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The Difference Between Functional Medicine and ‘Regular’ Medical Care

Have you had problems focusing or have more brain fog?

Have you been feeling more tired and fatigued lately?

Has your energy declined and you’re feeling more stressed out?

Has your weight been slowly increasing despite no real change in your diet or activity level?

Have you been developing more gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas and bloating, stomach pain or a change in your regular bowel movements?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you are like many adults who are now experiencing the beginning signs of declining health.  Your body is trying to tell you something and it is up to you to start paying attention. Unfortunately, if you go to conventional medicine doctors, they are likely to give you responses such as:

“You are just getting older.”

“You need to sleep more.”

“It’s your diet.”

“Lose some weight.”

There may be some truth to these responses, but these suggestions are not enough.
That’s where functional medicine comes in. It explores chronic symptoms in a systemic way in order to find out what’s really going on.

What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is an approach to your health concerns that delves deep into understanding the root cause(s) of your problems; answering the question, WHY?  Gathering your complete history from your birth until present day, functional medicine explores your lifetime environmental exposures, prior medical conditions and treatments, injuries, daily habits, stressors and coping mechanisms, sleep patterns, and much more.

For instance, it looks at whether you are showing signs of nutritional deficiencies because of declining stomach acid, long-term use of anti-reflux medications and ineffective digestion. It checks whether you’re developing gut dysbiosis or leaky gut from years of antibiotic use, anti-inflammatory medications, and stress. It learns whether your hormones are out of balance or if you are displaying early signs of an autoimmune disease. It uncovers whether your chronic symptoms could be a sign of a more severe condition that has yet to be discovered because your yearly 20-minute health exam only offers basic lab tests, which are all “normal.”

How Is Functional Medicine Different Than “Regular” Medical Care?

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about solutions to these varying issues. Conventional medicine is organized into an organ-system approach. If you have a heart problem you see the cardiologist; a gut problem, the gastroenterologist; or a brain problem, the neurologist.

In contrast, the functional medicine doctor takes care of the person, not the body part. This systems biology approach of functional medicine utilizes the intricate interconnectedness of the human body to treat complex medical conditions. This is how we approach your health:

1. Advanced testing explores the pathophysiology of the body well beyond what routine testing can offer.

2. Using information gathered from your genetic profile, microbiome, hormone levels, nutrient status, toxin levels, and overall body inflammation, a personalized treatment plan is created.

3. Unlike conventional medicine which mostly treats your symptoms with pills (which later have their own side effects requiring more pills), functional medicine focuses on addressing your health with nutrition, diet and lifestyle, herbs, supplements and vitamins.

4. A medical partnership is created with a goal of optimizing your health; not just treating your disease or symptom.  Many patients actually no longer need to take their medications, as the underlying problem(s) have been corrected using a functional medicine protocol.

Who Am I? 

As a board-certified internal medicine physician trained locally at Georgetown University School of Medicine, I have been practicing medicine since 2000. I spent many years with a particular focus on bariatric medicine/preventive medicine and more recently, on functional medicine.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, I was confronted with my own health challenges. I began to explore alternative approaches that could (1) answer the question “why” and (2) help me begin the healing process.  Although I did not leave conventional medicine entirely, I gained a greater appreciation for my condition by using functional medicine and I continue to implement healthy living practices with my family.

I now fully integrate this methodology into my current medical practice, providing personalized, predictive, participatory, and preventive care to my patients.

If what has been discussed above resonates with you, I encourage you to complete the readiness questionnaire to see whether you are prepared to begin your health journey toward optimal wellness.

 

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