People today live longer but feel worse. Chronic conditions are rampant. Obesity is a worldwide epidemic.
Children suffer from asthma, allergies, and autism. People of all ages present with a host of baffling chronic conditions… ones for which conventional medicine has little to offer.
Long story short, conventional medicine is not making us healthier. If anything, it’s making us sicker and more debilitated.
Patients are increasingly agitated and skeptical about conventional medicine.
Truth: Conventional medicine is still well-suited for emergency, trauma, and acute conditions.
Also truth: The “pill for every ill” model isn’t improving our collective health trajectory… which is why personalized root-cause medical care is being called the future of healthcare.
Many patients with chronic disease see multiple conventional doctors, yet don’t find the answers they seek.
And that’s exactly the void functional medicine fills.
Basic tenets of Functional Medicine (FM)
Functional medicine focuses on body systems, not symptoms. Root causes, not symptomology.
It aims to understand our health in terms of all its organs and systems as a network – cardiovascular, GI, respiratory, endocrine, nervous, immune, brain as an interrelated unit.
Functional medicine focuses on how all our internal systems and organs work in sync as part of a complex network of physiological processes.
Since all of our systems inter-connect, that which affects one system can have a downstream effect on many others. It can throw others into imbalance.
Functional medicine strives to address the root cause of illness in light of patient history, gut health, genetics, lifestyle, biochemistry, and environment. FM doctors look for imbalances that lead to disease, with an eye toward restoring maximum function and vibrant health.
They then recommend a personalized treatment plan and lifestyle recommendations.
What to expect of your first functional medicine visit
Prior to treatment, your functional physician may ask you to complete a medical history and lifestyle evaluation in which they’ll ask a lot of questions.
Functional physicians use a variety of diagnostic tests and procedures, which may include:
• Your symptom list
• A physical exam
• Your medical history from preconception to now
• An analysis tool that measures not only your weight but also a breakdown by fat, muscle, water, and bone mass
• Conventional labs – to assess hormone levels, blood sugar, blood cell counts, etc.
• Specialty labs – to assess nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, and toxic load (heavy metals, biotoxins, mold)
• Functional neurology assessment – to see whether brain function plays a role in symptoms
• Genetic testing for inheritable diseases, to minimize risk
• Other labs and evaluations
Your appointment will be much longer than the standard 7- or 10-minute conventional doctor visit.
As a patient of a functional medicine doctor, you’re expected to be an active participant in your own care. You partner with your medical team – which often means modifying dietary and lifestyle factors.
Side-by-side comparison of conventional and functional medicine
This table shows you a side-by-side comparison of the two approaches:
Functional medicine is data-driven
Functional physicians have been criticized for not using “the data” enough. However, in reality they often use more data than conventional doctors. Functional docs rely on a variety of lab tests and diagnostic procedures to pinpoint underlying causes and evaluate treatment options.
Traditional testing tends to fall short in a couple ways:
• Testing may reveal the existence of allergies. But it stops there. Functional doctors want to know what’s causing the inflammation behind the allergies.
• The ranges used in traditional testing can leave a lot to be desired. They focus on determining whether you’re sick, instead of finding out how healthy you are! Functional medicine strives to bring levels in ranges that indicate health and vitality.
3 groups that seek out functional medicine – 1 won’t succeed
Aunna Herbst, DO, former director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, notes that there are three types of people who seek out functional medicine. But only two of the three will benefit.
1. The first group is those with a chronic illness who’ve exhausted all their conventional options and come up empty-handed. Many have been everywhere seeking help. Some come in with reams of medical records, yet nothing has helped.
Functional medicine can often help these people. They need a doctor who’ll look deeper, an investigative researcher.
2. The second group is athletes, often pros, who want to optimize their health and prevent disease so they can stay in the game. They’ll say something like, “My dad died of diabetes, and I don’t want it.”
3. Lastly there’s the group looking for a quick fix. These are the ones who will not succeed with functional medicine… because functional medicine is not a quick fix.
It takes time and effort. The patient must be engaged and active in the process. And even then, it can take weeks to months for your body to heal from issues you’ve lived with for years!
Is functional medicine legit?
Yes, functional medicine is completely legit.
Functional doctors undergo the same rigorous med school training required of all licensed physicians. Many get years of additional specialized training. And some are triple board certified in functional medicine plus other disciplines.
Reset your physiology to the prime of life
In short, the primary goal of functional medicine is to “reset” your physiology back to what it was in the prime of your life.
If that’s high on your wish list, schedule an appointment today with a functional doctor.
The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) represents the gold standard for functional medicine training. You can find an IFM certified health professional near you.
Go to https://www.ifm.org/find-a-practitioner/. Enter your location. You’ll get a list of IFM certified healthcare providers who’ve completed the IFM Certification Program, as well as practitioners who have completed the 5-day IFM foundational course.
Listen to this week’s podcast right now!
My podcast guest today is Dr. Royce Bargas, a functional medicine cardiologist in Edmond, OK.
In this interview she discusses functional medicine and its patient-centric approach. She’ll quickly have you wondering whether you should trust corporate hospitals to make “rules” that benefit you.
You’ll learn where the patient fits (or doesn’t) in this model. And also discover how the most conscientious doctors are caught in the crosshairs… and where they go when they leave.