Why Functional Medicine? The Space In-Between

You are likely here because you already know what functional medicine is and more importantly what it is not. You are likely here because you are fed up. Tired of nobody listening. Nobody knowing what is wrong. Everybody trying different medications and nothing seems to be working. You are frustrated at the lack of answers and care in our broken healthcare system. You likely are seeking more options than just another pill. You want to know why so you can FIX it. Sound about right?

Let’s make sure we are on the same page about the basis for the need for functional medicine. When I began college at the age of 18, I knew I wanted to go into medicine. I just knew that I wanted to learn as much about the body and its ailments so that I could help people in their time of need, as others had helped me along the way. I wanted to alleviate suffering. To bring peace and comfort. To soothe the scared, and carry the burden for a while so they could rest and heal. 

When I started on my path, I just trusted this was THE way – that if I went to school then I would become the healer I knew I was destined to be. When I graduated, I felt this sense of confusion. Like maybe I had missed something. This wasn’t how I had envisioned my role to be. Very quickly the veil lifted, and reality set in. Patients became numbers. In and out. Get as many people in and out the door as quickly as possible. 

There were, however, algorithms. That is how you treat “patients”. You treat the disease, not the person. And you restore them to “health” with prescriptions. And the cycle continues. I did not realize I became part of a SICK CARE system, not a HEALTH CARE system. Yes, there are great people in this system – who care A LOT about you; who, unfortunately, do not have the education or TIME to be able to treat you the way that they know you should be treated, that they THOUGHT they were going in this field to provide. 

I found functional medicine as a sort of divine intervention. I was exhausted by long hours, endless patients, and increasing demands, and realized I was no more than a legal drug dealer. I wasn’t getting anyone truly well. I was fixing their broken bodies, and fighting transient infections, all of which are extremely important. But I knew there was something missing. I knew there had to be more and maybe I was just doing it wrong. I felt duped. I was mostly a straight “A” student all through my undergraduate and graduate studies. I worked my tail off to learn as much as I could and soak up all the information being presented to me. To become an “expert”. And I felt like I was falling short and failing. 

Why am I telling you this? Because people in medicine, across the country, feel this way to some extent. People won’t likely choose a medical career because they are money-hungry. There is too much work and stress and strife in this field to choose this for any other reason than we truly want to help people. People who are lazy don’t tend to go into medicine, either. The hours are long, and self-care is short. We don’t get to eat, rest, or even use the restroom during our long and jam-packed shifts. The work does not end when we go home. We might have a nice salary on our employment contracts, on paper, but when you break down the hourly rate, it diminishes as the extra time we put in goes up. Time in the evenings, on the weekends, over holidays. We really don’t take vacations, as our schedules fill up with patients months in advance, and then when we are gone we have to make up that time lost because our patients need to be seen. So we work over lunch breaks, stay later, and come in earlier, to make up for our “vacations” that we were likely working over anyway. 

Our student loans and the demand to keep up with the latest medical research makes it such that we are spending a lot of this salary on education, as conferences necessary to keep us up-to-date are a few thousand dollars each, and they are needed every year. Sometimes multiple conferences per year. I usually attend 2-3 per year and STILL have to do extra time in self-study to keep up with the demands of mandatory continuing medical education, on top of the latest research in my field.

Ok, so now that we understand that people in medicine are good-hearted, motivated people who just want to help others… then wherein lies the problem?! In my opinion, and my experience, it is the system. I was not educated in a manner that is sufficient to prevent disease and restore health truly. I was not taught that reversing disease was even possible. I was only taught how to manage the disease with medication. I was taught how to screen for disease, and then how to treat or who to refer to when disease set in. What about the in-between?

THAT IS WHAT WE ARE MISSING! That space in between health and disease. The place where we lack education and resources to help provide guidance and support. Not waiting until the disease has set in to start “treating” with medication, surgery, or chemotherapy. It is looking at your genetics, your environment, your lifestyle, your relationships, your mental health, your belief systems, your history, and your current state of health to determine your risks and show you how to ward off disease and improve/maintain health. 

So how did I find functional medicine? Much like you did. I got frustrated at the way we do things. I felt insignificant and handcuffed like it really didn’t matter what I did. Health was going to continue to decline, and I would be there to “save” you during your crises, but I could do nothing to prevent them in the first place. I, myself, did not know, so how could I teach you ways to prevent disease, natural ways to treat common conditions, and empower YOU to take control over your own health? 

The divine intervention I mentioned earlier? I had this realization that I was not helping anyone. I was part of the problem. And I wanted out. I had had my last experience of having my life and/or career threatened due to a disgruntled patient not getting a prescription for narcotics. Or to have the business owner/medical director tell me to give antibiotics in the absence of infection to keep the “customer” happy. I. HAD. HAD. IT. I was ready to give up my career and start over. It was at this breaking point that I found functional medicine. 

I found what was missing all along. My passion for helping patients get well was renewed. That fire was rekindled. I had actually found the original path I had set out on, the path I feared didn’t exist, after years of being beaten down inside the healthcare system as we know it in this country. I had found my purpose renewed and my faith restored. Finally, I had found the path I thought I had originally set out on. 

Why is Functional Medicine Different?

Driven by science and extensive research, we still follow the standards of safe medical care set forth by sound evidence-based medicine. We have not thrown our prescription pads away (however I rarely find the need to write prescriptions anymore). The difference between us and them is that we have found another path. While we have MUCH larger toolboxes than our conventional peers, we still need medicine when it is appropriate. But with functional medicine, we need those conventional interventions a lot less. We have the TIME. We have the TRAINING. We have the TOOLS. I think we all have the desire to practice this type of good foundational medicine; some of us just broke after the enormous pressure of trying to heal patients in a broken sick-care system. We broke free and found a new path.

Functional medicine utilizes nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, lifestyle, and mind-body practices to find a personalized approach to wellness WITH you. It is my job to find your “why”. To dig deep and find what drives your dis-ease, and give you the tools to reverse it. Not mask it. Not simply medicate it. But honor the symptoms your body is showing you that something is not right. We need to learn to listen to our body and figure out what it needs more of, less of, or to get rid of altogether. Where do you need balance? Where do we need a complete overhaul? Where do you need support? Only YOU have that answer. 

It is up to me to listen so I can help you find your unique path to wellness. So you can do the work. The right work, based on personalized information gathered from labs and data. There is so much information out there, and you are likely overwhelmed by what is “right”. To have personalized data is to have a roadmap, so your efforts are not in vain. I know you are doing everything you know to do to be well, and sometimes that doesn’t get us the outcomes we are hoping for simply because we do not have all the information needed to make individualized choices. That is where personalized medicine comes in. Appropriate labs that give us data, to build a plan to achieve your goals. This is the partnership you and I are entering: I show up and listen, gather information, order and interpret labs, then work WITH you to find a plan that is suitable for YOU that you can follow to do the work that will be effective in getting and keeping you well.