My first experience with Functional Medicine was in 1996 when I saw a holistic minded MD who practiced this type of holistic health care. Ever since this first experience with Functional Medicine, I have been fascinated with the ways we can overcome many chronic health conditions utilizing a variety of holistic and natural interventions. During my own healing journey, I experienced first hand how powerful this medicine can be and how gratifying it is to get to the real root of disease rather than masking symptoms with medications while underlying disease states progress. Addressing the underlying causes of disease is a big factor that makes Functional Medicine different than modern conventional medicine. But just what is “Functional Medicine?”
Here are some key distinguishing characteristics of Functional Medicine:
–Patient and practitioner teamwork – Instead of the practitioner being your “boss,” they act as your educator, advocate, advisor, and teammate. In my practice, I do my best to be a good listener to what you tell me as well as to what I “hear” through observation, lab work and other clues that I gain from our time together in appointments. In this partnership, your insights into how you perceive your body and your life are going are important – your thoughts and feelings are not dismissed. Active participation in the maintenance of your health is not only important but crucial to success. Taking active responsibility is not only freeing and empowering, but also leads to better outcomes. In this successful partnership, my goal is to help design approaches to healing with you that keep in mind your preferences as well as your needs and limitations – helping you to find ways to overcome obstacles that may seem insurmountable.
–Wellness and holistic focused rather than disease focused – Rather than assessing your situation through the narrow lens of a diagnosis, practitioners of Functional Medicine look at your entire body and all of your symptoms … paying close attention to quality of life issues, emotional health and how the various parts and systems in your body are functioning. How well (or not well!) your systems are working together is fundamental to understanding where we can interject with solutions to restore proper communication between organ systems and promote biochemical homeostasis and healing.
–Multi-factorial approach: When you come in for your first appointment and at all future appointments, I consider genetic factors, environmental influences, lifestyle, diet/nutrition, as well as emotional and spiritual factors. I consider the state of your adrenal glands, thyroid function, immune health and look for signs of infections like candida yeast and other gut dysbiosis issues, parasites, food allergies and sensitivities, inflammation, blood sugar balance, hormone balance and menstrual cycle health as well as signs that toxic burdens may be inhibiting your health (including heavy metals, chemicals, hormone disrupters, bio-toxins).
–Removing blockages and restoring deficiencies – When we remove blockages to proper functioning (e.g. toxins, infections) and restore deficiencies (e.g. vitamin deficiencies, good sleep) then the body’s burdens are lifted and left more empowered to do a better job at all the various jobs it is naturally designed to do. Since the body is naturally programed to make efforts to return to balanced health, removing blockages and restoring deficiencies allows for the body to heal in many amazing and unexpected ways. It is inspiring each and every time I see how well a patient responds to Functional Medicine approaches.
–Treatment of the individual – With Functional Medicine, we are not always satisfied with “within range” results – we want to consider how you feel and how well everything is functioning within that range. A great example of this is when we look at blood test results – one person may feel okay and have good fertility with a thyroid functioning at a TSH level of 3.5 but another person may need a TSH level closer to 1.8 or so in order to have a successful full term pregnancy and good energy levels. Another example is detoxification – with Functional Medicine, I am interested in supporting your body’s natural ability to detox and help remove impediments it is struggling with rather than selling you some fad detox program that doesn’t keep your biochemical individuality in mind. True Functional Medicine is personalized rather than a one size fits all approach. This approach takes more time and effort (and knowledge!) as a practitioner because I cannot give out the same advice to everyone – but you are worth it and the results show!
-Living and aging well – Functional Medicine is about looking at how things are going now, what direction your body seems to be headed, and optimizing choices to minimize your chances of developing avoidable age related health conditions. Functional Medicine is about aging gracefully and living life with an abundance of positive life experiences – it is about living well not just living longer.
-Proactive and preventative – There are often many clues the body gives us that it is struggling before fully diagnosable conditions present themselves. This medicine is about supporting our body as much as possible given the cards we are dealt with in life. Rather than wait until disease is rampant and more serious interventions are needed, Functional Medcine shines in the area of prevention and proactive approaches to health care. Sometimes we experience disease as a wake up call to pay more attention to how we are living but it is never too late to get involved and get healthy.
-Emotional/Spiritual considerations– You are uniquely you and you are not your disease! How you process the world and your life experiences can have a profound influence on your health and happiness. My goal is to help my patients who are interested in this area of health to find better emotional and spiritual balance without changing their religion or leaving them feeling judged. Helping you to live a conscious and fruitful emotional and spiritual life is part of what Functional Medicine offers.
–Integrative medicine mentality – This means helping you work with your family physician, dentist, and other health care practitioners in a team mentality. Sometimes people do need surgery, medications and other methods of modern conventional medicine in order to optimize health. I do not consider it a failure when my patients utilize these aspects of conventional medicine in a healthy way. I do not want an “us” versus “them” mentality between holistic and conventional health care – the more we integrate our understanding and share our expertise with each other and let egos aside, the more we can optimize patient care.
Solutions and techniques used in Holistic Functional Medicine
In my practice, I make recommendations for lab work that will do more than diagnose a disease. I look at labs to assess how various systems are functioning to help determine where we can make adjustments to OPTIMIZE your health. I often make recommendations in lifestyle habits, nutritional interventions including the use of dietary supplements and herbs, yoga, meditation, stretches and exercise. You can see that even though I am a Licensed Acupuncturist, acupuncture is really just one of many tools that I use to help restore wellness with my patients.
What types of patients use Functional Medicine?
Whether you are vibrant and healthy and want to prevent disease or already are suffering from one or more complex chronic illnesses, Functional Medicine can be used to help meet your health goals. If you’re rather healthy but want help with mood, sleep and energy levels or to get rid of aches and pains that just don’t seem to ever go away, this medicine is for you! If you’re interested in optimizing pregnancy outcomes by preparing for pregnancy in advance of becoming pregnant, Functional Medicine is an excellent choice!
Functional Medicine is an evolving medicine incorporating the best systems of biology and ancient medicines like Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is my passion to keep pursuing the advancement of this medicine by reviewing the newest research and latest techniques used in holistic medicine … to keep advancing our ability to adapt to modern stressors as well as to overcome the health issues that are “as old as time”
If you want to learn more about how you can take charge of your health and optimize your life in body mind spirit, give me a call or fill out the contact form in the “Contact Katie” page – let’s get in touch!