FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE VISITS
Most people have never been to a functional medicine doctor before so these visits are often a new experience for many. These appointments are so comprehensive that Dr. Smith needs enough time to prepare for each person's initial visit - so we require that all patients submit the requested paperwork a week prior to their appointment so that Dr. Smith has sufficient time to review it.
Again, the first functional medicine visit is typically very comprehensive and focuses on understanding the patient's health history, lifestyle, environment, life stressors and underlying factors that may be contributing to their current health issues. These appointments generally last between 1-2 hours and the time is based on how long it takes to review all of the necessary factors for the individual.
Here's what patients can generally expect:
- A Detailed Health History:
- You will be asked about your current symptoms, past medical history, family history, lifestyle factors, stressors and more. Functional medicine practitioners often spend more time on this aspect compared to conventional medicine and most of our patients comment on how comprehensive this truly is - people often tell us things like "no doctor has ever spent this much time with me before".
- Lifestyle Assessment:
- Expect questions about your diet, exercise routine, sleep patterns, stress levels, bowel movements (yes, we talk about poop!) and other lifestyle factors. Functional medicine takes a holistic approach and looks at how these factors may be influencing your health. We also talk about what you have already tried if those things were successful or not.
- In-Depth Discussion:
- You will engage in a detailed discussion about your symptoms as Dr. Smith works get to the root cause of your health concerns. Again, we may explore many factors such as genetics, diet, environment, lifestyle, stress and more.
- Physical Examination:
- A physical examination may be conducted to assess your overall health. This could include standard measurements like blood pressure, heart rate and body mass index, as well as more specialized assessments based on your specific health concerns.
- Functional Testing:
- Functional medicine often involves specialized testing to assess various aspects of your health, such as hormone levels, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, gut health and much more. Sometime these are blood labs, finger sticks, urine samples, stool sample, etc. We don't complete all of these tests on every person but rather we let their symptoms and their history guide us to the right testing.
- These tests can provide additional insights into the underlying causes of your symptoms and also give a yardstick so we have something other than just symptom improvement/resolution to measure our progress.
- Conventional Lab Testing:
- We often use conventional lab testing as well (think CBC, comprehensive metabolic panel, A1c, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, Vitamin D levels, cholesterol panels, thyroid markers, etc.). The difference is that conventional medicine typically uses reference ranges that are based on the average values found in a large, supposedly "healthy" population. These conventional lab ranges are designed to identify outliers or extreme values that may indicate pathology (i.e. disease). The reference ranges are often quite broad and may have included many individuals with suboptimal health.
- So, what if we could identify trends happening in conventional lab testing BEFORE any pathology/disease is present by using a narrower range from healthy people? Wouldn't that almost be the definition of preventive care? That's exactly what we DO and we call it functional lab ranges. From there, we come up with a plan to help avoid those markers from ever drifting over to the side of pathology/disease.
- Functional Lab Ranges: In functional medicine, as mentioned, we tend to use narrower, more optimal ranges that are based on the concept of optimal health and function rather than just the absence of disease. Functional lab ranges take into account a more nuanced understanding of health and wellness, aiming to identify imbalances or deviations from the optimal range that may contribute to symptoms or indicate potential future health issues.
- Personalized Treatment Plan:
- Everything we do in our office through functional medicine is based on individualized care - nothing comes from protocols or canned treatment plans. Our treatment plans are based on the information gathered throughout the appointment as well as the result of the functional testing. Dr. Smith will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan which often includes specific dietary recommendations based on your personal situation, lifestyle changes, supplements, and more depending on your specific needs.
- Dr. Smith really wants patients to understand the why behind the recommendations she makes as she finds people often stick to the plan better when they know why the changes are necessary. You may receive information about the importance of nutrition, stress management, environmental toxicants and other lifestyle factors in maintaining or restoring health.
- Follow-Up Plan:
- Functional medicine can be an ongoing process for some. Typically once a person decides to visit a functional medicine provider, they have been through the wringer already and often have seen many different providers and specialists without resolution - or sometimes without even any improvement in their symptoms. Dr. Smith will likely discuss a follow-up plan, which may include regular check-ins, additional testing and other adjustments to your treatment plan based on your progress.
- Collaborative Approach:
- Functional medicine often involves a collaborative approach between the provider and the patient. You may be encouraged to take an active role in your health, implementing lifestyle changes and adhering to the treatment plan...some of these changes are usually only for a short period of time while others are hopefully a new way of life.
Dr. Smith understands that the approaches she uses through functional medicine might seem foreign to many people but she sees so many people that have been to conventional doctor after conventional doctor after conventional doctor...just hoping the next one has the magic bullet. But it's often not finding the right conventional doctor, it's about going a little unconventional and trying a new approach. Like the great and brilliant Albert Einstein once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Functional medicine will get you outside that box and give you the right tools to get feeling better!
Not every person looking for functional medicine is coming to us with ailments - in fact some health-conscious people, athletes and "bio-hackers" are just looking for something to help give them that little edge in competition or to KEEP them healthy as they age. We meet people where they are at so bring us your sick or healthy and we can always find something to improve upon!
It's important to note that the specific details of a functional medicine visit can vary based on the patient's individual needs. The emphasis is on addressing the root causes of health issues rather than just managing symptoms, and the process often requires active participation from the patient.