Functional Medicine is an integrative, science-based healthcare approach that gets to the roots of each person’s illness and promotes wellness though personalized, natural solutions to restore function, mind-body balance and vitality.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with “reflux disease,” which is basically a chronic case of heartburn. After trying every type of pharmaceutical and enduring their unpleasant side effects with little relief, I became more interested in unearthing the root cause – Why is this happening? And more importantly, How can I prevent it? When I realized that my needs were not being fully addressed by my primary care physician, I set out to find a doctor who would work with me to get to the root cause.
Paper Gown & Cold Table
Admittedly, I have “white coat syndrome”, which means I get nervous when I visit the doctor and my racing heart causes me to forget all the questions I want to ask. The traditional Western, HMO doctor visit begins with the mandatory step on the scale. Nothing like stepping on the scale in front of a stranger to get the party started. Then my vitals are taken while my heart is sprinting away, and I’m asked to strip and cover with a paper gown (open to the back or front? Is there a good option here?). I’m left to sit on the cold, hard exam table until the doctor arrives.
Dr. White Coat finally bursts in, my file in hand, and jumps into gear: “What brings you in?” I nervously run through my litany of symptoms, acutely aware that he’s pressed for time. I am promptly diagnosed and sent away with a prescription. But, what about…? I meant to ask him about digestive enzymes and probiotics but our time is up and he’s on to the next patient.
I decided on the spot that I was not in the right place. While this might be a reasonable place for a case of the flu, strep throat or treating a wound – it is not an effective approach to managing or preventing chronic conditions.
Driving home, I considered my parents, both of whom passed away far too young as a result of untreated and misdiagnosed autoimmune conditions. I don’t want to get on that train, but part of me is scared because I’ve inherited their genes. In a few years I’ll turn 50. If those aren’t catalysts to get on the path to optimal health, I don’t know what is!
A Horse of A Different Color
Fast forward to last week and my first experience with Functional Medicine. The doctor herself welcomed me; there was no nurse or office assistant present. She wore no intimidating white coat, and ushered me into her cozy office where we sat down together. She explained that our conversation would help her create a timeline of my life, from early childhood to the present.
The questions were geared to develop a whole picture of my mind, body and spirit. She fully listened to my answers, and then had me share my three main health goals:
1. Proactive prevention of autoimmune disease
2. Weight loss
3. Healthy aging
She then recommended lab work to uncover potential metabolic, hormone and gut imbalances. Over two hours later, she performed a short physical exam. Applying a combination of pressure on my abdomen and tapping, she was able to assess the condition of my stomach, digestive system, organs and pain points.
I left the appointment with a comprehensive care plan and some homework. The plan included supplements to begin healing my gut, and an elimination diet to remove the most highly inflammatory foods for several months. She made lifestyle recommendations including meditation for stress and sleep, and acupuncture for chronic back pain. She referred me to a nutritionist to navigate the elimination diet.
When I got back in my car three hours later, I reflected on my experience in the functional doctor’s office. My heart hadn’t raced. I didn’t feel rushed or nervous. I felt truly heard and understood. Not only did I get a chance to run down my full list of concerns, I better understood how my “reflux disease” might be a part of some larger imbalance that no single pill can address. Finally, I felt in control of my health and wellbeing, not the victim of some powerful white coat.
The Buck Stops Here
This is really the beginning of my story as I have yet to get all the data. I will have a follow-up visit next month to review lab results and the treatment plan. This is also the beginning of my accepting personal responsibility for my health outcomes.
I admit that I’m a little anxious about my genetic inheritance. It’s also a little scary to know that the responsibility to keep myself healthy and contribute positively to my health outcomes is all mine.
I’m Worth It
Today, I am consciously reframing my thinking from “this is scary” to “this is empowering.” This is not going to be a cheap or easy process; but honestly, cheap and easy usually don’t end well, and you usually pay in the end. This is an investment in my future – and like the old Clairol ad proclaims, I’m worth it!
Who will join me?
I hope Kris’ experience is useful to you, and I hope it inspires you to consider working with a Functional Medicine practitioner. You can find a Functional or integrative or naturopathic doctor by zip code here.
Take good care!
p.s. Before you go, please accept our FREE gift: Your Optimal Food Guide ebook, which can help you figure out which foods can help you reverse autoimmune conditions or just optimize your health.
p.s.s. And, if you are proactively seeking to heal from any autoimmune condition and want community, support and valuable information, please join our free, private Facebook group: Transcend Autoimmune.
For more on reversing autoimmune conditions, check out one of our most popular posts, Put Autoimmune in Reverse: 5 Major Advances.
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