How Functional Medicine Saved & Changed My Life
My medical records could fill up several filing cabinets spanning several decades. From mysterious rashes, cerebral edema, hypoglycemia, psoriasis, and most recently over the last 5 years Lyme disease and Chronic Inflammatory Syndrome. The long lineup is a painful list including infectious disease, rheumatology, endocrinology, cardiology, pulmonology, chiropractic, internal medicine….and too many more to count. Been there, done it.
You can say I’ve been around the block a few times with just about every kind of medical specialist there is.
Seeing upwards of 20+ different doctors and specialists in the span of 5 years I have grown a new appreciation for waiting room décor, overhead music, and warm smiles from strangers. The five years of needle pricks, IV’s, lab draws, MRI’s, CT scans, emergency room visits filled my calendar replacing the social activities that used to crowd it. It’s been no easy feat, and in many ways I stand amazed that my heart is still beating. Lyme may not have killed me but lack of the will to keep on going almost did.
Sadly, I’m no stranger to this reality…there are millions suffering right now as I did too.
Just one in a large crowd of needy souls I was shuffled around in a broken medical system that segments our ailments into separate systems, prioritizes band aid solutions, and overcharges on behalf of greedy insurance companies. It’s a maze you don’t want to get lost in and a reality that is challenging to navigate. Your sense of autonomy is lost and you begin to feel like a lab rat in a science experiment. The alternative was to lay down and succumb to the ravishing effects of the Lyme that permeated every cell in my body.
Or was it?
I stumbled along for years desperately trying to find the will to survive. Diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia I was offered pain medication, physical therapy, and told that my quality of life would never be the same. My cabinet was cleared out and prescription pills lined the shelves and overwhelmed my schedule trying to keep up with it all.
I figure that my physicians would make the connections and would properly diagnose me in no time.
I assumed they would understand why I felt horrible all the time and that the extreme dietary changes and targeted natural antimicrobials would help me feel slightly better. I was frustrated to hear my physicians communicate that diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors had little to do with my ailments. I was even more disturbed to later learn that the 2010 "Nutrition in Medicine" project surveying 127 accredited U.S. medical schools revealed that physicians receive around 20 hours of nutrition education in medical school. I was exhausted and fed up with a broken medical approach to health and sick care rather than healthcare.
I had reached a breaking point.
I was desperate for change. A friend who had witnessed my suffering introduced me to the Functional Medicine approach when she recommended a new doctor. It was an introduction that not only saved my life but changed my life! Within the two hours of my first visit, I was asked a series of questions going all the way back to my childhood, examined top to bottom, and then met with the physician for an entire hour. I had grown quite accustomed to the 15-minute time frame I had with all previous physicians and rehearsing my whole life story summed up into a span of 5 minutes, so this was a little new to say the least!
Functional Medicine Changed My Health
Throughout my visit the physician took the time to ask about my environmental exposures, past and present medications, childhood health, diet and physical activity, relationships and stress and much more. In an attempt to find the root cause of my ailments my life was examined and laid completely bare. There I was telling my whole life story to someone who took the time to get a full and complete picture.
Someone who cared enough to sit with me and really listen.
I walked away from that first visit feeling that not only was my health about to radically change but my life as well. My mind was blown! Through a root cause approach rather than a pile of prescription medications my approach to healing had a new makeover. Removing that which was harming me and adding in that which my body needed my body was given the opportunity to do that which it was made to do…. heal.
For the first time in years my Lyme disease was properly diagnosed, environmental factors were addressed, and the approach to healing was comprehensive.
The Functional Medicine approach believes the body is made to thrive when health is addressed from not only the ground up but rather the roots up. Looking down below and factoring in how the mind, body, and spirit are all interconnected lends itself to total body transformation. For those of you not familiar with functional medicine, The Institute of Functional Medicine website describes it as “a systems biology–based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. Each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness.”
Functional Medicine Changed My Life
My body was struggling as I walked out of that office on that first visit, but my soul was on fire. I was determined as ever that I would transform my experience into helping others to know there is hope for better health and that the treadmill and rat race of modern medicines approach to healing can be walked away from for a better approach.
It doesn't have to be this way!
I was determined to make a better way for others so they wouldn’t experience the suffering that I did. I enrolled to become a Functional Medicine Health Coach through the Institute for Functional Medicine’s (IFM) health coaching program, Functional Medicine Health Coaching Academy (FMCA). Through the one-year program I not only learned a new and radically different approach to health, but I applied everything I learned to support my body as it began to slowly heal. Through my education I intended not only fill in the gaps in the medical community, but I would be that which I felt I needed along my own journey.
I knew that the help of a health coach would have made my own journey so much simpler! I was determined I would that for others!
Your interest is probably peaked after all this talk about real health care. You've probably seen the flaws in the medical community yourself. To help you get started I want to outline where you can go and what you can expect on your own journey! You can begin by going to IFM’s website and utilizing their “Find A Practitioner” tab. Once there look up physicians in your area. Some physicians practice locally, and others offer virtual services. Consider licensed Naturopathic physicians as well.
10 things To Expect With A Functional Medicine Visit
Expect to get what you pay for! If you want quality healthcare, you need to pay for quality health care. Value your providers time, education, and resources like you value your health! You will not be disappointed.
Expect to spend time filling out a boatload of paperwork. Your illness is a complex puzzle requiring many pieces to all fit together to get a clear picture. By taking the time to fill out and answer all questions you are better equipping your provider to be a good detective.
Expect to donate your blood. You want answer? You must allow your provider to look under the hood and investigate what is going on. Most likely they will look at the basics like you CBC & CMP but will also look at a variety of other more in depth tests as well such as a comprehensive thyroid panel, hormones, vitamin levels, food sensitivities and/or allergies, kidney and liver function and more. Your provider will take into account your unique bio individuality and your presenting symptoms and test appropriately.
Expect to get a crash course in hematology. During your first follow up visit your provider will spend a considerable amount of time explaining the lab results and their comprehensive plan to support your body to heal. This may seen exhaustive but it’s very important to know when your provider recommends supplements and medications.
Expect to invest in good quality supplements. Your provider will aim to support your body by utilizing medication when appropriate and targeted supplementation when needed. It may be costly but so is prolonged illness. Supplements are just that…supplements. They are meant to step in and provide nourishment and support to your ailing body for a time until your body is rebalanced.
Expect to return often and get your blood drawn frequently to monitor your progress. Your provider utilizes these means to track your progress.
Expect to be referred to a health coach. Smart providers either utilize or refer their patients to a health coach because they know the value of and the faster speed of healing when their patients partner with one.
Expect to be patient. Understand that you didn’t get sick overnight, and you won’t heal overnight. Healing takes time so lean into patience and stick to your providers plan.
Expect to heal! When your provider gets to the root cause of your ailments and supports you your body will begin to heal and thrive!
Expect your life to never be the same! The education you receive from your Functional Medicine team will be something you will use to not only heal your body but maintain your health going forward.
Through all of these steps from my provider along with my own valuable education I have been placed back onto the path of healing! Healing didn’t happen in the span of weeks but rather months and even years.
The path was rocky and the ditches were deep but the health lessons, education, and resources I’ve gained have blessed my life and the lives of my clients tenfold!
The list above is comprehensive and realistic, but there’s one important missing link I must expand upon…a health coach!
Why Hire a Functional Medicine Health Coach?
Studies show that individuals who utilize the valuable help of a well-trained health coach adhere to physicians protocol better, are more motivated to stay on track, feel more supported, and have far better health outcomes. Why?
Health coaches bridge the gap in the medical community by stepping into the middle ground between provider and patient providing the one-on-one support patients need.