My wife, Megan, spent Easter weekend this year in the hospital. She was admitted that Saturday with EKG changes that suggested her heart was angry; it was beating fast, irregular, and there were changes that resemble those seen when the heart is not getting an adequate amount of blood and oxygen. That Monday, at the age of 31, she underwent a heart catheterization, and we were reassured that everything was normal.
Yet, she still had symptoms.
I made her an appointment with a functional medicine physician I know and trust, and he was able to, by spending 90 minutes with her at her first visit, begin to piece together the puzzle. His suspicions of the cause of her symptoms that day were confirmed by objective testing he ordered: she had mold illness.
While we were waiting for those confirmatory tests to come back, I decided that I was going to dive deep into functional medicine so I could help patients who have symptoms that don’t fit into the traditional medical box.
Let’s define “traditional” medicine.
I’ve worked for over 25 years as a “traditional,” allopathic physician in the emergency department. This is what all we learned in medical school. When patients have a certain set of symptoms that go together, that gives the physician a diagnosis. From that diagnosis, the clinician decides on an appropriate treatment, often using one or several pharmaceutical agents.
When you go see your doctor, and you talk about how you get headaches, they make you want to vomit, there is throbbing pain over your temples, and you only get relief from laying down in a dark, quiet room, your doctor diagnoses you with migraines and writes a prescription for a migraine medicine you can take to give you relief from your symptoms. That’s traditional medicine.
Where traditional medicine fails.
While traditional medicine can work well for certain diseases, like hypertension and diabetes, there are scenarios in which this paradigm really misses its opportunity to help patients.
When, like my wife Megan, a patient’s symptoms do not fit with what most people have or what the physician has seen previously, traditional medicine can run into a roadblock. When “standard” labs are normal, the complaints the patient has don’t make sense, and there is no way to piece together what is going on, the symptoms are often attributed to being psychosomatic (in the patient’s head) They can be put on antidepressants and sent to psychiatrists to try to flush out the mental component to their symptoms. Their illnesses can be dismissed by the medical establishment.
Traditional medicine was not going to tease out that my otherwise healthy wife was suffering symptoms from mold exposure.
What is Functional Medicine?
A functional or integrative approach to patient care seeks to answer the question of “Why.” Why does your head hurt? Why when you eat these foods do you get distension of your abdomen and have crampy abdominal pain. Why is your mood depressed?
Functional medicine takes a “systems” approach to your healthcare. That means that when I see you, I seek to understand everything about what you are experiencing in the context of what is going on in your life. I ask when you last felt well. I inquire about what was going on in your life physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually when your symptoms started. I ask about exposures that may have triggered your symptoms.
With functional medicine, you the patient are not broken down into silos of organ systems. Traditional medicine at times looks at each part of “you” as its own entity. The cardiovascular system checks out ok. The digestive system seems to be working. No issues with the respiratory system. Functional medicine looks at everything together at once.
“Your labs are normal. You must be fine.”
“But I don’t feel fine!!!”
Three Key Differences: Functional v. Traditional
While there are several differences, some philosophical and others tactical, between functional and traditional medical paradigms, I want to highlight 3 of these to you to solidify your understanding.
1. Asking different (better?) questions.
As I mentioned above, functional medicine asks many more “why” questions than traditional medicine. I am going to try to continue to go upstream in the process of your disease to get to the root cause of your illness. In my mind, that means that I have the potential to actually FIX the dysfunction rather than simply masking your symptoms. I want to go beyond symptom relief.
2. Understanding DNA loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger.
As a functional medicine doctor, I probably place a lot more emphasis on your environment than someone who is practicing more conventional medicine.
We are born with our DNA, but environmental factors such as nutrition, exposures to toxins, how we move or don’t move our body, the health of our relationships, and our spiritual wellness all factor into how our genes show up in our lives (how those genes are expressed).
