, exhaustion can seem inevitable. Stress and stress management are major mediators of disease states that can either protect against or perpetuate chronic illness. As clinicians, we can change our patients’ experience by teaching them how to infuse their daily lives with habitual restorative practices. These interventions are well tolerated and often have high patient follow-through,7,8,9,10 even if delivered remotely.11 Yet according to the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on Americans and stress, one in five Americans never engages in stress-reduction activities—and of those who do, more than a third say they manage stress by surfing the Internet or watching television for more than two hours per day.12

Our fast-paced world often leads to poor stress management and a lack of self-restoration, increasing the incidence of chronic disease. Kristi Hughes, ND, names the key concepts and tools to influence patient behaviors at this year’s Conference.
Patients need better tools for restoration. AIC 2016 will equip clinicians to help patients make meaningful and lasting improvements in their ability to manage stress.

Mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing chronic pain, and the effect seems to persist in the long term.7 Personalizing these recommendations for the habits and beliefs of a specific patient can increase adoption and positive effects. For instance, IBS patients may have different responses to mindfulness-based stress reduction interventions, depending on the level of stress in their lives at the time of intervention.8 For these patients and asthma patients, the biggest improvement appears to be in quality of life rather than physiological factors.8,9 Likewise, coronary heart disease and diabetes patients reported that meditation and mindfulness interventions decreased worried thoughts and improved sleep.10

Often, patients with chronic illness struggle with the demands of everyday life, but their resilience and ability to heal have a huge impact on the trajectory of their disease. The good news is that resilience can be greatly influenced by intentional self-restoration. Teaching patients how to recharge can improve their happiness and productivity, as well as their disease outcomes.

AIC 2016 shines the spotlight on daytime restorative processes like guided imagery, mindfulness activities, and meditation. Richard Horowitz, MD, will explain how patients with tick-borne diseases can benefit and thrive with attention to mindfulness. Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, will delve into the neuroscience of what happens in the brain during meditation.

At AIC, you’ll learn how to conduct a stress-reducing and mindfulness-based patient education class. You’ll also hear from expert panels on how to help patients change their daily responses away from the familiar patterns of chronic stress. By breaking this cycle, patients can both reset their immune response and take ownership of their own health.

You’ll also come away with newly created tools for addressing restoration with patients, including:

  • Materials to help in balancing life and reducing stress
  • The Sleep and Restoration Timeline
  • The Restoration Prescription
  • A Functional Medicine Gratitude Journal

Learn the skills and science behind restorative processes so that your patients—and you!—can reset stress-response behaviors.

Prescribing Personalized Exercise Programs

The CDC reports that most Americans are not meeting the recommendations for aerobic or muscle-strengthening activity.13 This lack of exercise is implicated in most chronic conditions, yet most patients don’t know what they need to do. How can clinicians customize exercise recommendations for a primarily sedentary population?

Fortunately, even small changes in fitness have a major impact. Running slowly for only 5 minutes a day has been associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes, as well as reduced cardiovascular mortality,14 yet exercise cannot be a one-size-fits-all recommendation.

Do you want to motivate your patients to exercise? Kristi Hughes, ND, explains how this year’s conference provides in-depth physiology and behavioral information to enable you to write an exercise prescription to transform your patient outcomes.
At AIC 2016, experts will show you how to personalize effective exercise and fitness plans based on the latest research and behavior-change strategies.

On Monday morning, you’ll have the tools to create an exercise prescription, including frequency, intensity, timing/duration, and type (FITT) that is specific to the patient’s presenting clinical imbalances. Presenters will walk you through how to customize and monitor exercise plans for any level of fitness, at any age, with any level of rehabilitation. FITT exercise prescriptions will include these four key elements:

  • Cardio/aerobic
  • Strength/resistance
  • Flexibility/stretching
  • Balance
Conference speakers will also present research on the best exercise plans for patients with common conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and neurocognitive decline. For instance, Mark Smith, PhD, will talk about the different clinical outcomes for two types of interval training: high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and supra-maximal interval training or sprint interval training (SIT). You’ll also learn how to perform an exercise assessment, how to medically clear someone for exercise, and what to identify in an exercise prescription.

Join us in San Diego to optimize your approach to one of the most important contributors to health promotion and come home ready to help your patients adopt exercise as medicine.

Help Patients Change Sedentary Lifestyles

It’s estimated that 70% of the average adult’s time is sedentary, and the remaining 30% involves only light activity.15 Prolonged sitting has many of the same negative health effects as smoking, including increased mortality.16,17 Extended periods of sedentary behavior are linked to a wide variety of health problems, including increased cardiometabolic risk in children18 and adults,19 as well as elevated blood sugar.19 Yet most of our patients are sedentary most of the time. How can Functional Medicine practitioners help patients quit their sedentary lifestyles?

