Functional Medicine – The Medicine You've Been Searching For by Lisa M. Vasile, MSN, ANP
Imagine a Health Care Provider (HCP) truly listening to you. Listening to ALL the symptoms you are experiencing, what you've tried to do to make it better or what makes it worse. Listening to your concerns for what this means in your day to day life (missing family events, work, sleep, joy, fear, financial loss, etc). Listening to your intuition of what you might believe is connected to your symptoms. Listening and validating your dedication to prevent further complications or to not "just take a pill for the ill".
Imagine a HCP asking you about your childhood events (physical, emotional, illnesses, caregiver relationships, medications- even over the counter ones - and diet). And imagine them going further to ask about your adolescence and adulthood and asking you how all of this affected you in health and emotions.
Imagine your HCP asking what you typically eat or commending you for adding a supplement or doing a little research on your condition/symptom?
Imagine your HCP asking you about your daily bowel, sleep, and relaxation habits. And throughout your discussion they ask about your daily focus, concentration, mood, happiness, and relationships at home and work.
Imagine this same practitioner working with you to figure out why the body is in dis-ease (believing that a headache is not a deficiency of Ibuprofen, high cholesterol is not a deficiency of statins and constipation is not a deficiency of Mirilax).
These HCPs do exist. We are Functional Medicine (FM) Practitioners who utilize years of traditional medical training and cutting edge science for a whole-body & root cause approach to healing.
Being (and staying) healthy is not just absence of illness. Being healthy is feeling vibrant, having energy, feeling happy, and sleeping and pooping without the aid of pills. Being healthy is reversal of chronic conditions – not taking a medication that helps to take away a symptom or slow the trajectory of a disease.
In FM we work to support the body to “Function” optimally with a step by step whole body approach to "peel the onion" of imbalances in the body as we build a stronger body. We listen to your unique story, symptoms and share the inter-connected clues to unravel and solve your health puzzle.
In traditional medicine a patient has a yearly physical. These physicals typically include weight, vital signs and quick physical exam. There is limited discussion (if any) on diet, lifestyle, stress, relationships or sleep. Unless there are blatant ‘abnormalities’ (elevated weight, blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, etc) you are deemed “healthy”. There my 4-5 specific tests ordered. These tests have a "normal range". If all the labs are in this range your tests are deemed “normal”. Occasionally the results might be "slightly out of range" so the patient is told to follow up sooner than a year – but unfortunately – they are rarely offered much guidance to bring these back into ‘normal’. If a patient came to their physical with complaints (ie: ‘so tired’) the HCP will typically order additional tests. However if these are in the ‘normal’ range they are left with symptom relief recommendations (medication typically either by prescription or over the counter) and told to follow up in ___ months if things don't get better. Or the patient is sent to an “ologist” who specializes in one ‘area’ of the body (Rheumatologist, Gynecologist, Neurologist, Cardiologist, etc).
While FM also does lab testing, we aren’t looking at "normal" ranges and we don’t split the body into ‘areas’. Let's be honest the "normal” state of health on today’s society is not that of feeling fabulous every day and we are a sum of an interconnected complex body - we are not parts of a person. FM practices with the knowledge that the body “Functions” optimally when the lab values are in the optimal ranges. A few examples of this are of vitamin B12 'normal' range as 100-1100 yet optimal levels are 550-800, a TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone) 'normal' range as 0.5 - 4.5 yet optimal is less than 2.0 and a vitamin D level 'normal' level as 30-100 but optimal is 50-80.
Here is a typical FM success story:
37yo female with IBS, anemia, severe fatigue “all her life” and recently struggling with joint pain. Traditional testing was all “normal” – patient was on iron, Pepcid, miralax and or immodium depending on digestive symptom, naproxen twice a day, and caffeine. Pt had been offered anti-depressants multiple times from her PCP and her GI providers yet declined not feeling her symptoms were depression.
FM workup found SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), dysbiosis (gut microbiome imbalance), sensitivity to gluten and nuts, and severe nutrient deficiencies (B12, iron, D, magnesium and zinc) as well as a high ‘normal’ (not optimal) TSH level of 3.9 and positive Hashimotos markers (autoimmune thyroid).
Pt went on strict gluten free/nut free diet, treated SIBO and gut microbiome with medications and herbs, optimized digestion with digestive enzymes and better eating habits (sitting down, slow mindful eating/chewing and low fluids with meals), treated nutrient deficiencies with nutrient dense diet and targeted supplementation. She started doing 10 minutes of meditation on her iPhone daily using a free app as well as community acupuncture weekly.
Within 3 months 90% of her symptoms were gone. Within 6 months her thyroid autoimmune markers had dropped by 50% and her TSH was in the optimal level at 1.9. By 1 year her autoimmune markers were negative - yes she reversed an autoimmune condition!
Traditional medicine HPCs have 5 items in their ‘tool box’ typically focused on reducing or taking away a symptom or chronic condition. Their ‘tool box’ includes their exam, labwork, imaging, medication and surgery.
FM is changing the way we do medicine and the medicine we do with a bigger and better ‘tool box’. Although Functional Medicine providers also strive to reduce or take away a symptom – our focus is to optimize the function of the body to reduce, reverse and resolve the condition completely. We utilize a bigger and better tool box by adding in more thorough consultations and comprehensive testing as well as utilization of herbs, supplementation, intense diet and lifestyle support and recommendations for complementary modalities such as meditation, tapping, chiropractic, acupuncture, cranio-sacral, reiki, etc.
We treat any and all ages for any and all conditions. IBS (irritable bowel syndrome – diarrhea, constipation, reflux, bloating, etc), auto-immune conditions, brain fog, fatigue, hormone imbalances, pain, anemias, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure are all reversible. Yes. With time and lots of commitment; they are not just ‘treatable’ but they are reversible when reducing the ‘attack’ on the body (might be stress, foods, lifestyle, infections, chemicals or out of whack hormones) and optimizing gut microbiome (bacteria) and the ‘function’ of the body through supporting absorption of key nutrients and supporting the treatment of infections or chemical/toxin reduction.