How do you choose your primary care doctor? Referral by friends or picked off an insurance list. Some young adults may not really care who they see - as long as they get their “annual exam” and have someone write for an antibiotic when they get sick. Others with chronic health conditions visit their doctor to refill their multiple medications which help control their disease symptoms.
But is this enough? Could this interaction between your doctor be far more beneficial in helping you maximize your health instead of just mitigating a disease process?
How much does your doctor really know about you and your true health status? What can the typical 15-minute visit accomplish in answering your health questions or addressing your ongoing medical concerns?
Is there an alternative, more comprehensive approach that aims to prevent future health conditions as well as determine the underlying cause(s) of your recurrent problems?
YES! It’s called Functional Medicine and here are 5 reasons why you should schedule this type of visit today.
5 Reasons for Holistic Primary Care with Functional Medicine
- Time spent with your doctor.
The average initial visit with a functional medicine doctor can range from 45 to 90 minutes. This gives you the opportunity to relax during your visit and tell your whole story: a chronologic timeline starting with information from your in utero experience all the way up until the present moment and everything in between. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces are put together to begin to understand your current condition. This valuable information also informs the doctor of what further testing might be necessary to help complete the puzzle.
- A true preventive care approach
The conventional adult annual exam usually consists of a set of basic labs, a physical exam, mammogram, colonoscopy and an EKG. When all checks out, patients walk away feeling that they are healthy because their doctor said that everything was “normal”. But is this accurate? Do your labs really reveal optimal wellness or just absence from disease?
With a functional medicine approach, a holistic primary care exam assesses prevention with much more rigor. It seeks to answer questions like:
- What is your current nutritional status, hormone health, and microbiome makeup?
- What is your actual cardiovascular risk, beyond what is determined with the basic lipid panel?
- What are some explanations behind your gradual weight gain?
- Where are you on the diabetes continuum as opposed to do you have it or not?
The answers to these types of questions help determine your “true health” and are necessary as you and your functional medicine doctor work to create a comprehensive treatment plan aimed at preventing future diseases.
- A deeper dive into the root cause(s)
It is not enough to just treat the symptoms. It’s important to understand the WHY behind the condition. For instance, if someone presents with symptoms of depression or fatigue, the conventional doctor may simply encourage more rest and better management of stress. A prescription anti-depressant could also be written.
In contrast, the functional medicine doctor starts by asking, why do you have these symptoms to begin with. Could this be from a hormonal imbalance, nutritional deficiency, or gut problem? Could your fatigue be due to an autoimmune process, food sensitivity, or other inflammatory process? This deeper dive lends itself to a more comprehensive view of one’s overall health and the many upstream factors that can lead to the downstream presentation of the depression or fatigue.
- Taken off drugs
Many patients remain on drugs unnecessarily. By working with a functional medicine doctor for holistic primary care and getting to the root cause(s) of the illness, patients often no longer need medications (which mostly treat the symptoms). As most chronic diseases are lifestyle driven, medications can usually be weaned down or removed completely once the root cause is addressed. The band-aid of pharmaceuticals are therefore no longer needed.
The knee-jerk reaction to treat with medications first is not a common practice in functional medicine. Instead, the focus is on diet and lifestyle changes along with the temporary use of supplements to support the body as it begins to heal.
- Partnership with your doctor: the 80/20 rule
Your future health is only about 20% dependent on what your doctor can do for you: asking the right questions, ordering the right tests, educating you on the medical condition and then providing treatment options.
The other 80% is determined by what you DO when you leave the doctor’s office. The patient plays an essential role in their own health outcomes and it’s a trusting relationship with the doctor that facilitates this. Time spent getting to know the patient, hearing their stories, and educating them on their condition, ultimately leads to a treatment plan that both parties can agree on. This makes for a productive partnership in the care of the patient.
Dr. Denia Tapscott, M.D., is board certified in internal medicine and provides personalized treatment with a functional medicine approach to get to the root cause of issues and begin the journey towards wellness. Her areas of interest include: Functional Medicine, Adult Holistic Primary Care, Obesity Medicine and Weight Loss, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Prevention & Metabolic Syndrome, Executive "functional" physicals, Chronic Disease Management, Pre and Post Bariatric Surgery Care and Diet and Lifestyle focused care.