At High & Grounded Wellness, our practitioners utilize an integrative wellness approach combining traditional psychiatric care, holistic-oriented therapies, and functional medicine.
What is Functional Medicine?
Simply put, functional medicine can be viewed as a “lens” by which a practitioner conceptualizes disease and symptom presentation in patients. The goal of functional medicine is to uncover the “root causes” of symptoms and to directly address those issues through lifestyle interventions, supplements, and dietary modifications.
The functional medicine practitioner starts out by conducting an extremely thorough history that spans multiple domains. This may be in the form of an assessment that can take up to 3 hours to complete, covering your entire lifespan in a detail-oriented and systematic way. Many providers have the patient fill out the form well before the initial appointment so that it can be reviewed ahead of time. It is not uncommon for your first appointment to last anywhere between 2 to 3 hours.
The questions that your provider will ask you may seem to be completely irrelevant to your presenting symptoms. For example, if you’re struggling with depression, it is not uncommon for a functional medicine provider to ask you questions about your immune functioning, your gastrointestinal health, your diet, your lifestyle habits, your relationships, and your exposure to environmental toxins. Functional medicine providers have been trained to understand the nuances of how all of the different “systems”, both in our body and our environment, interact and influence one another. This detective work enables the provider to uncover the so called “root causes” to mental or physical aches and pains that you’re experiencing.
After attending your first appointment, your provider will likely come up with a number of hypotheses as that what may driving and maintaining your symptoms. He or she may recommend various lab tests to confirm these hypotheses and use this data to formulate an individualized treatment plan. In functional medicine, the treatment plan tends to emphasize lifestyle modification, nutritional counseling, and the use of dietary supplements. The use of prescription medication is done more diligently, and only if more natural interventions fail to produce results, or if your symptoms are so severe that they require more aggressive forms of treatment to ensure your safety.
Much of the treatments and testing used in functional medicine are considered by some providers and professional organizations to be “alternative”, “complementary”, or lacking scientific evidence. There are a number of factors contributing to this assumption. It’s largely due to with the way modern conventional medicine is practiced, delivered, and influenced by various stakeholders such as the government, insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and educational systems.
Functional medicine was largely born out of various scientific disciplines such as microbiology, genetics, immunology, endocrinology, and neuroscience. Decades of research in these areas has influenced the growth of providers and has informed their practice. Historically, functional medicine providers have operated their own private practices; however, their momentum has caught the attention of major medical research centers. In fact, the Institute of Functional Medicine, in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic, has opened the largest functional medicine clinic in the United States. Dedicated to evidence-based practice, this collective is currently conducting research comparing clinical outcomes of patients with chronic diseases treated by either functional medicine or conventional standards of care. With a waitlist of over 6 months and patients flying in from all over the world to receive services, there will be no shortage of data. The results of these large-scale studies will be of the first to provide clinical evidence validating the growth of countless positive outcomes reported by patients and functional medicine providers.
The reality is that functional medicine is very much based in science. In fact, the very practice of functional medicine is science; it is driven by an unbiased and curious cultivation of data, filtering these data points through external influential factors, using that data to generate hypotheses, and backing up the hypotheses using factual information that ultimately guides treatment. It is a time consuming process and takes much work on behalf of the patient and the provider, but the results are worthwhile to those who truly take an interest in improving their health and their lives. Functional medicine providers do not believe in “quick fixes”. They do not look to mask your symptoms using medications, and they strongly believe in empowering their patients with the proper knowledge and education to inform their healthcare choices.
The goal of functional medicine is to liberate the patient from the “sick role” that is so often perpetuated by the very people who are trying to help us in the first place. This model of care will ultimately require systems level changes to the way treatment is delivered in our country, the way doctors and hospitals are reimbursed and incentivized for their services, and the way in which we conceptualize “disease” processes.
The High & Grounded Wellness Team