Further Down The Rabbit Hole
So, you've got a bunch of symptoms. A boat load. And it seems like some of them go together and some of them don't. You've got a couple diagnoses, Hashimoto's thyroid disease and IBS, but there's not any real treatments, not much is getting better and not everything you've got going on is addressed by these diagnoses.
You've jumped down the rabbit hole online, searching WebMD, Mayo Clinic and a bunch of other random websites trying to find some answers. There are medications, cleanses, diet advice and a little bit of black magic and you really can't figure out what works, what doesn't, what's safe and what is best for YOU.
And you feel alone. You've realized that there's something going on with your body, that isn't being explained or treated, yet no one seems to be willing to jump down into the rabbit hole with you and help you sort it all out. Where are all of the qualified health professionals? Where is doctor HOUSE?
Let me introduce you to Functional Medicine. Functional Medicine is a pretty new branch of medicine so you might not have heard of it. Not to mention the fact that many practitioners do not really prescribe medications, so it is not very popular in mainstream medicine as it doesn't follow the pharmaceutical model that western medicine is so attracted to.
The goal of functional medicine is to find the root cause of the patient's symptoms/conditions. Using the Hashimoto's thyroid I mentioned above as an example, the western medicine approach is to treat the result of your autoimmune disease on your thyroid. Whether it's hyper or hypo, the medications given simply balances out whatever your thyroid is not producing. What it won't do is find WHY the thyroid isn't functioning correctly, why it is inflamed and if there is something that can be done to get it back to fully functioning.
So what does functional medicine do differently?
It starts with an adequate health history. A really deep health history. A functional medicine practitioner might ask you how many times as a child you had ear infections and antibiotics. Why? Because how many rounds of antibiotics you've had in your lifetime has a massive effect on your gut health, and your gut health will affect almost everything in your body. They might ask you about traumatic events, big life changes, questions no other doctor has asked you before in order to establish what your body has been through.
Another big step is testing. Functional doctors have many different methods, but they often perform a large number of varying tests in order to get a big picture view of how your entire body is functioning. This can include lab tests like blood work and fecal testing, manual muscle testing for sensitivity/allergens, orthopedic testing, symptom questionnaires and more. While each physician may have a slightly different approach, the goal is always to find out basically which came first, the chicken or the egg? Meaning which thing you're experiencing is the domino that caused all the rest to fall.
Once the root cause, or original issues are discovered, the functional doctor can use many different means to be able to treat this main problem. Sometimes it is removing an interference like a food sensitivity, sometimes it's using supplements or even medications to treat an underlying infection; it could include acupuncture to create a proper balance where there wasn't one or even employ some psychological aspects to heal a problem stemming in the brain and neurology.
Now that the root cause is being addressed, a good functional medicine practitioner will monitor your progress and see if all the affected systems are healing properly or if some of the resulting symptoms will need a little extra treatment. They can use similar treatments used on the root cause to help the rest of the issues fall in line if the body needs some extra help. The fact is that once the root cause is addressed many "huge" problems simply resolve all on their own.
That being said, how do you know that a problem is actually fixed? Sure, a decrease in symptoms would indicate a good result, but this is not necessarily always a perfect measure of health. An FM doctor will often use the same tests used to find the root problem in the first place to re-evaluate and be sure the issue is completely resolved.
So how do you find a functional medicine doctor? There are a few ways. Using a maps app you are likely to be able to find a few different functional medicine doctors practicing in your area. You can also look around in local groups for recommendations, chances are someone you know has found one or knows someone who does.
I highly recommend calling a few different doctors and conducting a quick "interview" to be sure that they practice functional medicine full time and that their vibe matches up with yours. Trying to dig deep into your health with someone you don't get along with is never really going to work out too well!
Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.
Whole Health & Wellness
10807 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122
P: (314) 269-3847