We often talk about ways to stay motivated and achieve your goals despite the challenges of chronic illness here at Success Thang. But today we’re taking a new direction to look at how you can boost your health with functional medicine and drastically reduce – or even possibly eliminate – your symptoms.
What is functional medicine?
From the Institute for Functional Medicine, “Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach…functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms…Functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.”
So what does that mean? Basically, functional medicine doesn’t compartmentalize and treat symptoms. Instead, a functional health practitioner takes a holistic approach and sees everything happening to you as interrelated, even though it might not appear to be on the surface. For example, did you know that your fibromyalgia symptoms could be related to a gastrointestinal issue? Your functional health practitioner does! (And we’ll look more closely at that connection in upcoming posts.)
How is it different than conventional medicine?
Contrast this approach with that of a conventional doctor. Let’s say you went to the doc with chronic headaches or migraines. He or she would probably do some testing to be sure they weren’t caused by anything like a tumor and would possibly check your blood pressure and might even suggest a journal to eliminate the possibility of food triggers. In addition, you’d probably receive a prescription for an abortive, or if it was really bad, a daily preventative. But that might be as far as ‘solving’ the problem went. In reality, the prescription is really just treating the symptom – a band aid of sorts.
A functional health practitioner might suggest you see a chiropractor to rule out structural issues, or ask about your environment to determine if something like sensitivity to a chemical in your personal care products, or mold in that old fixer-upper you just bought could be the cause.
Hey! Stop picking on my doctor!
We would never in a million years suggest you stop seeing your physician. They are irreplaceable – particularly when it comes to acute illness. (You certainly wouldn’t go to a functional health practitioner with a broken arm, for example!)
Okay, so what is this functional practitioner actually going to do?
Don’t worry, they’re not going to waive crystals and chant or anything! A functional medicine practitioner will likely start by doing a comprehensive intake and evaluation. Picture your regular doctor’s form that asks about past diagnosis and current complaints on steroids! (Expect to significantly more time talking with your functional health specialist than you usually do with your doctor.)
Then he or she will likely do comprehensive testing as well – again on things that might seem totally unrelated to your main complaint. The practitioner will then look at all of the evidence and form a general game plan of how to improve your overall health and wellness instead of addressing just your symptoms. As areas of underlying dis-ease or malfunction are identified and corrected, symptoms often lessen or vanish.
As you can see, functional medicine takes a very different approach to chronic illness. In upcoming posts, we’ll be offering additional insights from the functional perspective that can help you manage your symptoms and get back to living your best life!