The term “Functional Medicine” is unfamiliar to most people. Though mainstream TV personalities like Dr. Oz have popularized many of the concepts of functional medicine, the idea can be vague and a little difficult to imagine. So exactly what is functional medicine and how can it benefit you? Jennifer Huddleston, PA-C, and the team at Thrive Wellness Center For Women in Glendale, California, take a patient-centered approach to women’s health and wellness and practice functional medicine. To learn more about functional medicine, call the Los Angeles office or book online today.
Functional medicine is a systems biology-based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease rather than simply treating the symptoms. Functional medicine takes a deeper dive into a person’s entire health history starting even before birth and looks at numerous impactful events along the timeline of life. Realizing this continuum, each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness and understanding those root causes, triggers and precipitating events can be the key to achieving better health.
Prior to your functional medicine consultation, you will be provided access to your own Living Matrix web portal. The Living Matrix is an on-line program where you will begin logging the many details of your life journey.
The Living Matrix documents your life story and all the bits of information about your journey are important. The extensive amount of information collected in The Living Matrix assists your Thrive practitioner in organizing and prioritizing each health issue discovered by documenting your thorough personal, family, social, emotional and medical history. The Matrix organizes what often seems to be unrelated issues into your complete story and helps your practitioner develop a comprehensive perspective to facilitate discussion of complex, chronic disease.
A diagnosis can be the result of multiple causes which may not be obvious at first glance. For example, thyroid disease can be caused by various factors, including inflammation. A cause such as inflammation may lead to different diagnoses like depression. A history of taking antibiotics can cause gut dysbiosis and in turn, negatively impact the body’s immune health. The exact expression of each cause can be a result of genetics, environment, and lifestyle, and only treatment plans that address the right cause can provide lasting benefits beyond conventional treatments.
Functional Medicine practitioners spend a lot more time with you compared to conventional medical providers. The initial consultation is spent exploring your detailed Living Matrix personal and family histories, the circumstances around your symptoms, and the treatments and experiences you may have had with other healthcare providers. This thorough consultation is the touchstone of the functional medicine approach. The initial functional medicine visit usually lasts about 60 to 90 minutes and includes lots of discussion to uncover the underlying causes of your health problems through careful history taking, a comprehensive physical examination, and laboratory testing.
Successful functional medicine treatment depends entirely on dedication and hard work. An honest commitment to your recommended plan is absolutely necessary in order to meet wellness goals. Once you and your Thrive practitioner have agreed to be equal partners in attaining your health goals, you will create a care plan, set wellness milestones, and commit to prescribed nutrition and lifestyle modifications. Your Thrive practitioner and functional nutrition coach will guide you through the implementation of your plan and schedule routine check-ins and coaching sessions which may be in-person, via telemedicine or secure text messaging.
Thrive wants you to become an empowered patient partner! We will also encourage you to continue your own education by reading, watching on-line webinars, listening to podcasts, trying out new recipes, a new exercise regimen, and even attending live events recommended by your team.
Functional medicine recognizes that people are genetically and biochemically unique and therefore when addressing chronic symptoms, we cannot be categorized. It is imperative to treat the unique person, not the disease. By understanding and addressing root causes of chronic conditions, functional medicine practitioners can develop treatment plans that support normal mechanisms and improve immune function. While prescription medications may be necessary, the functional medicine approach addresses root causes and can offer strategies to improve and, in many cases, reverse chronic conditions rather than simply masking symptoms with drugs.
Functional medicine recognizes the body’s capacity for self-regulation and regeneration via the dynamic balance of the body’s systems. For example, a healthy and robust interaction between the immune system and the gut microbiome is necessary to maintain the body’s healthy homeostasis. On the other hand, gut bacterial imbalances, a condition called dysbiosis, can dysregulate immune function and lead to chronic inflammatory response and auto-immune dysfunction. The functional medicine approach works to restore and strengthen the body’s existing intelligent design and function, on an individual level, so each unique body can balance and heal itself more efficiently and with the least interference.
