What Is Functional Medicine: Our Approach
Functional medicine is gaining more popularity than ever. However, many are still confused as to what it is and how exactly it works. So I’d like to lay out a framework that makes sense, is as cost-effective as possible, and more importantly will ensure you get the best results possible.
When you come in for your initial consultation, generally we go over a very thorough history. We want to know when your problems started. Have they worsened? What has helped improve your symptoms? Some issues can even stem back to how you were born (C-section, vaginal) or if you were on any heavy antibiotics early in childhood. We are looking for ROOT CAUSE. The WHY. If we know why, we can engineer a plan to attempt to correct the problem.
The conventional medicine approach is not to be down-played, however. It can save lives. It generally has a very dogmatic approach. Is your cholesterol high? Let’s lower it. Do you have autoimmune disease? Let’s give you an immunosuppressant. These things can be valuable in the short-term. However, long term, it’s generally not a desirable route for chronic diseases. Chronic disease affects easily 1 in 2 in the US. They are largely driven by lifestyle, environment, or genetic issues. So it would make more sense to support and clean those things up rather than slap a “bandaid” on it. In short, if I have a broken leg, severe acute infection, a CV event, or anything else seemingly life-threatening, take me to the conventional doc. If I have something that has gone on for years, take me to the functional medicine doc.
So after your initial exam, what’s next? Do we test? Sure, but most labs will be out-of-pocket expense as insurances really don’t cover much cost. This is where the functional medicine approach can really rack up a price tag. Testing is expensive. So, I really only run labs if it’s going to change the intervention. Often it does not, given we’re looking at lifestyle, environment and genetics. You can get a lot of value out of a 23andme Health & Ancestry, as we can run your genetics through our Pure Genomics platform at no cost to you. We can dig deep on where you may need support.
So...Why not run a trial of improving our nutrition/supplementation, address, environmental issues, stress and sleep? We do this based on the best evidence we have, data derived from the literature and even anecdote. We can even make the biggest marker of improvement be how YOU FEEL? Your RESULTS! One of the greatest markers of longevity, it turns out, is how you subjectively perceive your health. If you think you’re healthy, turns out you live longer. In short, once we develop a course of action following your initial visit, we proceed there for 4-8 weeks and follow up to note any progress or regression. We make changes or test as needed. Sounds reasonable right?
The follow-ups are important. This ensures that we’re being accountable (both patient and doctor). A functional medicine approach takes teamwork. I learn just as much from patients as they learn from me. This is a recipe for success. Just because we lay out a certain course of action doesn’t ensure that will be a long term intervention or even success. Healing, and as a result health, is very dynamic. I was chronically sick for years and it’s amazing what “normal” can feel like. But improvement breeds more improvement. Once I started taking a simple course of action above, I saw incremental improvement. Yes, everyone wants a magic pill. News flash...there’s isn’t one and will never be one. The body is too complex of a system. It will humble you every time. How often do we see the next best prescription or fad diet fade? All too often. In functional medicine, you utilize all the tools you can at appropriate times. Don’t use a hammer when a screwdriver will do.
Outline of the Protocol
1. Initial Consultation 2. Test (if needed) 3. Intervention (4-8 weeks) 4. Follow-up Consultation 5. Evaluate/make changes if necessary 6. Next Follow-up 4-8 weeks 7. Repeat as needed
I hope this approach seems reasonable. Functional medicine has a place in everyone’s life, whether they see a doctor for it or not. We are here to provide a reasonable approach. There’s no right or wrong as long as your doctor(s) are completely transparent with you. Click HERE to book a functional medicine consultation in person or via phone.