I went to school to become a traditional medicine doctor, but opted-out last-minute. I couldn’t ignore that the standard practices conflicted with my genuine beliefs about helping people live healthier, happier lives.
Had I known about the field of Functional Medicine then, I would’ve made the career switch. This way of healthcare is simple + honest: it’s the way that I thought healthcare was, and it is the way all healthcare should be.
Over the years, I’ve learned that Traditional Medicine targets the surface problem. When you get a breast cancer diagnosis, you’ll get prescribed chemotherapy. When the chemo makes your hair fall out, you’ll get prescribed a hair loss treatment. When those prescriptions make your stomach turn sour, you’ll get a 3rd prescription for that. The cycle can be — and often is — never-ending.
When you see a traditional medicine doctor, the average patient visit time is 12 minutes — usually after you’ve been in the waiting room for at least 3x as long.
To me, that’s impossible to work with. You can’t deliver personalized, well-rounded care in 12 minutes. You can’t even cook a frozen pizza in 12 minutes! That’s a problem!
Functional Medicine, on the other hand, uses a methodical evaluation to get to the root cause of an individual’s health challenge(s). It understands that all body systems are connected + that when one is out of balance, the rest of the body responds to bring it to equilibrium. Functional Medicine looks at where the symptoms are coming from and why.
What I love the most about Functional Medicine is it’s commitment to getting the body functioning organically on its own first, before trying to add-in accessory pills + procedures. It does this by heavily evaluating the relationships between the physical body and nutrition, movement + exercise, intolerances + allergies, emotional wellness, family history, living + working environments, genetics, current medication or chemical side-effects, and the list goes on.
When you meet with a Functional Medicine Doctor, you’re often not even on a time-limit. My visits average at least an hour! They commit to establishing a genuine relationship with their patients + their patients’ other health-related providers. Functional Medicine creates a team around you for your individual wellness. With that collaborative approach, patterns or small details are hardly ever missed.
Functionality Makes Sense
I think we all intuitively know that all of our problems are related in some way. When something super stressful happens, doesn’t a cold or headache typically follow? When we’re feeling depressed, doesn’t our appetite change? When we change our usual diet, doesn’t your stomach respond in some way?
Functional Medicine works for more complex challenges, too. I had the privilege of working with the top international autism researchers for 5 years behind closed doors. I saw hundreds, if not thousands, of families affected by autism. Literally not one case appeared the same. But the patterns I could see were undeniable. According to my traditional education, those patterns weren’t worth a second glance… but according to functional medicine, those patterns were an obvious roadmap leading to a child’s improved function + quality of life, if not healing altogether. Any time I meet someone experiencing autism — as an individual or relative — I suggest functional medicine immediately.
Functional Medicine acknowledges that the body only has so many ways it can say “OUCH!”, but the reasons each person has that “ouch” may be completely different.
Functional Medicine knows that the way to eliminate those “ouches” are by looking at that entire roadmap.
My husband, daughter and I all see a functional medicine doctor for our primary care doctor. (Yes, even in place of a “pediatrician”). This has been a game changer in our family’s health over the last year — and we didn’t even go in with a “problem” to fix. She looks at our entire family environment — how everyone is sleeping, what the fridge is filled with, how we’re spending time together, the role adult work plays across each person in the house, the role child development + parenting plays across our marriage, relationships outside of the family life — and offers gentle suggestions to help us fill in the gaps we don’t often see that we’re missing.
She helps us work as a team, just as she works as a team with our other healthcare providers. Outside of a functional medicine doctor, we do regular chiropractic visits, see cognitive-behavioral therapist visits, my pregnancies are followed by a homebirth midwife team, and I see the acupuncturist occasionally, too. That is so awesome that they’re all in communication. And better yet, a lot of them are actually friends! And they’ve become friends of ours. I want to feel comfortable with my practitioners enough that I’d want to invite them over for dinner.
I would make the argument that Functional Medicine can cure 95% of the world’s healthcare problems, because 95% of those problems are influenced by stress on the body. Functional Medicine looks at what causes those stressors to begin with, then comes up with an individualized plan for minimizing or eliminating those stressors. People will look at functional medicine and say, yeah, but it’s so simple, how could it work? And my answer is that it works because it is simple.
So, how do you get started seeing a Functional Medicine doctor?
A general Google search should help list practitioners in your area, but I’ve found the most helpful resources are often fellow moms! Ask your mom community on social media for their personal recommendations + referrals. I found my Functional Medicine doctor in a “crunchy moms” Facebook group.
Worth the Wait
With that — I want to talk about people being worth the wait. My FM doctor had a 2 year waitlist, but I put my name on there anyways, and I just had this feeling that I had to see her specifically. I just knew this would be the best practice for me. I loved the recommendations people had given her the most. And 1.5 years later, 6-months ahead of schedule, someone cancelled their new patient appointment + no one else ahead of me on the wait list could take it. So, I got in 6-months early just for being ready to drop everything and get to that appointment. And I think it’s important to make that mental commitment in your head now — the ones with the wait lists are usually worth it. The wait list just existing speaks for itself.
That said, it’s not necessarily worth “waiting it out” with your current traditional practitioners until then. In kid time, months are like years! Everything changes so fast. When your kids are sick or struggling with something, that’s just drawn out agony for them and the parents. So, my recommendation would be to see whatever functional medicine doctor can get you in the earliest ASAP, stay on the wait lists for the highly-coveted ones, it’s at no cost to you (just a free name on a list), and when you get the call up the wait list, go meet that doctor and THEN make a decision about your preferred provider.
And that should help reduce your wait time, but there still might be some gap time…
As for continuing to work with a traditional doctor until you’re seen by any Functional Medicine doctor, that’s at your individual discretion. You need to decide what’s going to make you feel the best. It takes a long time to distance yourself from the “you should be doing this” mentality that traditional medicine teaches you growing up over the years.
I personally chose to not see a traditional doctor during that 1.5 year gap — I hadn’t been sick, I was okay with skipping an annual wellness exam, I had just been in the care of my midwives postpartum, and I told myself if there was an emergency I would go straight to the ER or urgent care, etc. — and that decision worked great for me. I’ll write more details about how I took control of my family’s health during that 1.5 year wait list time. Stay tuned for a separate post!
In the interim, continue to follow along with my OrganicMommyCEO community for my blogs + free wellness resources. I share the best of what I know, most of which is Functional Medicine-based, so that you can get started evaluating your own health right away.
It’s Here to Stay
Functional Medicine is the new black. It’s the “organic” food where traditional medicine is the “conventional” food. It’s the modern family’s middle-ground between procedures + pharmaceuticals and mixing tinctures barefoot in the woods. Functional Medicine is the response to people realizing that our bodies — made up of many interconnected parts — need a wellness system to match. Not one that keeps things divided. That made perfect sense to me + my decision to switch to Functional Medicine is reaffirmed everyday. I’m so grateful I found this new standard of care.
What questions do you have about Functional Medicine?
How can I expand this post to help you? Share in the comments below.