Hi OrganicFamilyCEOs! It’s Courtney stepping in with a bit of my pre-med background to introduce this idea that functional medicine is the new black.
Before entrepreneurship, I went to school to become a conventional medicine doctor, but opted-out last-minute. I couldn’t ignore that the standard practices conflicted with my genuine beliefs about helping people live healthier, happier lives.
Had I known about the field of functional medicine then, I might not have made the career switch into entrepreneurship. Functional medicine represents the simple + honest wellness support for families that I thought all healthcare fields had offered in the first place.
I’ll dare to say it: functional medicine is the way all healthcare should be practiced.
In this post, I’m sharing why we made the switch to functional medicine + how we found + built our team of healthcare professionals that supports our entrepreneurial family’s optimal wellness.
Over the years, we’ve learned that conventional medicine targets the surface problem. When you get a breast cancer diagnosis, you’ll likely get prescribed chemotherapy. When the chemo makes your hair fall out, you’ll get prescribed a hair loss treatment.
When those prescriptions make your stomach turn sour, you’ll get a third prescription for that. The cycle can be — + often is — never-ending.
When you see a conventional medicine doctor, the average patient visit time is 12 minutes — usually after you’ve been in the waiting room for at least 3x as long.
We find that to be impossible to work with. Personalized, well-rounded care can’t be delivered in 12 minutes. Even cooking a frozen pizza takes more than 12 minutes! That’s a problem!
Functional medicine, on the other hand, uses a methodical evaluation to get to the root cause of an individual’s health challenge(s). This practice understands that all body systems are connected + that when one is out of balance, the rest of the body responds to bring it to equilibrium.
What we love the most about functional medicine is its commitment to getting the body functioning organically on its own first, before trying to add in accessory pills + procedures.
[Related: Inside Our No-Medicine Medicine Cabinet]
This is done by heavily evaluating:
- the relationships between the physical body + nutrition, movement + exercise
- intolerances + allergies
- emotional wellness
- family history
- living + working environments
- current medication or chemical side-effects
These are only a part of an extensive list of factors.
When you meet with a functional medicine doctor, you’re often not even on a time limit. Our visits average at least an hour!
Functional medicine doctors commit to establishing a genuine relationship with their patients + their patients’ other health-related providers. They create a team around you for your individual wellness. With that collaborative approach, patterns or small details are hardly ever missed.
Functionality Makes Sense
We find that we all intuitively know that all of our problems are related in some way.
When something super stressful happens, doesn’t a cold or headache typically follow?
When you’re feeling depressed, doesn’t your appetite change?
When you change your usual diet, doesn’t your stomach respond in some way?
Functional medicine works for more complex challenges, too.
I had the privilege of working with the top international autism researchers for 5 years behind closed doors. We saw hundreds, if not thousands, of families affected by autism. Literally not one case appeared the same, but the patterns were undeniable.
According to conventional medicine, those patterns weren’t worth a second glance. Functional medicine, however, acknowledges those patterns as an obvious roadmap leading to a child’s improved function + quality of life, if not healing altogether.
Any time someone experiencing autism asks us for guidance, we defer to functional medicine immediately.
Functional medicine acknowledges that the body only has so many ways it can say ‘OUCH!’, and the reasons each person has that ‘ouch’ may be completely different.
Functional medicine knows that the way to eliminate those “ouches” is by looking at that entire roadmap.
Our family has a functional medicine doctor for a primary care doctor. Yes, even in place of a “pediatrician”. This has been a game changer in our family’s wellness over the last year + we didn’t even go in with a “problem” to fix.
Our functional medicine doctor looks at our entire family environment, which includes:
- how everyone is sleeping,
- what the fridge is filled with,
- how we’re spending time together,
- the role adult work plays across each person in the house,
- the role child development + parenting plays across our marriage,
- relationships outside of the family life
Then, based on the information our doctor gathers, she offers gentle suggestions to help us fill in the gaps that we, having been so used to the setup we’re in, don’t often see that we’re missing.
