What is Functional Medicine?

During the summer of 2009, I was a 29 year old new mom.  Well, I say “new”.  My daughter was a year and a half old.  But I still felt pretty new.  Can I say that I still feel pretty new?

During the summer of 2009, my post-natal anxiety hit its peak.  And that peak felt like the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but when it was erupting with lava and shaking rocks.  You get the picture.  It was scary and out of control.  

So I did what any good mother would do.  I saw my doctor.  And I love my (former) doctor and I think she’s a really great doctor. But she gave me the solution that I think most conventional doctors would have given me at the time: a prescription for Ativan. I still remember her words.  “We all feel down.  When I feel that way I get out and play with my kids and that brings me back up.  That doesn’t work for everyone.  That doesn’t seem to work for you.  So I think you should try this drug.”  I’m paraphrasing.  I thought, “What is WRONG with me?”  “Why doesn’t rolling around the floor with my kid work for me?”  I felt so lost and alone and anxious and sad.  I felt hopeless.  I remember thinking about an easy escape for about half a minute.  

I had anxiety about taking the anxiety meds.  They certainly have their place when needed, but I wasn’t so sure they were right for me.  I began researching and discovering how diet and exercise and other lifestyle choices might help me manage my feelings. Slowly, I began integrating some of these ideas in a haphazard way as I came across them in my research.  I also discovered some amazing wellness professionals who helped guide me on my path. Some of the things that really stuck with me and became part of my daily plan to keep anxiety at bay include: cutting out excess sugar, dairy, and gluten, practicing yoga and mindfulness, and supplementing with vitamin D, omega 3s, and magnesium.  When keeping to this routine, I have been able to feel quite emotionally balanced, overall.   

My therapist sometimes has me replay a situation that was a source of trauma or didn’t go the way I’d like.  I go back and reflect on how I wish it had gone.  This is where functional medicine comes in.  If I could go back and rewrite the scene with my doctor back in 2009, I would have loved for her to say something like, “Let’s get to the root of what is causing this irrational anxiety.”  “What’s your diet like?” “Do you have an exercise routine?”  “Let’s do some testing to see if you are missing any micronutrients.”  “I’d love to connect you with this holistic health coach I know and trust.  She can support you while we implement some changes in your life.” These are the things a functional medicine practitioner might say.

Functional medicine practitioners are medical doctors who use a mix of conventional and non-conventional modalities to prevent, manage, and get to the root cause of complex chronic health issues.  They have been trained in conventional medicine, but they look at the person as a whole and at body systems as related and working together.

I feel so lucky that I have now found a functional medicine practitioner who asks these questions.  Who looks at me holistically, and thinks critically to find solutions that treat the whole person and the root cause of any diseases that may occur.  

I have found success in integrating conventional medicine when needed.  Conventional or Western medicine has been so successful in so many areas of medicine.  For example, it is great in an emergency situation.  It is important in stopping infectious diseases, or when radiology or surgery is required for treatment.  When I needed a c-section because my daughter was breech or when my son needed surgery for his cleft lip, conventional medicine was necessary and welcomed.

But when it comes to preventative care and other non-emergency medical issues or chronic conditions, conventional medicine’s tendency to suppress symptoms and ignore the root cause doesn’t really work for me.  Or for most people.  I don’t want to just take a pill to help me deal with my anxiety for the rest of my life. I want to find out the why as well as the what and the how.  Figuring out the WHY can help me find the right path towards HOW to truly heal.  This is the beauty of functional medicine.

And I love that functional medicine practitioners have a whole toolbox of solutions to try.  They can perform functional tests to help figure out the root of the problem.  And they use a wide range of modalities to help guide and support our bodies, minds, and spirits through the healing process, working toward preventing, managing, and treating the root causes of dis-ease.  Welvil is here to help you find the right functional medicine practitioners and complimentary wellness professionals that can help you on your healing path.  We are so glad you’re here!