Dr. Maria Gavrilina: “Medicine is not a profession but a mission”
Doctor Maria Gavrilina comes from Russia and she has been living and working in Cyprus since 2000. In the exclusive interview with EggDonationFriends she is talking about her career, expertise and Prevention and Functional Medicine. Dr. Gavrilina’s passion for medicine never stops and she is developing her knowledge to offer the best to her patients.
When did your medicine career start?
I started my studies in Medical School in Russia specializing in gynecology. I studied for over 10 years. After finishing my studies in 2000 I came to Cyprus and started adjusting to the new country and in 2002 I enrolled in the Cyprus Medical Association. Since 2004 I have practiced gynecology. I continue to train even now. I believe that if a doctor wants to be up-to-date with the latest medicine, you should monitor all developments, research, and new data in medicine. I can say that every 6 months I discovered new things from university research, so we must continue to learn and be educated. Since 2007 I have followed the School of Functional Medicine, where they opened a very large field on the future and the evolution of medicine.
What is Functional Medicine and what does it offer?
This is a novel specialization, which may be followed by any doctor regardless of their specialization. You are trained to know more in depth about metabolism, which is usually something that classic medicine does not apply. Functional Medicine follows some specific instructions designed to relieve symptoms without having a lot of knowledge on where the symptom comes from. Also the biggest goal of Functional Medicine is prevention. This specialization teaches us to know how a situation can be associated with other endocrine issues, also how a problem is explained in the disposition and the deterioration. So we have before us great tools with which we can correct the biochemistry and functionality of the human organism.
Is this particular specialization something new in medicine?
The knowledge was there, but the specialization has been developed in the last 15 years, based on research that has been going on for more than three decades. The key idea is to be trained in a wide range, so any doctor of any specialization knows how the various metabolic chains are linked. That is why I started these studies, first at an American school and then at a European School of Preventative and Functional Medicine.
When did you make a move to create your own fertility clinic? Did you experience any difficulties?
It was not difficult for me to open my own fertility clinic. I felt that my patients were waiting for me to do it. The clinic attracted both Cypriots and foreign fertility patients straight away.
What do you believe made your patients trust you immediately?
I think the fact that in Russia we have holistic approach and we focus on human metabolism is one of the key factors. Russian medicine schools place great importance on the cause of the health problem and the body as a whole. Functional Medicine examines the root of health disorder and uses very modern diagnostic methods, which differ from the classical medicine. It seems that most doctors are devoted exclusively to their narrow specialization without paying enough attention to the biochemical needs of the human body.
Do you think it is wrong to stay in the specialization without keeping up with current developments?
It is not wrong. The society and the medical industry need specialists with very specific abilities, but it would be especially beneficial for chronic disease treatment. Especially in cases of metabolic disorders, doctors in these cases should look at the whole body, and not just at the symptoms. For example, in traditional medicine if a patient has chronic headaches and the doctors do not look for the cause and simply prescribe painkillers for the symptoms. In Functional Medicine, we look deeper to find where the symptoms are coming from and we treat the source of the problem.
Can you give us an example?
For example, a woman may not even think to go to a gynecologist because she has headaches. This is something that the patient has no knowledge about. She would seek physician or neurologist’s help without thinking that the cause might be hormonal.
What determines whether someone will have hormonal imbalance?
Hormonal imbalance is obviously related to DNA. There are molds which we adopt, created by our ancestors, and we can see from them if there is a predisposition for the wrong organ function and also for endocrine and hormonal disorders. There are DNA tests that clearly show whether you have healthy hormone metabolism. If your hormone metabolsim is disordered, there may be a predisposition to female and male cancer (prostate cancer may be caused by imbalanced estrogen, which is the same cause for breast cancer and ovarian cancer in women).
At what age can a patient take these tests?
The tests can be taken at a very early age, even two-month old infants can have them. These hormonal tests are performed to see the processing chain of variable steroid hormones. If it is disordered, we can deduct that the patient is predisposed to some kind of health problem.
What process is required for this examination?
It is very simple. As every DNA test, we collect mucosal coating from the mouth.
Is the society aware of medical developments that are key to our health?
This information I share with you today is the newest and most modern data about where the course of medicine is going. Although it has been known in Cyprus for several years and is has not been known widely by the public unlike for example the general cholesterol, iron blood tests, etc. Older generations were not even aware of the general blood analysis. Of course, these tests are widely available, but simply people are not aware of it. What is more, nowadays specific health analysis are cheaper than ever before.
Do you think this test is necessary for everyone?
It is not necessary, but it is available, like other screening tests. Of course, it is recommended for prevention and discovery of more information to help the body with amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants; those are needed in an increased amount in the case of having the gene. I personally see a great help in treatment protocols and a very quick progress in my patients. People have to decide for themselves, but I believe that it should be done.
How can these tests help our health as a precaution?
In Health & Life test profile there are 34 genes and they cover seven metabolic chains. Five genes for cancer predisposition, three or four genes if there is a predisposition for diabetes, four genes for high pressure susceptibility and cardiovascular events, diseases, etc., two genes if you are exposed to oxidative stress, which is a condition that does not process the toxins properly that penetrate the body, the other eight genes are found if the liver cannot complete the detoxification, there is gene for collagen, on how our bodies processes iron, for osteoporosis and vitamin D. Of course, I cannot mention everything now. These tests cover metabolic chains so we can know our weak spots in our bodies and then we will know what treatment is required.
Can we even prevent cancer?
