Functional medicine did more than creep up on me, it filled me with hope and optimism for the chance to feel well again. It was a crater sized hole left by conventional office visits. You know the ones, a review of the nearly normal routine labs in 5 minute appointments ending without answers. I needed to know why my body felt like it was betraying me but also how to stop it. Symptoms started out as quirky but turned quickly into malfunction. It’s concerning, but no I don’t need anxiety medication or antidepressants (to be clear I’m not against them). My inquiry for help wasn’t make it duller, it was make it stop or at least let’s try to find some solutions.
Heyyyy physicians (said in cheerleader voice) your 5 minute office visit billed as 20 has impacted the type of care people are seeking. It’s allowed functional medicine and imposters to enter the chat. This movement of health coaches, guru’s, and influencers not only have people (read: me) tossing their drug store skin care, and buying organic for the wrong reasons but also chomping down supplements from cherry picked studies. My personal journey was more about Food as Medicine except it didn’t turn out to be what I hoped. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t fix it all and for some of these practitioners that’s what they promise.
To be clear, I’m no more anti Holistic Health than I am anti vax. I love the idea of a better system such as Functional Medicine working to see us as whole humans rather than sections. I believe treating my hip joint without considering my spine or kinetic chain won’t give us (me and you Doc, me and you) the full picture. I’m looking at you Rothman (she’s savage). I believe if you refer a person with a uterus to cardiology without also considering their hormones the answer could be missed. I didn’t go to medical school, but modern medicine has research supporting these considerations shouldn’t be separated. That’s not how the human body works so that’s certainly not how we can get it diagnosed and treated. Why does our medical system operate as if we are already in pieces?
This is the philosophy of Functional Medicine and I like its theory. However, in my case and many that I’ve read about, yes I’m talking anecdotally, it falls very short on outcomes. Its trash talk is such a fantastic game it scores high on hope and optimism. I was surprised what a positive effect these two things had on me. I shouldn’t have been because positive emotions have plenty of evidence based studies proving their health benefits.
In my case, what Functional Folks did different was spend time validating how I was feeling. The visits are on average an hour with lots of affirmative head nodding that my funky feeling body does have something real going on — and they can fix it. Give me all the pixie dust cause I feel like shit. Looking back now it wasn’t quite used car sales pitchy, it was NEW car sales pitchy and I was here for the shine.
Their definition of lab normals are widened therefore expanding possible diagnosis options. Many of those diagnosis aren’t considered real to conventional medicine (I see you leaky gut and adrenal fatigue). However these practitioner voices are loud and mighty so when you start to do your research (she’s savage again) you find an arsenal of blogs, books, places to click, free webinars and starter kits of cleanses. Feeling so terrible for so long lead me to believe I had little to lose so I immersed myself in a bath of sweet smelling confirmation bias. It truthfully felt wonderful to float here for a while. Some days I felt 50% better just by hearing these symptoms could be reversed. Feeling unwell has tremendous heaviness.
There’ve been no lasting effects from any of my attempts at Functional Medicine treatment. There’ve been some things that seemed to move the needle slightly or temporarily, but I never felt recovered. Some of what I’ve learned has been useful such as cooking methods and proper handling of essential oils. What often helped and still helps is my meditation practice which I started over 24 years ago during massage and bodywork training.
I’ll close with two large assumptions that certainly need expanding on my part. One is I believe Functional Medicine is a great philosophy with no clear path to the health outcomes it promises. That doesn’t mean some won’t feel better. I sometimes felt better, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Secondly it seems to me the 5 minute office visit cracked the foundation of conventional medicine opening the door to functional medicine which has been a segue to vaccine hesitancy. It lead people to take their personal health, and that of their families, into their own hands – and I can’t blame them. However this has been a tributary that I believe leaked into Covid 19 misunderstanding and disinformation (yes, I know, giant leap) which has been harmful and taken an exceptional toll on our health in nearly insurmountable ways.
I’ll try to channel the hope and optimism I felt from Functional Medicine that we can recover both physically and mentally through evolving dialogue.