Functional medicine is a whole person, patient-centered approach to health care that seeks to identify the underlying root cause of health conditions and disease. Functional medicine embraces the fact that your body has the innate ability to heal itself if given the proper environment for health restoration.
Even if you’re feeling great, exercising, and eating well, you can still benefit from a functional medicine approach, because no one is completely sheltered from physiologic stress in the form of genetics, toxic exposures, and the demands of modern life. Over time, these stressors overwhelm your body’s ability to compensate, and you will likely have a medical issue. At that point, the question becomes, “Do I want to simply alleviate the symptom(s) or do I want to fix it for good?”
Here is a really common example of a person everyone would consider “healthy”. A lean woman in her mid-30’s, active and eating well, has mild symptoms that have become her “new normal”. She barely even recognizes that she has been exhausted, irritable, and dealing with brain fog for a few years because the symptoms snuck up on her while she was working full time, taking care of kids, and trying to be a little bit of everything for everyone. She thinks it’s normal for a busy person in her stage of life, so she brushes it off.
From a common conventional medicine standpoint, this patient is “healthy” or “normal”. She might get a script for Prozac if she complains enough. From a functional medicine perspective, she has symptoms that could be related to a thyroid issue, insomnia, inadequate rest or stress management, vitamin or mineral deficiency, or a myriad of other underlying issues. The functional medicine perspective takes the time to tease out the details, find the root causes of the symptoms, and cure them - ideally before they become a full blown disease.
This example not only illustrates the differences between a conventional approach and a functional approach, but it also demonstrates how little niggling symptoms often get ignored until they snowball into something that is debilitating. The value of seeking a functional approach even if you feel okay is in its ability to stop that snowball while it’s small and easily managed.
Sometimes when you seek care from a functional medicine doctor, that doctor will become your main doctor, or even your primary care doctor. Other times, the functional medicine doctor will act more as a consultant. It depends on your own needs, the doctor’s way of practicing, and the financial arrangements of the medical practice.
At Table Health, we recommend that you keep your primary care physician when you work with us. Primary care physicians play an important role on your healthcare team. This is especially true if you want to use your medical insurance for annual routine health maintenance exams, if you have medical needs that require frequent prescription refills or after hours care, or if you need referrals for diagnostic testing or specialty care that will be covered by your insurance.
We believe that primary care physicians and functional medicine physicians can work together for your benefit. Primary care doctors are focused on helping you lower your risk of disease, by maintaining health blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, for example. Functional medicine physicians excel at helping you reach these health measures by identifying the underlying causes and using a natural, lifestyle-based, multidisciplinary approach to fixing the problems, often allowing you to reverse the disease process and get off your medication.
In other words, we don’t compete with primary care physicians but believe we play different, complementary roles. Certain individuals are a good fit for having only a primary care doctor. Others might want only a functional medicine doctor for their needs at this time. But for most people, having both types of physicians is the most advantageous long term health care situation, even if they are healthy.