The first time I heard the term Functional Medicine (FM) was soon after my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

After her diagnosis, she was prescribed medication and we were told the disease would continue to progress until her death. Since then, I have often wondered how different it might have been if years ago we would have had more detailed information about her health. Maybe FM could have made a difference.

As I became more concerned with my own health and frustrated with traditional medicine, I decided to take a closer look at FM. After some research, I concluded that anything that uses healthy living as its’ basis and healing as the outcome, can’t be all that bad. So, I decided to make an appointment with an FM practitioner.

Soon after I made the appointment, I was e-mailed several pages of forms to fill out. They wanted to know everything, from birth to present day. They asked whether I was born naturally or by c-section, whether I was nursed, my childhood illnesses, my complete family history, and much more. The practitioner spent an hour and a half with me. She ordered over 20 blood tests.

Was it worth it?

Yes.

What I’ve learned is that healthcare is more than blood pressure and cholesterol. Since then I have felt more in control of my own health and know what I need to do to be and stay healthy.

Over the past few decades we have seen a significant increase in chronic diseases. According to the Center for Disease Control, 6 in 10 Americans have a chronic disease, 4 in 10 have two or more. That’s partly because we currently have a “sickcare” rather than a “healthcare” system. Symptoms are usually managed by pharmaceuticals. Instead of using pharmaceuticals as life jacket medicine, they have become lifelong medicine. It’s a great business model for some, but not great for the patient. Naveen Jain, founder of Viome, a wellness monitoring service, argues that every drug prescribed for a chronic disease at best suppresses the symptoms without understanding the root cause.

Functional medicine looks at a symptom to find the root cause of the problem. It’s about finding the true cause of disease and rebalancing the body through lifestyle changes. It’s a personalized approach to medicine. The goal is to heal the body by correcting nutrient deficiencies and supporting the microbiome (more on the microbiome in a future article). In his book, The End of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Dale Bredesen says we should “fix the roof when the sun is shining.” That’s what FM does. It finds what is out of place in the functioning of your body, before it becomes too late.

If you’d like to learn more about Functional Medicine, you can check out their website at IFM.org. There you will also find a link to licensed FM practitioners in your area. Or you could work with your current healthcare practitioner. Most are dedicated to making us healthier. There is so much new information coming out every day, they can’t possibly keep up with it all, which is why you should make it your goal to become an informed patient. When you become a partner with your practitioner you will have a better understanding about what your body needs so you can live a longer and healthier life.