If you’re not familiar with the term functional medicine, it’s a delivery of healthcare that looks at the body from a perspective of systems and origins, not just symptoms and organs. You will see a spectrum of professional degrees adopting this manner of practice from MDs to chiros to dentists, psychiatrists, nutritionists, and PhDs.
While looking at the body as infinitely interconnected and an organism that is miraculously designed to heal, this style of practice may not be for you as a patient.
Here are 5 reasons to reconsider your initial appointment with a functional medicine practitioner. Buyer beware.
1. You will have to participate in your care.
Where modern medicine has had its success is also where it has its great failures. Modern medicine has been amazing with event-based health care like infections and trauma. The patient suffers from an event (infection, accident, etc), shows up to the facility, gets some treatment, goes home, and most likely gets better by not doing much other than resting.
Where modern medicine is getting exposed as a failure is with chronic illness. 86% of annual healthcare dollars are spent dealing with chronic illness, not event-based claims. What are the greatest causes of chronic illness? Lifestyle choices.
There’s no drug that creates nutritional sufficiency. There’s no drug that helps you achieve the required movement standards. There’s no drug that creates better relationships. There’s no drug that creates a cleaner air environment.
If you plan on visiting a functional medicine practitioner, you better plan on participating in lifestyle changes. You’re going to have to change the way you eat, move, and think, just to name a few. Only you can do that. The practitioner will guide and give directions but he or she can’t do the work for you.
2. You will have to invest.
The biggest oxy-moron I encounter in the delivery of functional medicine is that people want a provider that thinks differently, analyzes their issue differently, has trained differently, spends more time with the patient, yet expects payment for those services to be covered under traditional, cheap co-pays and quick office visit codes that insurances will accept.
It’s not that your doctor doesn’t want to accept insurance, it’s more than your insurance company doesn’t want to accept your doctor. A provider has shifted to functional medicine because they see the great holes in the standard of care. The provider is fed up with managing a disease and actually wants to see people get well. Insurance is also usually about 10-15 years behind what research has uncovered. It’s a very slow moving system. Especially if it’s government sponsored.
Standard of care is great for event based care but horrible for chronic disease care. Until the insurance industry gets hit by lowered profits, they aren’t going to change their model of care. Therefore your desire for different isn’t going to happen under the traditional 3rdparty payer model. Until government stops mandating insurance coverage for everyone, there’s no incentive to change.
Imagine if your had a product that the government forced everyone to purchase, regardless of quality and effectiveness. Would you strive to make it better?
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – R. Buckminster Fuller
You may think functional medicine is expensive but I dare you to compare the rates to those on a hospital or ambulance EOB. It’s perceived as expensive because you are paying directly instead of waiting for a 3rd party to pay. Just a reminder, you have most likely paid the 3rd party payer directly (your insurance company) plus deductibles and co-pays, way more than you would pay in direct payment to the provider.
What many people do is take advantage of tax savings by paying directly by using an HSA or HRA plan.
3. You Will Have to Unlearn and Relearn.
A top reason your provider has adopted functional medicine is that because ‘this is the way we have always done it’ wasn’t working. Suppressing symptoms never made anyone healthy. As a result, your provider then had to dive back into the books, spending hundreds, if not thousands of hours unlearning what their professional training taught them.
Something you may find in common amongst functional medicine providers is that they have a heart to teach. The hardest thing to teach is getting you as the patient to unlearn the decades of faulty health advice hammered into your head via your preferred media source.
As you unlearn media-induced health dogma, you will have to learn and adopt new practices and procedures. See #1.
4. You Will have To Trust A Process
Chronic illness doesn’t develop overnight and therefore doesn’t resolve overnight. The body is so amazing at adapting to the things we choose and experience that aren’t helpful, that we don’t often feel those negative effects until there’s a breaking point.
Often times when someone decides to see a functional medicine provider, their health has been in a steady decline. When that person takes action, it’s not an immediate U-turn into health. There’s an application of the brakes to slow the process down, then the actual U-turn, then the drive back up the street.
Many people have brakes so badly worn that the deceleration is nothing more than a coast until the person can turn safely.
Where people give up on the process is that they have U-turned and driven back up the street to the point that they entered the office, feeling like there hasn’t been a change, then they stop the process. I’ve seen it enough, that those that stick with the process and get past that ‘I don’t think this is working’ point, finally have the break through that they have desired.
Too many people watch a 60-minute television show with incredible changes by people and expect their changed to occur in a 60-minute time frame. It can take months to years, depending on how sick the person is.
5. You Will Constantly Self Examine.
Where functional medicine greatly differs from traditional medicine is that in functional medicine, life experience is not discounted.
A physical symptom can be caused by and/or exacerbated by emotional trauma. Emotional imbalance can be caused by and/or exacerbated by physical means. They cannot be separated. If a doctor discounts any connection, most likely they have no way of connecting those dots to help your situation. There-in lies the essence of the training of functional medicine.
It’s looking at the non-obvious and connecting those dots. Where the problem surfaces are often times not where the problems reside, but a compensation of a multi-layered problem. There are rarely separate issues going on but a myriad of expressions of the same issue.
Therefore self-examination is critical and essential to your journey. That argument, that long car ride, or that movie ending may trigger a reaction in the body that subconsciously elicits a reaction that may leave clues into your root cause of dysfunction. And in order to heal, you may have to confront an uncomfortable situation, offer forgiveness to someone else or even yourself, and kill some lies that you have been telling yourself for a long time.
You may read through these 5 reasons not to see a functional medicine practitioner and think, I can’t do those things. But before you say you can’t, are you really saying you won’t.
You won’t budget time or resources to create the consistency of action into doing or obtaining the activity or object in question.
It’s fine. I’d rather hear an ‘I won’t’ over an ‘I can’t’ any day. Saying, I won’t, is a more honest answer and being honest with yourself is sometimes the first step in your health journey.