Functional Medicine in a Nutshell
Lately the term functional medicine gets thrown around often. Most people think this is a form of alternative medicine, but are not entirely sure what it is composed of. Hopefully this article will bring everyone a little clarity to this area of medicine. In the majority of medical schools, future physicians are taught a black and white outlook on medicine. If the person has a certain collection of symptoms with test that fall outside a certain “normal” range then they have a certain diagnosis. From the beginning of medicine, I was taught to think in a different way. Although the black and white view was taught because all doctors need to know the diagnosis that corresponds to the lab findings and other test involved with certain disease processes, I was fortunate enough to go to a school that helped me see beyond the numbers and test. Once an intimate knowledge of traditional medicine was built as a solid foundation, my school taught me to see the patient…the whole patient. Many, many times, a person doesn’t fit in black and white boxes, they often fall in a gray area. This is the time when true diagnoses are made and the persons quality of life has the chance of improving. It was the beginning of my exposure and love of functional medicine.
In medicine, formulations leading to diagnosis has led to great advancement and huge triumphs in all fields. While these triumphs would not be possible without modern medicine and the black and white point of view, other areas have suffered. We (everyone in healthcare) created the boxes that patients have to fit in. If someone doesn’t fit perfectly but close, then they go in the box. Why does this happen in medicine? There are many reasons. One of the biggest influences is the insurance companies. Their reimbursement algorithm has a very specific list of treatments, medications and therapy for their associated diagnosis. If a patient doesn’t fit in one of their boxes, they don’t pay. This puts a huge restraint on physicians. Insurance companies also forced the box theory indirectly. With their very meager reimbursement scale (for those that don’t know, doctors are no longer rolling in money), they force doctors to treat as many people as they can so they can pay their overhead, malpractice, supplies, support staff, etc. Insurance companies are not the only ones at fault, many health care providers put themselves in a box either from lack of continuing education or lack of time to spend to thoroughly understand their patients. Functional medicine takes a lot of time and effort to do correctly, definitely not an option for an overextended medical office.
So now that we have talked around function medicine, lets dive into what it actually is about. The basis of this form of medicine is tackling the underlying cause of symptoms each patient displays. It also looks at the total person to figure out what is going on with them and how to treat them even though some test are within normal limits. It takes the entire body and environmental factors and looks at how each are interacting with each other to treat the whole patient, not just symptomatic care.
The best way to explain the difference between traditional medicine and functional medicine is to give an example that we see a lot. A 30 year old male tells us he has very low energy, moodiness, low libido, and works out without seeing much result. He has been to his primary care physician where they did blood work and everything was within the normal limits. The patient was put on an antidepressant and diagnosed with chronic depression. He has no improvement with any of his symptoms and is very upset. When he comes to us we look at his labs and after careful examination it is determined that while his testosterone level is within the normal range, he tested at level of a 70 year old male. The reference ranges for many things, including testosterone, have a range that is normal for a 70 year old man to a 16 year old kid. If you are 30 years old and have the testosterone level of a 70 year old, that is NOT okay. Even though depression can capture all of his symptoms, it doesn’t fit with his complete profile. Every body system affects all other systems…hormones are no different. He was put on a cocktail that was tailor made for his body to increase his testosterone without any testicular atrophy. After a month, he has increased energy, libido, he is dramatically less moody, and is seeing better results at the gym. Not only are his symptoms relieved, his quality of life skyrocketed.
I hope this helped to clear up any questions or confusion about functional medicine. I personally love this area and find it very gratifying to be able to make a real difference.
To schedule a functional consultation House-Call in the Palm Beach area
call our office at 561-214-3323
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Have a fantastic day!