When we’re sick, we want to get better as soon as possible.
That often requires a visit to your family physician or a walk-in clinic doctor, and ultimately a prescription.
All is good, but before long, you’re back at the doctor’s office with a headache and the same flu-like symptoms.
Or it could be persistent heartburn, so you take an antacid like Alka-Seltzer or Rolaids to neutralize the acid in your stomach. However, the same burning sensation returns after dinner the following evening, and that means you’ll have another restless night.
Ailments that just don’t seem to vanish could be the result of your medical practitioner treating your symptoms rather than the underlying cause of your illness.
As a doctor of functional medicine, my approach to wellness is different. To start, my appointment calendar isn’t set in 15-minute blocks where I bounce from exam room to exam room, quickly trying to herd patients through the practice.
Many patients have been dealing with a particular ailment for weeks, months or even years, so a physician needs ample time to begin uncovering the root cause of a health issue. Generally, an initial consultation for new patients will last two hours, while a consultation for existing patients will take 60 to 120 minutes. During those appointments, I’ll review medical history and symptoms, complete a physical examination, consider treatment options and begin crafting an individualized treatment plan. Oftentimes, patients are referred for laboratory testing or infusion treatments. At the next appointment, we’ll spend 30 to 120 minutes reviewing test results and charting progress since the last visit.
Physicians must play the role of detective, searching for evidence to determine how and why disease, illness and pain are occurring or reoccurring.
For that patient with heartburn, I begin to ask a series of questions. What time do you eat dinner? What types of foods do you typically eat, and how much? Did you lay down soon after eating? Were you wearing tight clothing or a belt? How often, and when, do you exercise? What medications are you taking? Do you drink alcohol? Do you feel bloated?
After developing a complete medical profile through a comprehensive history, examination and biometric testing, if indicated, I can begin to pinpoint triggers for that patient’s heartburn and start to develop solutions. Pepper, citrus, carbonated drinks and coffee often are triggers, so removing those items from one’s diet are a start. I also might ask patients to incorporate certain foods into their diets, like leafy greens, ginger and lemon water, that are proven to manage symptoms of acid reflux. We often will use supplements to wean people off reflux medications, called proton pump inhibitors, as they often can have low acid as part of the problem for their heartburn.
No two individuals are alike, so that’s why doctors of functional medicine develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient. Diet, exercise, stress and sleep are major factors in whether individuals “feel” healthy, so taking care of those four items goes a long way toward restoring wellness.
Too often, people ignore the body’s warning signs – headaches, fatigue, indigestion or muscle aches – and accept temporary relief without ever fully exploring a permanent solution. Too many people simply proceed with their busy lives and don’t effectively manage their health. Partnering with your physician to create an individual health road map is the key to restoring and maintaining wellness.
For more information about functional medicine and how it works, visit our article, “What is Functional Medicine.” To get started on your journey to long-term health and wellness with functional medicine, call us to schedule an appointment (239) 649-7400.