More and more professions have become sedentary, and the cascade of physiological effects has been devastating. Kristi Hughes, ND, provides an overview of the movement topics you’ll be able to address with your patients following AIC 2016.
AIC 2016 will explore a range of techniques for meeting patients where they are and utilizing the therapeutic relationship to help them make meaningful changes in their daily activity levels.

We can help our patients live more active lifestyles that truly promote health.19  You’ll learn from clinicians and researchers how to help increase movement across a patient’s lifespan and from some of your own IFM-certified colleagues on how to inspire movement in your clinical setting.

The burgeoning cloud of personal data offers unprecedented opportunities for tracking and motivation. Several presenters will explore how the new wearable technologies can engage patients in increasing movement. These tools help patients become more aware of activity levels and reward them for decreasing their sedentary time.

From assessing body composition with Mark Coles to reversing sarcopenia with Antony Haynes, BA(hons), Dip ION, this conference will highlight the ways in which consistent movement can improve patient outcomes, and how you can help your patients get there. Join us in San Diego this May and you’ll come home with new tools to assist patients in the day-to-day adoption of a new focus on movement, outside of your office. This can add years to your patients’ lives.20,21

Finding the Right Technology for Both Patient and Practitioner

What happens between visits, after you talk to a patient about techniques for improving her sleep or activity level? How do you keep patients motivated to stay on the path to lasting lifestyle change?

Twice as many patients use mobile health applications compared with 2 years ago.23 Eight out of ten patients say they would consider using wearable devices to improve their health;24 patients with chronic conditions are even more likely to use apps and devices.25 We live in a changing environment where technology can improve not only data gathered during an office visit, but also provide data between those visits.

Assessing the landscape of technology and devices for tracking and working with patients may seem overwhelming. Kristi Hughes, ND, talks about how AIC 2016 will provide the lens and tools to help you make these decisions.
AIC 2016 presents the state-of-the-science technologies and tools for patient data tracking and shows you how to evaluate, customize, and implement data tracking and analysis with your patients.

Personal medical data are being collected at an astonishing rate, and adoption of these devices accelerates each year. Yet vetting and evaluating the entire range of potential tools simply isn’t doable for most clinicians. This conference provides insight into tested practical solutions and shows you how to bridge the gap between discovering new technologies and the fluent use of these tools.

Steven A. Feyrer-Melk, PhD, MEd, will provide an overview of the landscape of new technology and data. IFM Certified Practitioners who were early adopters will share the wisdom they’ve gained from their experiences with this technology. You can find out what did and didn’t work for these practitioners and how to streamline your own decision-making process. Panel discussions with clinicians and researchers will show you how to evaluate and recommend devices that track sleep, meditation, restoration, and exercise behaviors. You’ll come away knowing how to select and tailor technology to fit each patient and your own practice style.

Understanding how to use data and technology can provide new means to uncover the root causes of chronic illnesses, as well as reveal motivating factors for change. Adding this exciting technology to your practice, along with the practical knowledge of how to use and interpret it, will enhance your patients’ outcomes.

Exploring Innovations that Work in Clinical Practice

This Annual International Conference focuses on clinical innovations. From the technologies that make tracking and using patient data clinically relevant to the sleep and exercise timelines and prescriptions, you’ll be prepared to implement new tools and strategies in your practice on Monday morning.

This year’s Annual Conference focuses on tools and techniques you can use to help patients and modify their lifestyle for health. Kristi Hughes, ND, explains some of the key features.
After 25 years of providing Functional Medicine education, IFM is excited by the many clinical innovations developed by Functional Medicine practitioners. This year, AIC will feature four sessions focused on implementing lifestyle changes with patients presented by successful certified Functional Medicine practitioners. We know that lifestyle change offers enormous benefits for preventing and reversing chronic disease. Informed by the scientific and clinical curricula presented at IFM programs—as well as by their own clinical experience—these practitioners will share a range of successful techniques for improving clinical outcomes, shaping your practice for success, and taking care of your own health.

AIC 2016 will deliver easy-to-use tools for working with patients. You’ll also connect to the supportive network of peers who already practice many of these strategies.

In addition to presentations by cutting-edge researchers and expert clinicians in the plenary sessions, the Clinical Innovations sessions will feature the following 12 IFM Certified Practitioners presenting their own clinical innovations on the topics of sleep, restoration, movement, and fitness:

You’ll get insight into how practitioners and researchers use technology and patient data to streamline their practices, inform diagnostics and treatment, and measure outcomes. You’ll learn what works, what doesn’t, and how you can develop your own tools for improving patient outcomes.

