Functional Medicine - What is it?

In reflection, for me a functional medicine approach was the key in my recovery. When I have spoken to people about what functional medicine is, I normally have a confused face looking back at me.

I discovered it through my many nights of reading books and articles to find solutions to my problems and symptoms. I came across a man called Dr Hyman, who nothing short of changed my life. Dr Hyman originally founded the Functional Medicine approach at the Cleveland Clinic in the United States and since then is a well respected figure in the health care industry and has written many books on the functional medicine approach and how people can integrate it into their life.

For more information on Dr Hyman:

Functional medicine is an ‘alternative’ approach to looking at the body, practitioners and doctors look at the body as an integrated system rather than in separate parts. It seeks to identify the root cause of the illness rather than just addressing the symptoms or in most cases suppressing the symptoms.

As generations go diseases are becoming far more complex and can be multi symptomatic. Functional medicine believes that normally these various symptoms are being creating from an imbalance or problem in one or more of the bodily symptoms such as the immune system, gastrointestinal system or endocrine system for example.

Once I had completed my research into this theory of medicine I went to seek a functional medicine practitioner, and it is amazing how quickly I found that person, as they say – seek and you shall find. Below I speak of my personal experience of using a Functional Medicine practitioner but I am sure other people have had various experiences of using one.

You have your first consultation, which for me was about an hour and a half. Prior to this I had to fill out a very large form about my medical history including any previous jabs I had, current medications I was on etc. This involved going through my whole medical history from birth, including if I was breast fed, bottle fed, how I was born ie naturally or caesarean, life event history, everything from tragedy’s to victories, everything was revealed. We then followed on to have a general discussion about my health up until that point. Functional medicine is all about the practitioner and patient having an active role in recovery, from personal experience it involves an element of trust.

We then went through all the current symptoms I had been having and what I was feeling. Your practitioner then recommends tests that should be completed on specific areas of the body based on the symptoms you have been having. Once I had completed all the tests we then waited for the results until my next consultation. At our next meeting we reviewed the results and this is where all my answers were revealed. To give some context when you do a stool sample of this kind it tests on a scale from 1-20 for example rather than when you complete one at a GP surgery they will test from 1-5 for example, hence for me why none of my problems showed up on normal GP tests.

You are then presented with the results and an explanation of them, which showed up where all my problems were and all the deficiencies and imbalances in my body – clever stuff! The practitioner then set out a supplement and diet plan. Firstly all the supplements I needed to be taking to get my body back up to the levels it needed to be. Secondly a restricted diet cutting out particular things due to me having a parasite in my gut and to get rid of the foods that my body was reacting to and making me and my gut sick such as dairy and gluten in my case. There may be other things added to your specific program but for me the above two elements were the most important.

Periodically every 3 – 6 months I would complete re-tests which would check how my body was reacting to the treatments and to see if my levels had increased, which they had, and with that my symptoms were slowly disappearing. Once the levels had got to a point they needed to be, my functional medicine plan did not stop there and that is one of the big aspects I have learnt. Functional medicine is also about environmental factors and life style changes (such as introducing meditation) so I integrated a functional medicine approach into my life to make lasting changes on my health.

Have any of my readers had the experience of using a Functional Medicine Doctor? Please share your experiences and the knowledge you have gained through the journey…

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