How’s your health these days? Are you making time to care for your body in this midlife transition into and out of (gulp) …… menopause? Does if feel like your midlife body is going crazy, with lots of new problems that won’t go away, even if you see your doctor to heal them? Have you ever considered visiting a functional medical provider? Do you even know what ‘functional medicine’ means?
With the onset of menopause and crazy hormones, chronic health issues often emerge from out of the blue and don’t go away. And often your family practitioner can’t or won’t help you figure it all out. Today I’m sharing with you my recent story about how and why I found a functional medical provider and why this emerging avenue in the medical world is the future of medicine.
Before I talk about that, let me just ask………
Are you paying attention to your health?
We as women tend to keep going and going…….(think of the Energizer Bunny here). We ignore our own pains and emotions until things are so bad that they can’t be ignored any more. Ladies, we can’t do this! Our families need us. We need us. Ignoring symptoms and pressing on is NOT the answer.
Ever wonder why the airlines remind us every flight to put on your own oxygen first? It’s because this action is counter-intuitive for us. We instinctively care for our loved ones first.
The time has come, my friends, to put on our our own oxygen. So we can keep caring for our families. So we can feel great!
I’d love to send you my free printable Menopause Foods: What to Eat and Avoid! Just shoot me your email at the end of this post.
Goals of traditional western medicine
In America today, when we feel sick, we go to the doctor for a cure. If we break a bone, experience a trauma, we head for the emergency room where they will take x-rays, or blood tests, or an image in order to fix whatever is broken. This is called acute care. The goal here is to fix you today with a plan of treatment so that you feel better. This is exactly as it should be.
Sometimes, though, we don’t know exactly what’s happening and our presenting symptoms could be a multitude of things.
Let’s say I head to the doctor with chronic fatigue that I’ve been experiencing for a while. (It must be pretty bad for me to even make an appointment at the doctor, right?) Odds are, he may look at past blood tests in the record and probably even order a few more (generally accepted) tests.
During your appointment, your doctor will try to ask the right questions (in the few minutes you have with him) to arrive at a plan to help. In my situation, I was offered vitamin injections, on two separate occasions, to help with fatigue. At the time, I was happy to get something, ANYTHING, to help me feel better, and quickly. But, in the end, those quick fixes didn’t help, and they weren’t the root cause of my fatigue.
Standard tests said I was fine
What happens when those standard tests (that the doctor ordered earlier) say that I’m fine?
What happens then?
Well, I left his office depressed and confused. I KNEW something was wrong with me. And, I silently wondered if I was going crazy.
I headed home, and started scouring the internet for information. Slowly, I educated myself on my own body, which is what I thought doctors were supposed to do. Aren’t they supposed to tell me what’s going on with me?
As an aside: Some tests that the doctor will order may not, on their own, tell the whole picture of what is going on. TSH (for thyroid issues) is a big one. And yes I’ve had doctors in years past who have diagnosed me solely on that one number.
Doctors may not order the right tests
Doctors are beholden to the whole insurance industry and so their recommendations can be based on what they know will be covered. Generally they will order tests that will be paid for by insurance. This system is no one’s fault, really. Doctors need to be paid, pure and simple. We pay for insurance, expecting them to cover our medical care.
As a consequence, doctors may not order all of the tests that my tell a more complete picture of our health issue at hand. While I didn’t understand this at the time, this is exactly what happened to me. Sometimes only specialized tests will give an accurate picture and diagnosis.
Luckily, a friend shared with me the name of a functional medical provider that had helped her with her own chronic health issue. I doubtfully made the appointment, having to wait for over a month to see her. In the meantime, I hoped things would improve for me and I could cancel the appointment.
I wondered what exactly a functional provider was, and frankly had little faith she could help me. My brain was filled with preconceived notions that a ‘functional’ doctor was similar to a naturopath (which is often, but not always, the case). I did know, however, that my insurance would not cover me seeing one.
Meanwhile, I kept feeling worse and the vitamin ‘hits’ offered zero help. Desperation set in.
I just wanted to feel better.
As the appointment got closer, I was instructed to bring with me past blood tests and other health test results. My session with my provider lasted for an hour. AN HOUR! We talked through my history and she recommended a saliva test to measure my hormone levels for an entire day. She also called for a complete thyroid panel, which included more tests that my previous doctor had never ordered.
It was an amazing visit where we talked about all aspects of my health, including my stress levels and mental state (which is an intricate part of the rest of me), what I currently eat, and my hormone history.
Goals of functional providers
The whole goal of a functional provider, or really the entire functional method, is to look at the whole patient in order to find out the root cause of your illness. Usually this will require more tests than a typical provider will call for. Treating a patient for whatever symptoms may be present on the day of an appointment may not provide a lasting cure or treatment.
Treating the symptoms is not the same as treating the root cause of them.
Acute medicine is fine for acute illnesses. But a chronic disease with confusing symptoms (that could indicate a whole plethora of illnesses) requires more time and attention than a regular doctor usually can treat.
The downside of functional medicine is that often insurance will not cover an appointment. And, if you are prescribed compounded medications, they are usually not covered either. However, with the same money paid for co-payments on multiple visits to your regular doctor (which may not address your root cause) you might have been on your way to finally curing your chronic illness by seeing a functional provider initially.
How do I find a functional provider?
Good functional or integrative practitioners will often be ‘spread’ by word of mouth. This is how I found mine. Several of my friends recommended her in different conversations. Finally, I listened and made the appointment. (Ok, I was a little hard-headed.)
Here is the very best article I’ve found on How to Find a Good Functional Doctor.
If you need to find a provider within your insurance’s parameters, try to find a doctor who treats with a functional mindset. This would be the best of both worlds. Though perhaps harder to find, regular M.D.’s sometimes are also trained on functional practices as well.
The rest of my story is yet to play out. I now understand my body in a way I never have. I know a lot about hormones, my thyroid, and my digestive system. My emotional health is also a huge basis of all these other things going ‘wonky’.
I’ve also found a wonderful provider and friend who is probably the most intuitive practitioner in healthcare that I’ve ever encountered. Every penny I’ve spent has been well worth it.
And really, how can I put a price tag on my own health?
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