When I was a senior in college, many years ago, I discovered that I was suffering from an inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative proctitis. Without a cure, I was told I would have periods of remission and flare-ups and that I should expect to be on medication on and off for the rest of my life.
At that time, while disappointed to hear this would be ongoing, I was happy to know there was at least medication that could help me when my symptoms began to flare.
For the next many years, it went just as the doctor had said. I would be going along with life like nothing was wrong and then BAM! the symptoms would strike leaving me feeling tired, afraid to go out for fear of being too far from a bathroom, bloated and other things I am sure you would rather not read about.
While I did not like feeling this way, I resigned myself to the fact that there was no cure and this would just be a way of life for me. Medicine would help, but eventually the symptoms would return.
And then one day, that all changed. The day I walked into the office of someone who was practicing functional medicine.
For those of you not familiar with functional medicine, The Institute of Functional Medicine website describes it as “a systems biology–based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. Each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness.”
Over the past few years, I have also been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease and reynauds syndrome. Like ulcerative proctitis, these are both autoimmune diseases without a cure.
Instead of putting a bandaid on these conditions and merely addressing the symptoms, functional medicine believes in addressing the root cause. Why is this happening to my body? What is causing the inflammation? What is making my body react this way?
Functional medicine is not anti-medication. If you need medicine, it will be prescribed. But I have found, since beginning my journey with functional medicine – that I am able to live a normal lifestyle, symptom-free simply by visiting my doctor regularly, having routine bloodwork done, altering my diet and taking supplements.
Whether you suffer from any physical ailments or not, I highly recommend giving functional medicine a try. For me, the results have been phenomenal. I have more energy, I no longer suffer from brain fog, my illnesses are in remission, my bloating is gone, and more.
If you are considering giving functional medicine a shot, here is a run down of what to expect.
- Expect to fill out a crazy amount of paperwork answering some questions you may never have been asked before.
- Be prepared for bloodwork. Lots and lots of bloodwork. As the goal is to get to the root of the problem, they need to see what is going on with your body. Usually, they will test CBC, thyroid, hormones (depending on age), vitamin levels, food sensitivities and/or allergies, kidney and liver function and more. Your tests are usually tailored to the symptoms you are presenting.
- After your initial appointment and bloodwork is back from the lab, the practitioner will usually spend time going over all of the results with you and coming up with a plan to get you to your optimal health. This is one of the many things I absolutely love about functional medicine. I have never felt rushed when I have been in an appointment. There is ample amount of time scheduled to go over all of your questions and results.
- Plan to come back frequently, especially in the first year. I am in the habit of having bloodwork done every few months to see how my body is doing and to adjust any supplements or remove foods as necessary.
- Expect to feel better. If you stick to the plan you and your health care provider come up with, the results may amaze you. You may find yourself feeling better than you ever have before.
I have learned over the years that I suffered from a long list of food sensitivities and vitamin deficiencies. I even had some food allergies that I had been unaware of. Removing foods from my diet temporarily (and some permanently), taking supplements and working out regularly have all contributed to my autoimmune diseases going into remission and the overall feeling of wellness that I am now experiencing.
Also, I feel that I would be remiss to not point out that as functional medicine is increasing in popularity, you may not be able to get in to see the doctor right away. If they can’t get you in for awhile – don’t be discouraged. Make the appointment anyway. It will be well worth the wait. Possibly even life-changing.
I know for me it has been.