As many of my patients know, I run a busy chiropractic office in Austin, Texas… but I also have a thriving Functional Medicine practice that allows me to consult with and help people all over the US and abroad.
Still, many of my you have been asking me questions surrounding functional medicine and what it entails.
My philosophy to health is pretty simple: Move Well, Eat Healthy and Cultivate Happiness.
As a chiropractor, my goal is to make sure that your spine is healthy, your joints are mobile and you have no physical limitations in movement. Functional Medicine allows me to address the other 2 components: eating well and cultivating happiness.
In this article, I’d like to discuss my approach and how it works.
Conventional medicine has a doctor for every part of your body. There are cardiologists for your heart, gastroenterologists for the digestive system, neurologists for the brain and nervous system, podiatrists for your feet, and ophthalmologists for your eyes.
Due to specialization, conventional medicine often focuses on individual body systems, rather than trying to understand the whole person and ultimately that individuals underlying causes of disease and chronic illness.
In light of this, symptoms are used to name a disease and find a corresponding drug. That’s typically your treatment.
- High blood pressure gets you blood pressure lowering pills.
- High cholesterol, gets you cholesterol lowering pills.
- Infections of any kind almost always get you antiobiotics
- Imbalanced hormones, gets you hormone replacement therapy.
- Etc. Etc. Etc.
Basically, your symptoms are treated with no regard for the “cause”.
In functional medicine, the goal is to view your body as an interconnected whole, within a larger environment.
In other words, your health is the sum of all nongenetic (your external environment) and genetic (internal environment) exposures in your lifetime, starting from the moment of conception to death. It encompasses the food we eat, the air we breathe, social interactions, lifestyle choices and inherent metabolic and cellular activity.
Functional Medicine doctors recognize that in order to treat one part of the body, all other parts must also be considered. This breaks apart artificial divisions of the body.
What Functional Medicine Addresses
I have a hierarchy of importance for which factors to address when starting with a patient:
- Diet, Lifestyle and Environment.
- Nutrient imbalance, gut and HPA-axis
- Cellular Dysfunction, Toxic Burden, Hormone Imbalance
- Chronic Infections and Immune Dysregulation
- Treating symptoms for diseases that cannot be fixed
Diet, Lifestyle and Environment
As a good rule, any doctor interested in improving health should begin with diet, lifestyle and environment. It is what it is and there’s no way to self-medicate, supplement or artificially create what life requires.
In my experience, diet, lifestyle and environment have the potential of addressing 30-40% of all health problems! Click to tweet
Nutrient Imbalances, Gut Infections or Dysbiosis and HPA-axis
There are two reasons why we address this next:
First, these factors are often at the root of, or at least strong contributors, of other pathologies such as hormone imbalances (Low T, Thyroid problems, PCOS, etc), cellular dysfunction (Energy balance, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Weight) and immune dysregulation (autoimmune disease, cancer, arthritis, tissue repair).
Second, even if there are other problems occurring, this will lead to a significant clinical improvement towards helping any other condition.
I believe that up to 80% of health problems can be addressed by simply getting #1 (Diet, Lifestyle, Environment) and #2 (Nutrient imbalances, gut infections or dysbiosis and HPA-axis) in check.
Cellular Dysfunction, Toxic Burden, and Hormone Imbalance
In some cases we have to dig deeper. This involves assessing methylation, heavy metals, mold/biotoxins, impaired detoxification, thyroid, sex and metabolic hormones. Again, most of these problems can be addressed by improving diet, lifestyle, nutrient imbalances, gut health and stress.
Chronic Infection and Immune Dysregulation
Some patients have infections (Lyme, co-infections, parasites) that are pretty nasty and almost always require a more specialized and even integrated (Medical Prescription) approach.
How can you get started?
If you’re interested in a functional medicine consult, here’s my flow:
The consult has 2 parts: A 20 minute case review and an hour to 2 hour case review
STEP ONE: INITIAL 20 MINUTE CONSULT
After purchasing an initial consult, we will setup a time for us to meet over the phone or in person. During this 20-minute appointment, I will interview you to determine which lab tests to order for your Case Review, based on your chief complaints and your history.
This appointment has two purposes: to make sure that I have all of the information needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors affecting your health and to give you a head start on your treatment before you meet with me.
The exact lab testing ordered after the Initial Consult depends on your individual circumstances, but may include:
- A comprehensive blood chemistry panel. This is the single most efficient, effective and affordable tool for quickly evaluating your health. It screens for a wide range of conditions, including several types of anemia; gut, viral and bacterial infections; insulin resistance and hypoglycemia; liver and kidney issues; and thyroid and adrenal problems. It offers important clues for how to structure and focus your treatment to get the best results. It also provides a baseline of biomarkers that can be used to objectively track the progress of your treatment over time.
- Additional blood tests for specific conditions, such as high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease and gluten sensitivity.
- Advanced stool testing to screen for parasites, fungal overgrowth, bacterial infections, intestinal inflammation, dysbiosis and a deficiency of beneficial gut bacteria.
- Urine organic acids testing to screen for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, fungal overgrowth, problems metabolizing fat or carbohydrates, B-vitamin status, methylation issues, detoxification capacity, oxidative stress and neurotransmitter metabolism.
- Urine hormone testing for adrenal and sex hormone status.
You will also be provided the Case Review health history paperwork to complete.
This paperwork includes:
- A detailed health and medical history questionnaire
- A survey of your chief complaints and most important health goals
- An assessment of your most troubling and frequently experienced symptoms
- A diet survey and questionnaire
- A survey of your current supplements and medications
Once we’ve received your lab results and completed the Case Review paperwork, I will give you specific protocols to start working on before moving on to part 2: the case review consultation.
This typically occurs between 60 and 90 days after the Initial Consultation, because some of the labs we use take up to 8 weeks to deliver the results to us after receiving your sample.
STEP TWO: THE CASE REVIEW CONSULTATION
The Case Review Consultation is a 60-minute to 120-minute in-person, phone or video appointment.
Prior to the consultation, I will have reviewed the results from the labs that were ordered along with your Case Review paperwork, medical history, diet and supplement survey, assessment forms and relevant prior lab work. I will also create a Report of Findings, which is broken into three parts:
- A summary of the underlying patterns that are contributing to your symptoms.
- An outline of the suggested treatment plan, including dietary, supplement and lifestyle recommendations.
- Recommendations for further testing (this will typically be minimal, if necessary at all, because of the completeness of the Case Review process)
During this visit, I will present the Report of Findings as well as your treatment plan. I will also review all of your test results with you and answer any questions you have about the findings or the treatment plan.