You’ve been to the doctor. He runs some tests and he says nothing’s wrong.
But you know you’re not you right now. Maybe you’re dealing with digestive problems that have taken the fun out of eating. Every dinner out is a potential threat.
Or maybe it’s your hormones that seem off. Your once predictable cycle is suddenly erratic. You feel like you’re in puberty all over again.
Or maybe you’ve never had a happy gut or healthy hormones. The doctors have thrown up their hands. They can give you The Pill or suggest you try a fiber supplement, but that’s all they’ve got for you.
You’ve always trusted your doctor – but right now it feels like there is nothing they can do to help you.
Where do you turn?
This story is how so many women end up looking for a Functional Medicine Practitioner. I know it well, because this is my story, too.
What Is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is an evidence-based approach to health that focuses on finding the root cause of health problems. Functional medicine looks at the body as one system – meaning that is something is “wrong” in one area of the body, it is likely having an impact on other parts of the body, as well.
Functional medicine incorporates both Western and Eastern approaches – the latest technology and ancient wisdom.
The #1 misconception about Functional Medicine is that it denounces modern medicine in favor of healing crystals and water fasts. Not true!
Listen, I won’t knock anything until I try it – including crystals and fasting – but the majority of work I do with clients in my clinic is much different than that. You might not know that though, because you’ve never seen a FMP before!
What Is It Really Like To Work With A Functional Medicine Practitioner?
Today, I want to walk you through the process of working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner. I’ll share one of our amazing patient’s own journey (yes – including test results!) so that you can understand what it’s really like to work with a FMP.
Before anything else, I always do a free 15-20 minute prospective patient interview. This is just a chance for us to connect (without any pressure) and be certain we’re a good fit for working together. From there we’ll go to official first step: the case review appointment.
The case review is like a deep-dive interview. I want to know as much about you as possible. I might even ask some questions about your childhood! Here I’m looking for clues as to the root causes of what is troubling you now.
Next, we’ll order some testing – depending on your unique symptoms and history. I don’t want to waste your time or money, so we’ll only order the tests that are relevant for you.
Once test results are in, we’ll meet again to develop a treatment plan. You’ll implement the plan (usually diet & lifestyle changes, plus supplements) and we’ll have check-ins to see how you’re progressing and if we need to make tweaks to the plan.
Finally, we’ll re-test to check your progress. (This is the best way to know treatments are really working.)
I’m excited to share this story with you – let’s dig in!
Step 1: Marina’s Case Review
Marina met with Amelia, one of the clinicians who works in my practice, in January. At her first meeting, we learned a lot about her!
She was 22 and was working as a paramedic with her local fire department. She wanted to become a helicopter medic (how badass is that?) but was struggling with health problems that were holding her back. Digestive problems and brain fog were zapping her of the energy she needed to go back to school.
First, Marina told us about what was going on right now: serious digestive problems. She was having oily stool, undigested food in her stool, and couldn’t tolerate eating meat at all unless she took her “meat pill” – a prescription anticholinergic medication. The digestive problems were wearing her out, and she was dealing with brain fog.
Then we went back in time: when did her health problems start?
Marina told Amelia that when she was younger, she had developed a cyst on her heart. Her doctors had treated it with back-to-back rounds of antibiotics.
As a side effect of the antibiotics, she developed neuralgias (a kind of nerve pain that causes severe pain) and vertigo. The vertigo led to 3 concussions in a row and she was ultimately diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
It was at this time that the digestive problems started, too. Bloating, nausea, food intolerances, and fat malabsorption (which was causing the oily stool).
Her doctor told her the digestive symptoms were just Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and gave her the prescription for the “meat pill.” That was all he could offer.
6 years after the cyst on her heart, and Marina was still dealing with the repercussions of it. That’s how she came to see us.
Based on her history of antibiotic use and her current symptoms, we suspected Mishana was dealing with a gut infection. We suggested she start with a GI-MAP – a comprehensive stool analysis that can test for many gut infections at once.
Step 2: The Test Results Are In
Marina agreed to the test, and a few weeks later, results were in:
Marina tested positive for:
- C. difficile
- Enteroinvasive E. coli/Shigella
- Enterotoxigenic E. coli LT/ST
- Entamoeba histolytica
- Enterococcus faecalis
- Streptococcus spp.
- Candida spp.
- Chilomastix mesnelli
- With relative elevations in other markers
You might be thinking these test results are crazy – but it actually isn’t that uncommon! Even in the United States, gut infections and parasites are fairly common. And if you have used antibiotics or have a compromised microbiome for some other reason (like you’ve been eating the Standard American Diet) you are more susceptible to picking up gut infections.
Why don’t doctors test for these infections?
Some Western-medicine doctors do – but many others don’t. They either wrongly believe that gut infections are unlikely or they think they are “non-symptomatic” infections – meaning they don’t cause problems, and don’t need to be treated.
In my experience, (both personally and with my patients) clearing gut infections makes a huge difference in how you feel.
For Marina, we started treatment with a prescription anti-parasitic, alongside a natural bacterial protocol. After she completed those treatments, we used a prescription anti-fungal. Finally, we completed a re-seeding protocol with both probiotics and prebiotics (the most important step after any type of clearing treatment!).
After treatment, I always recommend re-testing to be sure that all the infections have cleared. Feeling better is a great indicator that infections have cleared – but it can’t replace seeing the results on paper!
Step 3: The Second Test Results:
As you can see from the results – Marina was able to clear all her gut infections!
(Note: She did have some low beneficial flora that we worked on next.)
The results on paper back up what Marina experienced day to day: her digestion has improved. No more bloating or food intolerances.
Not just that, but after years of brain fog, Marina is finally thinking clearly again. She was even able to pass her paramedic cardiac program and enroll in medic school.
Now that the infections are cleared, Marina is working on improving her habits – especially around eating foods that support gut health and getting enough sleep – so that the infections don’t have a chance to come back. I’ll keep working with her to make sure she keeps improving.
It’s Black, White, & Gray
I like to say that I look for “black, white & gray” results with my clients.
I want the black and white stuff – the test results that prove the treatments we’re using are working. And I know those results are important to you, too.
But I also want the “gray” – I want to hear that you’re going out to dinner with your boyfriend and you don’t get sick, that you’re finally able to be back in school, that you don’t have to press snooze five times every morning before you drag yourself out of bed.
For Marina, we definitely got the black and white and the gray – and I am so thrilled to see her thriving again after years of struggle.
I hope this has helped you understand what it really is like to work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner. And if you’re ready to take the next step forward in your health, I’d be honored to work with you. You can book a free prospective patient interview anytime, here.