When you and I talk about your symptoms, I’m going to coach you for ways that you can improve your symptoms and heal your body by modifying some of these lifestyle factors. This allows you to take control of your own health destiny!
3. Finding the most natural cure.
Once I have discovered the root cause for a patient’s imbalance in his life, I tend to start to modify that through natural therapies, using pharmaceuticals more selectively.
We have all seen the never-ending cycle of prescription on top of prescription, the next pill prescribed to take care of some of the side effects of the previous one. Rather than offer a pill for each ill, functional medicine providers seek to find the most natural way to restore balance.
Some patients might need to increase their consumption of certain food groups. Others may benefit from beginning a gentle exercise routine. Infrared sauna therapy can help the body detoxify. Supplementation might play a role if there are absorption issues in the gut. Sometimes biofeedback may be recommended to help the patient improve.
What’s to do next?
If you are having symptoms for which traditional medicine has not been able to offer you an acceptable solution perhaps it is time for a new approach.
There are a number of diagnoses that are elusive to a conventional approach. Some of these include mold illness, chronic Lyme disease, multiple chemical sensitivity. Mast cell activation syndrome, heavy metal exposure, gut dysbiosis, and mitochondrial and adrenal dysfunction. Figuring out the underlying cause to your symptom sometimes requires testing beyond just the standard labs your doctor is accustomed to ordering.
If you would like a physician to work with you to dive deep into your issues and guide you to wellness, call our office at 317-300-4091, and we can get you started.
Hey, I wanna chat with you today about three main differences between conventional medicine and functional medicine and why that makes a difference in your life today.
Hey guys. Dr. Dee here from Alpha Omega Wellness. Listen, I wanna just chat with you a little bit because there’s a lot of misconceptions, uh, out there about functional medicine. I run into, uh, physicians who really aren’t sure what functional medicine is. And so I want to, I want to explain that to you today so you can just really kind of understand the pros and cons of, of both approaches. But let me just ask you this, have you ever had a situation in your life where something was going wrong, right? Let’s say it’s a plumbing issue and you got a little leak and you figure like, well, I just gotta, I gotta fix the leak because it’s 10 o’clock at night and I’m ready to go to bed. And so you get the, now I’m not a plumber, so I don’t know about any of this, but you get a wrench, I think it’s called, I’m a doctor.
So you get a wrench and you just, you just tighten up the connection a little bit and it stops stripping and you’re like, oh, well look at me. I’m a superstar. That’s how I would feel anyway, but then a week or two later it, it’s dripping again. And so this time you tighten it up a little bit more. And I don’t know, you, you grab like some duct tape and you wrap it around there cuz I’ve been told duct tape fixes everything. And so eventually though you know where this is going, you’ve been there, right? Eventually this becomes a bigger and bigger problem. Or maybe it was a different plumbing problem, it was a clogged drain and you, you use the plunger and it worked. But things just start, eventually it becomes a huge problem. And so I think if you’ve ever experienced that, you can kind of understand what I’m gonna share with you the difference between a conventional approach to your health and a more functional medicine approach to your health.
And listen, I’ve, I am an allopathic trained physician. I am a medical doctor. I’ve been an ER doctor for 20 plus years. And so I’m not throwing conventional medicine under the bus at all. But I do think that it’s important that we understand that there are some key differences here. The first difference that I see between functional medicine, conventional medicine is functional medicine is a specialty that asks why. So what’s that mean? It means functional medicine doctors really try to get to the root cause of what’s going on with your health. You know, a lot of times we’ll see a conventional doctor and maybe we describe what’s going on with us and we get a diagnosis, right? If you get nausea and headache, throbbing headache, maybe some vision changes, you vomit, you lay down and it gets better. The doctor’s like, oh, you have a migraine, here’s the medicine for your migraine.
