You know how it goes. You arrive at the doctor’s office a little early, check in then take a seat in the waiting area. You pull out your cell phone and check your email because you know it’s going to be a while.
30 minutes later a Medical Assistant invites you to the back and shows you to an exam room, where your vitals are taken, you are asked the reason for your visit, your results and responses entered into the system.
The MA tells you the doctor will be in shortly.
15 minutes later the doctor comes in, looks at your computerized chart. While listening to your heart and lungs asks if you are having any problems eating? Sleeping? And your symptoms.
Then exits the room. Another 15 minutes and the MA comes in and hands you a prescription.
During that 60 minutes, you saw the doctor for 10, maybe 15 minutes.
The Rise of a New Paradigm in Health Care
Now, picture this.
You enter the office of your Functional Medicine Practitioner. Again, the MA takes your vitals asks the reason for your visit, records results and leaves the room.
A few minutes later the doctor arrives, proceeds to ask about your symptoms, family history, diet, how things are at home, your sleep habits, in fact you spend a whole hour talking with the practitioner. There likely will be tests ordered to get a more detailed look at your overall health.
What IS Functional Medicine?
Dr. Margret Christenson, MD says it’s a science-based whole systems approach looking at the fundamental underlying cause of symptoms.
Dr. Robert Roundtree, MD adds, Functional Medicine, is taking a new understanding of how many influences affect the person as an individual.
Dr. Shimla Saxena, MD also adds, by knowing the underlying causes of the disease (or dis-ease) vs just diagnosing the disease, (or condition) offers expanded options for treating the disease itself rather than the symptoms.
Functional Medicine involves a new way of understanding, assessing, preventing, and treating chronic disease. A visit typically consists of extensive testing to determine which biological systems are functioning properly and not. The patient is interviewed extensively and fills a lengthy questioner. All information is then used to determine imbalances and influences that have helped to create disease or dysfunction.
Functional Medicine focuses on how the body works as a system using a variety of science-based approaches to find imbalances in the system focusing on what is unique about the individual then works to make sure all systems are functioning properly.
What does the practitioner consider?
- past and present trauma
- past diagnoses
Working to unravel the cause of (especially) chronic disease. A symptom may be gone but the disease likely remains.
Functional Medicine Shines at Treating Chronic Conditions
Any chronic health issue in children or adults can be treated using a functional medicine approach. Whether you have already been diagnosed with a chronic disease or are still struggling to figure out what is causing your symptoms, a functional medicine practitioner can help. Examples of chronic conditions functional medicine practitioners treat, depending on their training and focus, include:
- Chronic symptoms of all types including fatigue, sleep problems, pain, weight issues, headaches, nasal congestion and allergies, skin rashes, poor memory and concentration, frequent colds, constipation
- Mood disorders like depression and anxiety
- Women’s health issues like PMS, infertility, menopausal symptoms, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, and pelvic pain
- Men’s health issues like prostate enlargement, erectile dysfunction, and low testosterone
- Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Neurological disorders like dementia, Parkinson’s, migraines, and autism
- Metabolic diseases like diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome
- Cardiovascular diseases like high cholesterol, heart disease, hypertension, and atherosclerosis
- Hormonal disorders like hypothyroidism and Grave’s disease
- Gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and GERD
The goal of treatment is to maximize functionality at all levels of body, mind, and spirit. Treatments are individualized and personalized in order to address each person’s unique genetics, diet, nutrition, environmental exposures, stress, exercise, and psychological and spiritual needs.
Generally, therapies include tools from both conventional and integrative medicine and are based on clinical scientific research. Treatments may include combinations of nutritional supplements, herbal medicines, drugs, diets, detoxification programs, exercise, physical therapy, bodywork, acupuncture, spinal manipulation, counseling, and stress-management techniques.
The practitioner can then give the patient a road map to how the patient can help themselves by engaging the patient as an active participant in their health.
What is Conventional Medicine?
The National Cancer Institute defines Conventional Medicine (CM) as a system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. Also called allopathic medicine, biomedicine, mainstream medicine, orthodox medicine, and Western medicine. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/conventional-medicine
The practice of medicine includes the diagnosis, treatment, correction, advisement, or prescription for any human disease, ailment, injury, infirmity, deformity, pain, or other condition, physical or mental, real or imaginary.