Our functional medicine doctor helps us work as a team, just as she works as a team with our other healthcare providers.
Outside of a functional medicine doctor, we do regular chiropractic visits, see cognitive-behavioral therapists, go to the dentist + do Peloton workouts. Our pregnancies are followed by a homebirth midwife team + we see the acupuncturist occasionally, too.
How awesome is it that they’re all in communication + better yet, a lot of them are actually friends? They’ve also become friends of ours. We want to feel comfortable with our practitioners enough to want to invite them over for dinner.
We would make the argument that functional medicine can cure 95% of the world’s healthcare problems because 95% of those problems are influenced by stress on the body. Functional medicine looks at what causes those stressors to begin with, then comes up with an individualized plan for minimizing or eliminating those stressors.
People will look at functional medicine + say, “yeah, but it’s so simple, how could it work?” And our answer is that it works because it is simple.
Getting Started With Functional Medicine
A general Google search should help you find a list of practitioners in your area, but we’ve found the most helpful resources are often fellow parents!
Ask your parent community on social media for their personal recommendations + referrals. I found our functional medicine doctor in a “crunchy moms” Facebook group. If you’re currently in-search of a like-minded community of health-conscious parent entrepreneurs, then consider joining our membership + asking in there, too.
Worth the Wait
With that, we want to talk about people being worth the wait.
Our functional medicine doctor had a 2-year waitlist, but we put our name on there anyways. We just had this feeling that we had to see her specifically + that this would be the best practice for us. We loved the recommendations people had given this doctor the most.
A year + a half later － 6 months ahead of schedule － someone cancelled their new patient appointment that no one else ahead of me on the waitlist could take. So, we got in 6-months early just for being ready to drop everything + get to that appointment. Yet another perk of entrepreneurship + making your own schedule, right?!
We find that making that mental commitment in your head now is important. The practitioners with the waitlists are usually worth the wait — the existence of the waitlist speaks for itself.
That said, “waiting it out” with your current conventional medicine practitioners until you get an appointment with a highly-recommended functional medicine doctor might not necessarily be worth the time. [And we say this with one of those gigantic medical advice disclaimers attached: We’re not doctors + we don’t play ones on the internet. We’re sharing what we’ve observed + experienced ourselves, so that you can consider your options.]
A Few Words of Advice
In kid time, months are like years! Everything changes so fast. When your kids are sick or struggling with something, that’s just drawn-out discomfort for them + the parents.
So, our recommendation would be to see whatever functional medicine doctor can get you in the earliest ASAP, stay on the waitlists for the highly-coveted ones at no cost to you (just a free name on a list). Then when you get the call up the waitlist, go meet that doctor + THEN make a decision about your preferred provider.
That strategy should help reduce your wait time, but there still might be some gap time…
As for continuing to work with a conventional doctor until you’re seen by any functional medicine doctor, that’s at your individual discretion. Make an informed decision on what’s going to make you feel your best. Distancing yourself from the “you should be doing this” mentality that conventional medicine teaches you growing up over the years takes a long time.
We personally chose to not see a conventional doctor during that 1.5 year wait period. We hadn’t been sick + were okay with skipping an annual wellness exam. I had been in the care of our midwives postpartum + decided for myself that if there was an emergency, we would go straight to the ER or urgent care.
Functional Medicine is Here to Stay
Functional medicine is the new black — the “organic” food where conventional medicine is the “conventional” food. It’s the modern family’s middle-ground between procedures + pharmaceuticals + mixing tinctures barefoot in the woods.
Functional medicine is the response to people realizing that our bodies — made up of many interconnected parts — need a wellness system to match. Not one that keeps things divided.
That made perfect sense to us + our decision to switch to functional medicine is reaffirmed every day. We’re so grateful we found this new standard of care.
We’d love to hear from you: what questions do you have about functional medicine?
Have you tried going to a functional medicine doctor? Share your story in the comments below.