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  • Writer's pictureBen Ciesinski

What is functional medicine?

When I first found out about my heart disease, I asked the cardiologist I was working with what my options were for improvement. What should I eat? Can I stop or reverse this? When do I check my cholesterol next? She told me the following things: no need to worry about your cholesterol at this point, you have heart disease. We just manage it.

Being the type of person I am, I didn't like that answer. I believe that we have a say in our health; we are not destined to a life of illness.

My next step was to find a functional doctor. Functional medicine is generally defined as that which searches for the root of a problem. In other words, finding out why something is happening, not just treating the symptoms.

People who live in the functional medicine space acknowledge the following things:

  • One must stay on top of the research. While humans don't change drastically from year to year or decade to decade, our environment does. Food trends, pesticides, food makeup (GMOs), etc, do change regularly. The food we were eating 50 or 100 years ago is not the same as what we are eating today. The oceans and dirt are different, for example.

  • Previously accepted medical standards may be incorrect. Regular, quality research will uncover new information. Ask questions and question the conventional.

  • There are solutions to the "unsolvable." I would hazard a guess that a large percentage of people who are familiar with functional medicine have had an abnormal health condition, (IE a healthy, "younger" person with a disease that is typically found among much older people (me) or someone who has seen many doctors and has more or less been told that there are no options outside of managing symptoms.)

Functional medicine is about optimal health; it is putting each individual human on their best path through research-based guidance. It is regular, in-depth blood testing and possibly genetic testing. It is understanding that everything in the body is related and that if one thing is drastically off, then other things are likely impacted.

If you are having trouble with some aspect of your wellness, consider someone in the functional space. In general, wellness coaches are going to fall into that category (shameless plug for me). But you have a wide range of medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, nurse practitioners, cardiologists, etc - all manner of medical professionals who can pursue functional medicine training. If you are looking for one, you can enter "functional doctor" in your search engine of choice, perhaps along with a location. The Institute for Functional Medicine also has a find a practitioner directory. If you are in NYC metro, I'll put in a plug for Dr. Frank Lipman at Eleven Eleven Wellness. That being said, many will help virtually, as that is the world in which we now live.

Two things to know if you pursue a functional doctor:

  1. Unfortunately, depending on where you live, your practitioner may or may not be covered by insurance. Be sure to ask that question, although it is most likely that your provider will share that information very early on in the conversation.

  2. It's not a bad idea to have a medical team if you are dealing with a health issue - that is to suggest a conventional doctor and a functional doctor. This really works well if the practitioner you had been seeing is open to a team approach, or just for practicality if your functional doctor isn't covered by insurance.

Lastly, if you are ever looking to understand your test results or seeking more information on something bothering you, add "functional medicine" to your search engine entry to see if anything comes up that is interesting. You may find solace in the options you have, especially if you are having a hard time with some aspect of your wellness. Don't give up! You can make a difference.

As a reminder, please speak with your medical provider before making any lifestyle changes. This is purely informational; it is not a recommendation or guidance on any topic related to the above. Please review the disclaimer page for more details.

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