Conventional Medicine: Medicine as practiced by holders of M.D. (Medical Doctor) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degrees and by their allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. (https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=33527)
Wow, researching the actual definition of Conventional Medicine proved to be a challenge. Likely because it’s become so fragmented into specialization.
MD’s who wish to specialize must complete an additional 3 to 9 years of postgraduate work in their specialty area, then pass board certification examinations. Doctors who claim to practice in a specialty should be board-certified in that specific area of practice.
Medical Doctors (MD’s)usually specialize in a specific discipline to offer patients more detailed assistance than a general practitioner. Specialists center mainly on the body’s separate organs systems.
- An oncologist works primarily with cancer patients
- A gynecologist deals primarily with women’s health
- A cardiologist with heart health
- A surgeon, well, performs surgeries.
- An endocrinologist with hormones which tell organs what to do
- A neurologist focuses on the brain and systems it controls
Conventional Medicine focuses on complaints and uses symptoms to diagnose a specific disease then treats according to scientific research, prescribes (typically) a drug that controls the symptoms.
- Anti-inflammatories for pain (inflammation) from arthritis
- Antacids for stomach bloat and pain (IBS, GERD)
- Birth control pills for painful PMS and irregular periods (hormones)
- Synthetic hormones for menopausal symptoms – hot flashes, etc.
General Practitioners are (MD’s) primary family doctors who perform checkups with adults and children. They also offer generic advice to patients and sometimes refer them to specialized doctors should a serious illness occur.
Conventional Medicine Excels in Areas of Testing and Diagnosis
Most individuals in this country who are living with a long-term disease received their diagnosis from a doctor practicing conventional medicine. The goal of conventional medical doctors in treating people with long-term disease is to:
- Diagnose the disease
- Stop disease progression
- Relieve the symptoms associated with the disease
- Prevent the spread of the disease
- Cure the disease (if a cure is available)
- Improve quality of life
Conventional Medicine is VERY good at fixing things. Broken bones, lacerations, removing organs that no longer work and replacing (transplanting) them.
Emergency situations and trauma. If I’m in a car wreck or fall off a building, please take me to the ER!
While conventional medicine and functional medicine go about treatment differently, there is absolutely a need for both. Functional Medicine CAN help heal the body after injury and repair.
If you’re a visual/audio learner, like I am, this video with Dr. John Bartemus may explain the differences better than I.
Who Can Practice Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is not limited to medical doctors but may be studied and practiced by any type of licensed healthcare provider including Naturopathic Doctors, Nurse Practitioners (NP), acupuncturists, nutritionists, and chiropractors by attending an 18-month course consisting of seven programs and two testing components.
All may prescribe non-drug therapies but only MD’s, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO’s), Naturopathic Doctors (NDs), (in most but not all states), and Nurse Practitioners may prescribe controlled substances.
Health Care vs Medical Care
For decades the only option has been medical care. We now have many options for health care.
If you find yourself with something that’s broken, medical care can fix you up.
Want to take control of and participate in your health? And save money on medical care? Health care should be first and foremost.
Where can you find a Functional Medicine Practitioner near you?
or, just Google Functional Medical Practitioner near me. 😊
Is Functional Medicine Covered by Insurance?
Simple answer – no. Some lab fees may be covered. If the doctor is a medical doctor may be the office visit will be covered.
Considering the control the insurance industry has over every aspect of medical care, most doctors must schedule 15-minute office visits because that is what insurance companies reimburse them for.
Considering Functional Medicine Practitioners take one to two hours initial visit and perhaps 45 minutes with consecutive visits for treatments, relying solely on a patient’s reliance on their insurance to pay for treatment, the practice would fail.
Some practitioners have found using a hybrid payment system of charging insurance for covered procedures plus cash payments by patients to help.
For a much better, albeit longer explanation of this very complicated topic read this Kalish Institute article
One thought might be to utilize a Health Saving Account to cover the cash part.
You may decide to join a Christian Healthcare Ministry shared health community. There are a few so you may either check this one out, or Google it. You must be a practicing Christian.
Another type of resource that is non-denominational is a health cost sharing cooperative such as kNew Health Community. See their website and join here. Watch this video of founder James Maskell explain the concept.
I’ve gone into great detail in this article because I feel it important for us to be a part of our health care and not just rely on doctors who are forced to see a patient every 15 minutes every day. Talk about burnout! Or to only have options covered by the multibillion-dollar insurance industry.
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