Functional medicine takes a holistic approach to health. This approach can be life-changing. However, like almost anything in life, it doesn’t solve all problems. Nor will everyone benefit from it. I say this as a doctor and functional medicine practitioner. To explore whether functional medicine is for you, take the time to reflect on these pros and cons of functional medicine.
Advantages of Functional Medicine
- Time with your doctor. In functional medicine, an hour long visit is common. That’s not an hour at the doctor’s office—that’s an hour face-to-face in your doctor’s presence as you go over your medical history and symptoms. When was the last time you had an hour of your doctor’s undivided attention? As you can imagine with that kind of time, functional medicine digs deeper, thus allowing practitioners to find sources of symptoms that might otherwise be overlooked.
- A more detailed account of your health. If you, like so many, have had your symptoms checked repeatedly and just can’t get the answers you need through conventional medicine, functional medicine offers a different approach. For example, when I meet with my patients, I often ask about their mother’s prenatal health. Why? Because I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Sometimes the source of your symptoms isn’t in the “usual” place. I want all the clues available to me.
- Integration of mind, body, and spirit. Functional medicine recognizes that your mind, body, and spirit work together to create health or disease. Sometimes anxiety manifests in physical signs. Sometimes physical signs manifest in anxiety. In functional medicine, we treat both together. We don’t dismiss your physical signs just because they mix with your mind and spirit. We expect that.
- Respect for the patient’s knowledge. You’re here. You’re doing your research. You’re not the patient that shows up at your doctor’s office, waiting passively for a prescription to solve your problems. You’re utilizing the power of the information age, and your research counts for something. As a functional medicine practitioner, this is one of my favorite aspects of the type of patient I see. I listen to the research they’ve done on their symptoms, and I take it into account moving forward. It doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I appreciate that you have tried to figure out your symptoms. That’s makes you a responsible steward of the body you’ve been given.
- A nonprescription, natural approach. You’re not going to take a pill just to take a pill with functional medicine. You’re not going to pump your body with pharmaceuticals if a daily walk might provide the same benefit. In functional medicine, we aim for lifestyle changes first, natural supplements second, and pharmaceuticals only when the first two aren’t working. It’s amazing how much your health can improve by attending to your basic needs for nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
Disadvantages of Functional Medicine
- Time with your doctor. While it’s wonderful to have that kind of face-to-face time generally, some people aren’t into it. Maybe you really want to get in and out in fifteen minutes, and you don’t care about having a long talk with your doctor. If so, probably functional medicine isn’t for you. However, if you’re worried about finding the time, remember that with Vytal Health, we’ll meet you wherever you have a device with a camera and an internet connection.
- A more detailed account of your health. Functional medicine goes deep. Don’t be surprised if you meet with your functional medicine practitioner for stomach issues and they ask about your libido. When I meet with my patients, I want to hear all of it, because I need a complete picture of your health. This makes some people uncomfortable. They don’t want to talk about all aspects of their health. They’d rather focus on the single symptom that’s most bothering them at the moment.
- Lifestyle changes. If you just want a prescription and to be on your way, the last thing you want to do is see a functional medicine practitioner. Why? Because we want to help you become healthy again and to identify the source of dysfunction in your life. That will mean changing. Maybe you’ll need to give up a food or develop an exercise routine. Whatever it is, life may not stay the same.
- Cost. Cost can appear bigger than it is. The main disadvantage is that your regular insurance won’t cover functional medicine, generally. However, we argue that’s not the whole story. Times have changed, and the days of a $20 copay are gone. Most of us have high deductible insurance, and your insurance won’t cover anything until you spend more than a certain amount, anyway. At Vytal Health, we cannot accept regular health insurance coverage, but many of our clients pay using their Health Savings Account. This is a fantastic way of making great use of that money that you’ve already set aside for your health needs.
- Risk. You’ve never been to a functional medicine practitioner before. Perhaps you’re not sure if functional medicine is “real” medicine, or that you’ll have success with this approach. While anything new can be scary, functional medicine physicians are real doctors with advanced training above and beyond their medical degrees. Their recommendations are based on years of study and experience treating patients just like you. While there’s always a risk in trying something new, don’t overlook the risk of not treating your problems year after year.
What will you choose?
Functional medicine has transformed the way I do medicine. It has given me the tools to dig deeply and solve problems that I never used to touch on in my practice. It may transform your health too.
If you’re ready to give it a try, book an appointment.