While the theory of functional medicine is not a new concept, the term functional medicine is still not understood by many people. This led me to realize that you can tell someone until you’re blue in the face that what they really need is to see a functional medicine doctor. If they don’t understand the term “functional medicine”, or perhaps even the way functional medicine works, they will politely nod and go about their business…with no intention of ever following through on that suggestion.
So how do you explain to someone you care about the difference between conventional medicine (and there’s a fairly good chance this is the only type of medicine they’ve known their entire life), and functional medicine. Functional medicine is a form of natural healthcare, and I’ve listed out 10 dynamite reasons you should see a functional medicine doctor below.
1.) Cost effective
Because functional medicine focuses on disease prevention and health promotion, countless benefits can be seen. One of those is cost- effectiveness. As with many other natural health methods, functional medicine is a proactive way of looking at health. It can also save thousands of dollars in future hospital and doctor visits, prescription medications, time lost from work, unproductivity, and sick days to name a few. The average cost of a serious heart attack can range over $1 million, cancer costs can be in the tens to hundreds of thousands, and stroke is the most debilitating disease today.
So why suck money out of your account faster than a vacuum after you already have an illness, when you can spend substantially less and prevent the illness in the first place?
2.) Personal care
One of the main complaints of conventional medical patients is that they feel “like a number.” They wait in the waiting room, then are zoomed into the office and given a fleeting period of time to get their health concerns across to the doctor, PA, or nurse. Afterwards, they are usually given a prescription, a new prescription, or another prescription. Functional medicine realizes that everyone is different, so everyone’s treatment should be different. We all have different genetics, we all were raised in different environments, eat different foods, have differing amounts of stress, and so forth. Functional medicine doctors take the time to get to know patients, finding out their personal story and uniqueness.
3.) Reach your full potential
Are your lab tests ‘normal’ but you still feel off? With functional medicine testing, we dig deeper, and look at subtle changes in body systems to start to determine the root cause of your health problems. On a medication that you don’t want to be on? Want to be around to see your grandchildren grow up? Functional Medicine focuses on building the healthiest person possible. This can be true for someone who is struggling with a chronic condition like heart disease or cancer, or a soccer mom who wants a little more energy (we don’t recommend drinking a pot of coffee a day…sorry mamas). Because the care is so personalized and specific, steps can be made at any stage to optimize cellular health, gut function, immune balance, brain power, slow aging, decrease inflammation, and balance hormones.
4.) Updated science
The problem with conventional medicine today is the fact that most science-based research gets to the doctors in an average of 17 years! I mean, you can basically completely raise a human being in that amount of time. Which means that your doctor could be using old information to dictate your health decisions. With recent revelations from the Human Microbiome project, cardiovascular health markers and effect on disease, genetic SNPs (pronounced SNIPS and stands for single nucleotide polymorphisms), the impact of diet on health, and stress and its effect on hormones, functional medicine practitioners have adopted and applied the latest research in order to get the best results.
5.) Systems based
Conventional medicine is condition-based, meaning that the treatment is based upon which ‘disease’ the patient has. For example, if you have depression, you would get an antidepressant. Functional medicine is systems-based, meaning that the treatment is based on which systems of the body are out of balance. This becomes important because 1 disease can have many different causes, such as with depression. Depression can be caused by a lack of omega-3s, or a deficiency of Vitamin D, or heavy metal toxicity, or inflammation from a poor diet, or immune activation from a hidden gut infection, or a neurotransmitter imbalance due to past medication intake, or poor gut absorption. And 1 cause can lead to many diseases, such as in inflammation. Research has shown that inflammation is the cornerstone of depression, heart disease, cancer, and many brain-based disorders.
6.) Proactive care
Instead of waiting for illnesses or diseases, functional medicine is proactive. You may have heard the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This simply means that it is much easier to avoid health ailments rather than try to fix health ailments once they have developed. This goes for most conditions, including autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, thyroid disorders, and many others. Wouldn’t it make more sense to monitor your blood sugar closely, so that you could make necessary changes before you get diabetes? This is the entire essence of functional medicine and natural healthcare.
I see many people are who were frustrated with the typical, “this is high, this is low, here’s your pills, I gotta go” from their conventional doctor. I never want someone leaving my office saying, “I’m taking this or I’m changing my diet, but I don’t know why.” Functional medicine is not just about giving supplements and hoping for the best. It is about educating the patient so they leave empowered and knowledgeable about their health. The goal is lifelong health independence; so learning about your labs, your diet, how to detoxify, etc., are important pieces to staying healthy.
8.) Finally find the problem
If you were to get into your car and see the check engine light on, you would probably take it to the mechanic, right? In the mechanic shop, would you want a mechanic to find and fix the reason why your check engine light is on? Or would you want the mechanic to break your check engine light so it can’t come on again? It sounds crazy, but this isn’t much different than going to a doctor and being prescribed drugs to cover up symptoms (statin for high cholesterol, antihypertensives for high blood pressure, antidepressant for depression)? You see, every symptom or condition has a cause. Until you find and fix the cause, you are merely covering up symptoms. It is the equivalent of breaking your check engine light and driving 85 mph on the highway and hoping that you won’t break down. Through cutting-edge testing such as hormone panels, organic acid testing, food sensitivity testing, stool testing, and comprehensive blood analysis, functional medicine practitioners can finally identify the root cause of health problems.
9.) Get to know your doctor
Having a doctor who you feel like you actually know, and that he actually knows you, doesn’t have to be a dream. In place of 7 minute doctor visits, the doctor-patient relationship is a priority with functional medicine. The goal is to first find out why the patient is having the problems that they are. After that, functional medicine doctors spend time educating their patients on why they have health problems, so they can avoid these problems in the future.
10.) Today’s problems call for today’s solution
A century ago, many health ailments were attributed to things such as infections. Measles, mumps, rubella, typhoid, and scarlet fever were common. With advancements in hygiene and certain medications, these infections dwindled. Today’s problems are much more complex. Autoimmune diseases, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancers are skyrocketing. In fact, 7/10 people will die of a chronic illness, such as the ones listed previously. Most of these conditions are lifestyle-driven, meaning that what you do on an everyday basis will determine if you are sick or if you are well. This can include factors such as emotional stress, exercise frequency and intensity, dietary choices, and sleep quality and quantity. Functional medicine practitioners are uniquely trained to deal with the problems of today by diagnosing and treating underlying causes for conditions.
*Disclaimer: I am by no means saying that conventional medical doctors are bad people. I’m sure every doctor who gets into practice is there to serve people. Conventional medical doctors can save lives. It is the medical system that is badly broken and in need of a complete overhaul.
Functional medicine doctors have taken matters into their own hands, leading the charge for better outcomes, fewer unnecessary drugs, and happier patients.