In general, any type of cancer can be predictable so you can help the whole system to work properly to avoid its development. It is very important to find out which metabolic chains are uncovered and deal with them. After the examination we know what to prescribe in order for the metabolism to work more efficiently. There is a special profile besides the Health and Life that we mentioned above which is 13 genes; these genes are specific to cancer and you can particularly see if there is a predisposition for cancer development and in which area: in the brain, breast, etc. For female cancer and prostate cancer there is a substance recommended, the DIM enzyme, which is a very powerful antioxidant and acts on remuneration of estrogens as a cancer prevention.
What is the most common disease that you face in your clinic?
It depends on the season. During different seasons I see many infections in women. Maybe it is the stress before the holidays. Now that I specialize in Functional Medicine, I very often meet women patients with chronic infections, chronic fatigue, chronic headaches, arthritis, memory shortage symptoms, sleep disturbance, leg swelling, hair loss and women with deteriorating general health. This is directly related to age, the hormonal profile and specialized tests that are taking place to find out which shortcomings exist and correct them.
Can this also be done in older patients?
Yes, for example I have patients who are 64-67 years old who are still using hormonal support and their treatment is based on the examinations and personal health needs. Of course, the hormones used are biologically identical hormones used together with antioxidants.
How can the hormonal disorder affect the mental state?
Of course, depression around the age of 40 is in 90% caused by the asteroid hormones decrease. Also other hormones deficiency follows. The patients feel that their body and the their mental health deteriorates, while there may be also other symptoms such as gum bleeding, headaches, twitching eyes, hair loss, various gastrointestinal problems, libido decrease, sleep disorders, joint pain, feet and hands swelling , fatigue, difficulty keeping up with the ordinary exercise pace, which means that their metabolism starts to weaken. In this case it is a condition that can be 100% treated by the addition of certain substances. All these symptoms also relate to men, and there are presented because testosterone and other hormones such as cortisone, progesterone, melanin, etc. have decreased.
As for patient’s mental health: can the test can be useful?
The Health and Life profile we mentioned earlier can find if the fat acids in the body are not properly processed. There has been a lot of talk about fat acids in the recent years and there have been many studies showing they are one of the basic ingredients of our metabolism and hormones in order to work for them properly. The symptoms of deficiency are poor concentration, poor memory, low metabolism, and in children: behavior and personality disorders. So when we discover that the metabolism of a child does not process fat acids properly, we can recommend proper treatment and professional psychological support for the child.
How much time will it take till a patient sees the difference?
Instantly. A woman with a lack of progesterone will see the difference and feel completely different on the second day. Of course, it depends on the patients because each case is different; this timeline does not apply to everyone.
Apart from mental and physical health can the treatment benefit the patient’s appearance? For example, reduce the signs of aging?
Certainly, when lacking progesterone skin is dull, thin, blemished, and there may be predisposition to acne, even in the middle age. We can tell from the level of progesterone, if the patient’s problems are related or can be solved.
In recent years collagen has become somewhat of a trend as a solution for anti-aging. What do you think about that?
Collagen is an essential protein in the human body, which decreases rapidly as we grow older, especially in women, causing aging. There are two types of collagen. Type 1 collagen is found in the skin, tendons, vessels, internal organs, and bones. Type 2 collagen is found in articular cartilage. The collagen content in the joints is approximately 50% and in the cartilage is about 85%. The gene oversees both chains so when there is a defect that oversees both collagen processing chains, we recommend the patients to use both collagen types to have a good anti-aging effect. It is something that is added in modern supplements.
Can a pregnant woman follow these treatments with hormones?
Of course, the progesterone we prescribe for supportive therapy is exactly the same that we do for pregnancy support. Especially in women who have a history of fetal loss, it is the treatment we recommend to achieve pregnancy. They are biologically identical hormones, however a pregnant woman cannot take steroid hormones.
The policy of Functional Medicine is to treat the patients with substances that are produced in our body, and not synthetic ones. I am very much against birth control pills as they are hormonal substances which are synthetic, and do not naturally exist in our bodies, so the body does not know how to react, it is like a toxin, poison. Each decade new birth control pills are developed and advertised and after a while the companies are taken to court by patients because of side effects. The pills are withdrawn from the market but after a while they are sold again. It’s good for people to know that substances which do not naturally occur in our bodies are best to avoid them.
Many times we hear birth control pills are given as a treatment for polycystic ovaries. Why is this happening since it is a dangerous drug for the body?
Knowing the cause and how cysts are formed, we can help with a more natural way. Most frequent cause is the lack of progesterone. We can now avoid prescribing pill in regulating the levels of these hormones. That is why many women who were taking birth control pills for a long time, without stopping the use, face premature failure and difficulty to become pregnant. This is because the organ that slept for so long atrophies and does not work properly.
Many women after their pregnancy have a thyroid problem and they need to start using thyroxine. What causes this problem?
In pregnancy the thyroid covers the needs for two bodies, the woman and the baby. Also during the pregnancy the woman’s body is exposed to too much progesterone which assists many organs, especially in reproducing hormones such as cortisol and supports the entire hormonal system. After giving birth the metabolism needs are so high that thyroid receives very high pressure. If the mother has wrong lactose processing gene and she consumes plenty of dairy products (it is recommended while breastfeeding), then the lactose will block the function of the thyroid gland. If it happens in a short amount of time, it can be corrected by Functional Medicine.
Is the consumption of many vitamins when pregnant considered good practice?
All things in moderation. It entirely depends on individual case of each patient and how much of a boost it will give to the pregnancy.
Is nutrition the key factor of being healthy?
Of course. There is also the nutritional DNA showing your metabolic type, if your metabolic type needs more protein or carbohydrates then the answer is the Mediterranean diet.
Do you think that medicine in Cyprus is inferior in comparison to other countries?
No, not at all. In all countries the course of medicine changes with time and the doctors should try to stay informed. General medicine keeps changing and becoming more useful to people which is really good news.
Thank you for the interview, Dr Gavrilina.
It was a pleasure.