Instead of navigating the tortuous waters of lifestyle modification supported only by your own conviction, you’ll walk out the door with tried and true techniques to empower patients to help themselves.

Connecting with the Functional Medicine Community

Every year, we hear from AIC attendees that they look forward to the unique opportunity to have so many dedicated clinicians in one space, together. This extraordinary opportunity for collaboration and discussion with colleagues is energizing, and our partners say they return to their practices with new information, new ideas, new skills, and new friends.

Kristi Hughes, ND, talks about the excitement of being surrounded by the AIC’s intentional community of Functional Medicine practitioners.

AIC 2016 will be especially exciting as we celebrate IFM’s 25th anniversary. The field of practitioners has grown immensely, and the community is thriving. This year, reconnect with your Functional Medicine colleagues at the largest gathering of Functional Medicine practitioners in the world. You’ll be surrounded by all types of Functional Medicine practitioners, each of whom can shine a light on their own clinical innovations and help advance your practice.

This year’s theme of balance in rest and movement fits well with the intentional community of the AIC, at which movement, laughter, gratitude, and dance are all emphasized. From morning walks to daily yoga to the Gala dance, you’ll be able to live many of the strategies discussed in the sessions.

The conference app gives you the opportunity to interact with other attendees and presenters through live chat, photo share, polling, Q&As and a new Quick Meetings feature that allows you to schedule meetings with other attendees throughout the conference. The app is fun and easy to use and is a valuable onsite networking tool that enhances the conference experience.

Be intentional and connected. Join your community in San Diego and be an active participant in the future of Functional Medicine.

Clinical Tools and Takeaways

Following the 2016 Annual International Conference, attendees will be able to:

  1. Review an exercise and activity history and evaluate a patient’s willingness to engage in a prescribed fitness program
  2. Be able to evaluate an individual’s level of fitness in the office and direct them to specific exercises appropriate for their current fitness level and ability
  3. Perform exercise risk assessment and medically clear a patient for a physical activity program
  4. Recommend specific exercises and activities to manage common clinical conditions
  5. Perform a sleep and rest history and evaluate for appropriate referrals and/or interventions
  6. Write a FITT exercise prescription (frequency, intensity, timing/duration, and type) specific to the patient’s presenting clinical imbalances
  7. Create a fitness prescription that includes cardiovascular/aerobic, strength/resistance training, flexibility/stretching, and balance activities
  8. Identify which of the seven clinical imbalances are impacted by sedentary lifestyle patterns or inadequate physical fitness levels in an individual so you can explain ‘why’ the patient needs exercise/movement and other prescribed interventions, and how to set goals and overcome obstacles
  9. Utilize innovative exercise and movement tracking devices and technologies to improve fitness and movement, while enhancing patient motivation and supporting behavior change
  10. Utilize innovative sleep tracking lifestyle devices and technologies to help identify sleep disruptions and improve sleep strategies
  11. Write a sleep/restoration prescription that includes waking activities which enhance sleep quantity/quality,  emphasizes the concept of “lifestyle rest,” and improves accountability
  12. Be able to to incorporate and improve your own personal movement/exercise and sleep/rest management strategies
  13. Conduct a stress-reducing and mindfulness-based patient education class

Clinical tools* developed specifically for this conference include:

  • Sleep & Restoration Prescriptions
  • Exercise Clearance & Exercise Prescriptions
  • Restoration and Movement Patient Education Tools
  • Mindful Meditation Benefits and Strategies
  • Self-Care Wellness Questionnaire
  • And many more!
*Now available in the IFM Clinical Practice Toolkit. Purchase IFM annual membership to access the toolkit.

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11  Selman L, McDermott K, Donesky D, Citron T, Howie-Esquivel J. Appropriateness and acceptability of a Tele-Yoga intervention for people with heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: qualitative findings from a controlled pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015;15:21. doi:10.1186/s12906-015-0540-8.
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18  Väistö J, Eloranta AM, Viitasalo A, et al. Physical activity and sedentary behaviour in relation to cardiometabolic risk in children: cross-sectional findings from the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study. Intl J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014;11:55. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-55.
19  Honda T, Chen S, Kishimoto H, Narazaki K, Kumagai S. Identifying associations between sedentary time and cardio-metabolic risk factors in working adults using objective and subjective measures: a cross-sectional analysis. BMC Public Health. 2014;14:1307. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-1307.
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24  Makovsky 2015 Survey. Makovsky. Published January 2014. Accessed December 15, 2015.
25 Makovsky. The digitally empowered patient. Makovsky Health. Published February 25, 2015. Accessed December 15, 2015.

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