Please picture your ideal care provider. Would she take the time to get to the root cause of what is bothering you instead of just prescribing a medication to treat your symptoms? Would she meet with you for an hour or two and listen closely to the details of your health issues because your health history and symptoms are interconnected and everything is a clue to your present state of health or disease? Would she help you to make changes to your diet and to manage your stress? Is she knowledgeable enough to help you to identify any food sensitivities, eliminate toxins and advise you to take appropriate supplements if needed? Does she understand the differences between “optimal range” lab values versus “in the normal range” lab values? Does she know how to prescribe bioidentical hormones? Would you feel you are in a healing partnership, working together to help you get well and stay healthy instead of a hierarchical relationship?
If this description interests you, then I encourage you to find a functional medicine practitioner who is passionate about getting to the root cause of your symptoms. Many functional medicine providers, in addition to being licensed medical doctors or nurse practitioners, have completed the Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) training program through the premier Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). The Institute for Functional Medicine is a non-profit organization that is accredited by the Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) and is dedicated to educating physicians and other health care practitioners in Functional Medicine at Green Bay. There are approximately 1,000 providers in the U.S. who have completed AFMCP training.
Functional medicine is needed because more people are suffering from complex, interconnected illnesses that are in part lifestyle-driven. Our current health care system is most successful at treating trauma and acute illnesses, and doctors are trained to prescribe drugs and/or surgery to treat the immediate problem or symptom. This acute care approach does not work well for preventing and treating the more complex, chronic health issues and does not allow for differences in patient’s lifestyles, genetics, environment and toxic exposures. A large gap exists between applying new scientific research and care delivered in medical practices today. Many providers today do not have the time in their schedule and are not trained at assessing the causes of underlying chronic disease and how to effectively use strategies such as lifestyle interventions to treat and prevent disease.
Functional medicine is what medicine should look like today. It’s a different, innovative, comprehensive approach to health care that emphasizes prevention and discovery of the underlying causes of illness as opposed to treating only symptoms. Functional medicine providers do not take a traditional disease-centered approach, but instead practice a more patient-centered approach encompassing the whole person and not a specific set of symptoms. Conventional medicine often focuses on the diagnosis of a disease and prescribing a drug for that disease — a one size fits all type model following established guidelines and protocols.
Here are some questions that you may wish to ask a practitioner who practices functional medicine:
- Where did you receive your training?
- How would you describe what you do?
- What kind of experience do you have in treating my type of problem or condition?
- Do you use laboratory tests (urine, stool, saliva and/or blood) to help make a diagnosis and/or what other assessment tools do you use?
- What are the main therapies that you use? Dietary? Herbal? Nutritional Supplements? Chiropractic adjustments? Hormone replacement therapy? Prescriptive medications?
- What costs are involved? Do you take or submit to insurance?
Finding the right provider that best fits your needs can be a challenge. You may need a provider who is skilled at functional medicine and can also prescribe medications if needed. A functional medicine provider will treat you uniquely as ultimately what causes illness in one person is not the same for another, and treatment will be different for both. Seek care from a functional medicine provider who can find the root causes of your illness and create the best treatment plan for you.
Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, is the owner of Wise Woman Wellness, LLC, an innovative wellness center in De Pere. Mann is a board-certified women’s health nurse practitioner, NAMS-certified menopause practitioner and completed the IFM AFMCP course in 2011. She combines the best of conventional and functional medicine to treat women’s female, thyroid and adrenal imbalances. Join us at the upcoming educational seminar on “Hypothyroidism — Why Do I Still Feel Bad if My Lab Results are Normal?” Call 920-339-5252 to register.