Step 1: Find a Functional Medicine Practitioner
Functional Medicine gets to the root of the problem.
If you are like most of my clients, you have spent months and years going from specialist to specialist, trying to find solutions for your symptoms. The problem is that the conventional healthcare system is actually designed more for SICK care.
Medical doctors are trained to look for what is “broken” and refer you to someone who specializes in that broken part of your body. As you already know, chronic health problems are much more complex. Rather than going to 7+ different professionals who only have part of the answer, wouldn’t you rather work with someone who is trained to understand how the WHOLE body is related?
Functional practitioners are HOLISTIC and INTEGRATIVE, meaning they see how all of the puzzle pieces fit together.
You can expect to receive a lot more time and attention from a functional medicine doctor (compared to conventional MDs who spend an average of 10-15 minutes with each patient).
You will have the opportunity to do a lot more talking because a large part of functional medicine is exploring your detailed personal and family history, the circumstances around your first symptoms, and the experiences you may have had with other healthcare providers.
They are taught how to uncover the underlying causes of your health problems through careful history taking, physical examination, and laboratory testing.
While the cost, time, and effort may be a little more up front, many patients find more satisfying answers and solutions to the problems that have eluded other clinicians for years.
If you are not yet seeing a functional medicine doctor, I recommend searching for one in your local area.
Once you select a provider, you and the practitioner will agree to be equal partners in meeting your health goals. Both of you will create a care plan, set expectations, and learn which lifestyle modifications will help achieve your goals.
Afterwards, you can work with a trained health coach to implement the plan with action steps and accountability.
Step 2: Understand the Root Causes of Your Symptoms
Set the Right Foundation for the Doctor-Patient Relationship
Just because your conventional doctor has told you that all your labs are “normal” does not mean that they are optimal or that you are healthy. A functional medicine doctor is trained to be your personal health detective.
If you don’t feel right, something, somewhere is out of balance. The RIGHT labs and functional test provide clues to help you discover WHERE your system is struggling and WHY you’re not feeling your best.
In addition, labs help clarify which concerns you should prioritize (or which are the most important place to start). By knowing what you’re dealing with from the beginning, your time, money, and energy can go towards the treatments and lifestyle modifications that will have the GREATEST impact.
From a Functional Medicine perspective, CHRONIC symptoms are often caused by one of four things:
1. Heavy metals
2. Toxins (endocrine disruptors, chemicals in household and personal products, dioxins, pesticides, etc.)
3. Pathogens (Lyme, mold, parasites, etc.)
4. Traumatic stress
Step 3: Prepare for your visit.
2. When you find one you like, you may be able to schedule a free phone consultation first to see if the doctor is the right fit for you.
It’s a good idea to speak with your health insurance provider to see what services they will cover and what you may need to pay for out-of-pocket. Most functional medicine practitioners are also trained as medical doctors (MDs), so your visits with them should be covered.
Sometimes the labs and test they order are not covered, however. You may be required to pay a couple hundred dollars of your own money, but these tests are designed to give more thorough answers than those a conventional doctor is able to order. In the end, you can decide if finally have answers to your symptoms is worth the initial upfront cost (and the years of frustration saved).
3. Fill out the Health History form so you have the complete picture to present to your functional medicine doctor on your first appointment.
4. Complete the Doctor’s Visit Workbook so you are clear on your goals and intentions for the visit and you leave with the answers to your most important questions.
The more prepared you are, the more you will show that you are an engaged patient who is respectful of your doctor’s time.
Remember, you are always the expert on your own body and have every right to advocate for yourself about the symptoms you are experiencing.
At the same time, if you want to be heard, it is best not to try to present the doctor with what YOU think the best diagnosis or treatment is, as that is THEIR area of expertise. It is their job to present you with options and then you will decide together about which feels right for you.
A successful appointment should include a back-and-forth conversation with questions and sharing from both sides. Do not expect to receive all the answers you want at once. Finding a diagnosis and settling on the right treatment is a process that takes time and honestly, the doctor may not have answers to give you right away. Think of them like your personal health detective.
In the meantime, there are also many things that you can be doing to care for your health to feel better. I will show you these tools and teach you these skills so that you can feel empowered while still waiting for a medical plan.