Functional Medicine practitioners ask a lot of questions. In fact, you should be prepared to sit down for an hour or longer to answer the (very) long questionnaire you will likely be sent before you even see your Functional Medicine practitioner for the first time. You’ll be asked about all sorts of things – your diet, your sleep patterns, your stress levels, your environmental exposures, even down to the type of cosmetic products you use. That’s a whole lot more detailed than the histories I used to take in my conventional practice. But it’s all important information, and all relevant.
The investigations you’ll have will be much more detailed, too. Functional medicine practitioners use cutting-edge diagnostic tests, performed in first-class laboratories by skilled technicians, to give them the answers they need in order to pinpoint the underlying imbalances and causes of your condition, and guide you on the path back to health.
The patient-practitioner relationship is a much closer working relationship. It’s no longer about me telling you what’s wrong with you and giving you a tablet for it. Now we work together, and your input and commitment to following through with the treatment plan, is very important.
In fact, how much effort you are prepared to put in yourself on your path to optimal health, is just as important in terms of a successful outcome as seeking out a knowledgeable and experienced practitioner to guide you on that path.
Because your own contribution is so important to the doctor-patient relationship in Functional Medicine, there are a number of things I think you need to consider before deciding to see a Functional Medicine practitioner:
Are you prepared to spend time answering a lot of questions about yourself?
In order to get to the bottom of the issues in your individual case, your Functional Medicine doctor will need a lot of information about you, especially before your first appointment.
Are you prepared to make changes to your lifestyle?
This one is very important. It’s so important that I would say that if you’re not prepared to change your lifestyle, then don’t waste your time and money, because that’s probably the first thing your Functional Medicine practitioner will focus on, and for good reason. Lifestyle makes a big difference to health outcomes, even in genetic conditions.
If you choose to see a Functional Medicine practitioner, you will be given advice about healthy eating, as well as other lifestyle advice such as how to improve your stress handling skills, advice about sleep, exercise, leisure etc. But your doctor or practitioner can only recommend what will be helpful for you – you are the one that has to strive to make the change. This may not be easy to begin with, but in the majority of people, it is well worth it in terms of reaching health goals. Before you see a Functional Medicine practitioner, it would be wise to consider carefully how prepared you are to make changes to your current lifestyle, because, whether it is to a smaller or larger degree, it will undoubtedly be a necessity.
Are you prepared to take supplements?
Gone are the days when food gave our bodies all the nutrition, unfortunately. Our soils are so depleted that even organic fruits and vegetables, whilst still far preferable than pesticide-laden produce, no longer provide the nutrients they once did. The sad fact is that even with the healthiest diet, almost all of us are likely to require some form of supplementation in order to maintain health, and definitely so if a disease has already developed. Detailed Functional Medicine testing will identify which nutritional deficiencies are present and therefore which supplements are recommended. They are a vital part of regaining your health.
Do you have a supportive family/partner?
It’s much easier to make lifestyle changes if you are supported in doing so. If possible, I recommend coming to the first appointment with your partner or other family member, so they can better understand what you need to do in order to regain your health, and how they can support you to achieve it.
As you can see, there are several points to consider before heading to a Functional Medicine practitioner, but if you are tired of just having your symptoms controlled and want to really get to the bottom of what is causing your illness, and if you are prepared to follow the lifestyle changes and other recommendations advised by your Functional Medicine practitioner, then you are likely to do well with a Functional Medicine approach and it’s very likely that you will start to see positive changes.
In my experience, Functional Medicine works very well as a therapeutic approach, but there are two vital ingredients to a successful outcome:
2. Your own resolve to make the necessary changes on the way.
You are the key player and decision maker. Are you prepared to propel yourself towards optimal health?