And that’s great, but it does not dial back to that root cause of like, why did that happen to begin with? Functional medicine is gonna look at why that is, try to get to the root issue. The second way in which I think that functional medicine differs from conventional medicine is this idea that DNA loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger. Now what do I mean by that? We all have genes, right? 23 pairs of chromosomes and that determines, you know, our height and sometimes our weight and just different health issues. But functional medicine really understands that our environment, so not just that I live in Indianapolis and the United States, but literally like how I’m moving my body, how I’m sleeping, what I’m consuming or not consuming, that plays a huge role in how those genes get expressed. And so whereas conventional medicine appreciates that healthy lifestyle is important, I don’t think it places us as mu as much emphasis on that and doesn’t really see how much those lifestyle issues contribute to the health issues that you’re having today.
Now the third way in which I think that conventional medicine and functional medicine differ is functional medicine because it dialed back to the root cause is going to look at this, your symptoms and say, okay, what healthy natural ways can we approach this? Maybe through supplements, maybe sometimes through pharmaceuticals, maybe through lifestyle changes to give your body what it needs to be healthy. Because see, I believe, I believe that God created us to be healthy, but then when we start consuming things that don’t bless our body and we have these pollutants, we have these pesticides and plasticizers and obesogens, all these things in our environment, they’re working against our health. So the functional medicine approach is gonna be more like, okay, let’s take a look and see what’s going on in your environment. How can we change that to basically biohack your DNA to basically biohack your life so that your body is able to heal from previous issues and you’re able to not just be healthy but actually flourish.
So listen, if you take that conventional approach, like it’s gonna be pretty good, right? You’re gonna have minimal symptoms and, and you’ll get some diagnoses. But in the end, I think a lot of times, you know, one pharmaceutical begets another pharmaceutical that begets another pharmaceutical. I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know. Like you’ve seen this, here’s a prescription for this symptom, here’s a second prescription for this symptom and here’s a third prescription for the side effects of the first two prescriptions. So if you continue along that, I think over time your health kind of gradually continues to deteriorate because no one’s actually guiding you to the root issues of what’s going on in your life. No one’s actually coaching you for how changing this in your diet and this in your lifestyle and getting rid of these things that are harming your body.
No, really no one is really actually coaching you on those things. So I believe that over time there’s gonna be this gap between where you are and where you could be if you adopted more of that functional medicine lifestyle approach. So listen, I want you to find health and wellness. And so I’m gonna encourage you to get with a functional medicine physician. If you’re in the Indianapolis area at Alpha Omega Wellness, like we’d be happy to take care of you. Our website’s, alpha omega wellness.com, we do a membership model for healthcare. So if you can just, you can just see us as like your primary care doctor and that is a a way in which we’re gonna take care of your healthcare needs and we’re gonna do it through that functional medicine lens. But if you’ve got like these symptoms that no one can explain, you’ve been dealing with things for years, you’re seeing your health continue to do this despite kind of that conventional approach, we can do that deep dive into functional medicine where you spend an hour and a half, two hours with your physician at your first visit and we really dive in to figure out what are the things that preceded your health issues?
What are the things that are still contributing to it? What’s maybe things that you’re not getting in your body that your body needs to be well? And what’s things that we need to eliminate? We can do that deep dive with you. Hey, listen, if this has been helpful to you, let me ask you to like and subscribe to this and please, if you really like it, share it with your friends. Because there’s a lot of knowledge deficit out there. People don’t understand what it takes to achieve wellness. And we just wanna walk that out with you. We wanna continue to bring you content every week so that we can just help you to actually not just have mediocre health but actually flourish and to do great. Listen, I love you guys. Remember ultimately I think that there’s really only one healer. That’s Jesus. Jesus’, brother James said in James one 17 that every good and perfect gift comes from above. And I think that that’s ultimately where our healing comes from. If you don’t have a relationship with him, I’m gonna encourage you to get that. We even have pastoral counselors on staff at our office that can really help you find that. So God bless you guys. Have a good day. I’ll see you next time.