The slogan “Food is Medicine” was originally coined by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine. Hippocrates believed that a wholesome diet formed the foundation of good health. Hippocrates exclaimed almost 2500 years ago “Leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can heal the patient with food!
We are all taught to “eat right” from early childhood. We learn the basic food groups in grade school and see the nutrition pyramid posted in our cafeterias and on materials provided about nutrition, everyone knows that fruits and veggies are good for us. But nutrition is much more complex than servings and pyramids.
Many people suffer from food sensitivities. For example, most people with Hashimoto’s disease have no idea that a gluten sensitivity might be the root of their thyroid dysfunction. Some people can not properly utilize folic acid and others may have drastic deficiencies of essential fatty acids and vitamin D. The standard American diet really doesn’t do much to improve significant conditions or defeciencies and it really isn’t designed to.
If you have chronic conditions, it may be hard to optimize your health unless you understand your specific nutritional needs. Some of this is discovered with specialized lab testing and can also be understood with the guidance of a functional nutritionist who can help you develop a balanced, nutrient rich plan that you will actually look forward to eating.
Functional medicine is guided by this underlying principle, food is medicine, and is the key to preventing nearly all the chronic diseases associated with obesity and aging.
Functional medicine is the brainchild of Dr. Jeffery Bland, a trail-blazing nutritional biochemist, who helped validate the specialty of evidence-based integrative and functional medicine. Functional medicine recommendations are deeply science based, data driven and peer reviewed. But despite academic validation, functional medicine oriented advanced diagnostic tests are rarely performed in conventional settings. Some routine testing, like chemistry and cholesterol panels, may be covered by insurance plans. Specialized diagnostic testing such as genomic profiles, micronutrient panels, GI-MAP and leaky gut assessments, advanced lipid, hormonal and adrenal testing may not be covered by health insurances even though these diagnostics are important in clarifying underlying causes and guiding your nutrition and treatment plans.
The reasons many insurances do not cover functional medicine diagnostic testing and treatment have a lot to do with the attitude that you are paying your insurance premiums for “sick care” not for “well care” and success has been historically measured as “tolerable illness” rather than attaining optimal wellness and vitality. Covered preventative services fall way short of helping patient attain optimal health and they provide minimal benefits at best.
This point of view certainly doesn’t make sense. Obviously, our healthcare system is broken. Changing the industry attitude away from treating disease symptoms rather than the causes, and striving to truly prevent and reverse disease, will require a huge paradigm shift in the administration of healthcare and that will take a while to accomplish.
Thrive Wellness is sensitive to the expense of functional medicine testing and treatment therefore practitioners only recommend advanced testing if it is both necessary and useful. Please reach out to a Thrive team member to discuss any questions you might have about functional medicine coverage and costs.
Simply alleviating symptoms with prescription medications sets a very low bar in our pursuit of wellness. As functional medicine expert Dr. Mark Hyman famously says – people don’t have a deficiency of Lipitor or Prozac. Drug deficiencies are not causing high cholesterol or depression. Rather shouldn’t we ask the questions that few conventional medical practitioners ask? What is causing the illness in the first place and what can we do to restore the normal function of the body and regain vitality? Functional medicine pursues those root causes involved with loss of function, revealing why a set of symptoms exist in the first place and why a person has a particular disease label. To eliminate disease is to achieve optimal health. To develop more and more designer drugs to manage disease symptoms rather than eliminate disease is to settle for just OK. Which future of medicine sounds best to you?
Thrive Wellness Center For Women is a gynecology and functional medicine practice and uses the patient-centered approach to medicine to help many conditions. You may benefit from functional medicine if you’re struggling with:
Thrive Wellness Center For Women provides care to women of all ages, including adolescent gynecology, and manages all aspects of women’s health. If you’re struggling with a health issue, the team at Thrive Wellness Center For Women can help.