what is functional medicine?

If you’re someone struggling with chronic health concerns, there might be an answer to your questions: functional medicine.

I’m not about to spew on about full-blown magical cures to every problem out there, but I am suggesting that treating health through a new, wider perspective could help many people find true wellness.

For some people, going to a general practitioner to treat whatever illness arises works well, but for others, a temporary solution doesn’t cut it. We don’t benefit from focusing on one single symptom or body part without understanding how it aligns with our overall well-being. That’s where functional medicine comes in.

So what is this anyways?

Functional medicine is an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. You’re not just treating a single symptom that is bothering you; you’re assessing every detail of your genetic and biochemical makeup and your lifestyle to understand the root causes of disease and personalized ways to treat it.

Those who practice functional medicine do not see health as a one-size-fits-all model. Disease itself is very complex and will manifest itself differently for each individual. Doctors may find one condition has many different causes and, likewise, one cause may result in many different conditions.

To treat your mind, body, and soul, you aren’t relying completely on medicine to mitigate symptoms. Your doctor is working as your teammate to garner support from every area of your life to ensure you’re at your peak performance. You’ll likely be looking into your nutrition, daily activity, and mental health and see how those play a factor into your health. Everything makes a difference, even the details you might generally overlook.

My experience with functional medicine.

About two weeks ago was the first time I ever dipped my toes into functional medicine. I was lucky enough to have my original appointment (scheduled for the end of May!) moved up to several months in advance, an opportunity I am beyond grateful for.

I had no idea what to expect in this initial appointment. It began with the usual measurements and protocol you would expect at a doctor’s appointment, but its tone changed rapidly when, instead of sitting in a typical exam room, I was waiting to see my doctor in a cozy sitting room and could even partake in a warm beverage.

Once my doctor came in, she asked extensive questions about me, my family history, my arising problems, my daily diet, my stress and work load, my living conditions…the whole gambit. It was the most thorough experience I’ve ever had in a healthcare situation in my life.

This is coming from someone who has been completely misunderstood by doctors in the past. Not only has my mental health gone unchecked even at my darkest moments, but I’m used to hearing and being given temporary relief for recurring concerns, such as relying upon a powder fiber supplement every morning for irritable bowel syndrome.

Rather than leaving the almost two-hour-long appointment with half-minded advice and a new prescription, I was given a list of supplements to take and foods to include in my diet. I was referred to a new psychologist after struggling to find the right fit with anybody.

Most importantly, however, I was given new hope for finding answers to my chronic illnesses. I was taken seriously for every struggle I’ve faced, and in light of my entire journey, I was given a sustainable way to build up my health for life.

I don’t want to sugarcoat the whole experience, one I’m just beginning and will likely take a year or more to complete, but it’s refreshing to gain greater insight into how your body works, how it relates to your mind and mood, and feel empowered to make a holistic, natural change. It’s not easy, and it’s kind of overwhelming how many little steps are involved, but I know it will be worth every ounce of effort.

What you should know.

Depending on where you live, functional medicine practitioners might not be available. And if they’re anything like my local office, the schedule for new patients is booked up almost through this year. It’s not a practice you can walk into whenever you want to and expect to receive treatment; if you want to do it, you’ll seek it out and likely have to wait a long time to even begin.

Again, I don’t think this route is for everyone. If you don’t necessarily need more than quick answers and solutions, then a normal healthcare scenario works great. Functional medicine is for an imbalanced body that really needs help to realign itself. You likely won’t find instant gratification. You’ll probably have to try many different things before you find what works for you. The process requires patience and persistence.

With all of this in mind, if you’re still interested in learning more and exploring this option, I wholeheartedly approve and recommend it. I think we’ll see functional medicine start expanding in the near future to hopefully accommodate our desires for holistic wellness, a change that is very exciting. Until then, do your research, check out what’s closest to you, and if you have anybody you know who could refer you in, that will just increase your chances of securing a spot.

Your body is an intricate system, an evolving living organism that is more than a single symptom. There’s a reason for everything occurring; the trick is finding out what that reason is. I wish you the best of luck in your wellness journey, wherever it may lead and whoever may best help you.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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