Functional Medical Doctors Treat
Functional Medicine Doctors, while having attended conventional medical school and being completely educated in conventional western medicine ALSO have taken the additional training as specialists in the growing field of Functional Medicine. What is "Functional Medicine"?
While Conventional Medicine treats the disease, Functional Medicine focuses on the individual, determining the unique root cause of each and every disease (especially chronic diseases such as autoimmune conditions). Rather than simply making a diagnosis and then prescribing a drug that matches, Functional Medicine practitioners will dig deep into each patient's history and unique biochemistry, asking these all-important questions: "WHY is this patient ill? What function is missing? How can we restore this function?" In fact, Functional Medicine has been termed "The Medicine of Why". It is true "health care", rather than "disease care". The resulting course of treatment is highly personal for each patient. The initial appointment frequently lasts from 1-3 hours long, includes much lab work and a detailed analysis of a person's genetic makeup.
These are 4 basic principals of Functional Medicine:
1. Each patient is different genetically and biochemically. Therefore, each individual must be treated differently. The person, then, is the focus of treatment, not the disease. Normal healing mechanisms of the body should be supported, rather than using artificial means to attack the disease, ignoring the underlying function of the body which is defective. This may involve conventional treatments, complimentary treatments, lifestyle changes, or environmental changes.
2. Functional Medicine is very deeply based on science. The most current research reveals that our body is made up of a complicated network (web) of relationships....relationships of organs, systems, chemicals, bacteria, etc. Understanding those relationships, as well as environmental factors and lifestyle choices that influence those relationships, is vital to comprehend the function of the body. The body is one integrated system. Therefore, the whole system must be treated, not just symptoms. By contrast, there is an enormous gap of time between emerging scientific research and application of that research in the the conventional doctor's practice.....as long as fifty years in some cases! This is especially true with chronic and complex illnesses. Functional Medicine shortens that gap because it relies heavily on science and research and stays up to date.
3. Your body has the ability to self-regulate and maintain a balance of all the body's systems. It also has the ability to heal, as well as prevent most diseases. These processes should be supported whenever possible.
4. Health is not only the absence of disease. It is also a state of vitality! This vitality should be the goal, not just avoiding disease. The Practitioner and the patient should work together as partners for reaching this goal.
When you work alongside a Functional Medicine Provider, you are entering a partnership. The doctor brings to the partnership the skills and experience they received through training in western medicine, paired with their additional skills and training (and often certification) in Functional Medicine to utilize a whole body, systems-based approach.
To illustrate the importance of this additional training that Functional Medicine Doctors receive, let's just consider ONE area of human health that greatly affects a patient's vitality and is connected to numerous medical conditions and diseases....NUTRITION. How equipped is the average medical doctor to analyze a patient's diet and explore the level of nutrition they are getting, and its role in their health?
This very issue was addressed in a detailed research project in 2004 that examined all 126 accredited US medical schools at the time. All of the schools were sent surveys to complete. Based on the response, only 30% of the schools required their students to take a separate nutrition course in their entire course of education. On average, students received a total of less than 24 hours of nutrition instruction during their entire schooling. Only 40 schools of the 126 required the minimum 25 hours of training that is recommended by the National Academy of Sciences (1)
The study concludes that, despite numerous entreaties made over the past 2 decades to improve the nutrition knowledge and skills of medical students and physicians, there still is an appalling lack of training in this critical aspect of human health!
This contrasts sharply with Doctors of Functional Medicine who view nutrition as a key aspect of vitality. In fact,
Dr. Jeffrey Bland, the "father" of Functional Medicine, is a nutritional biochemist. If you seek out a Functional Medical Doctor, you can expect nutritional and metabolic testing to be done, which will allow the Doctor to see deep into the root cause of your illness.
Tests may reveal that some lifestyle changes and/or diet modification are required to address the cause and course of your disease. Making these adjustments is the patient's responsibility, and therefore the reason why treatment is considered a partnership. You can only get better if you are willing to make modifications and take some responsibility for your health.
NOTE: Some providers who are not MD's, such as Doctors of Chiropractic, Doctors of Osteopathy, Pharmacists, and other providers who hold a healthcare degree and/or license in some medical field, may ALSO take additional training and become certified in the field of Functional Medicine. Some of these practitioners are very knowledgeable and may serve as a valuable compliment to your traditional medical doctor.
If, however, you are searching specifically for a medical doctor (a MD) who also practices Functional Medicine, to care for all your healthcare needs, then make sure that is what you are getting. Verify they are a MD and do not assume so.
You will see changes in healthcare in the near future as more and more individuals look for Functional Medical Doctors, and the increasing demand gives way to more doctors specialized in this mode. In the not-too-distant future, we may find ourselves looking back and asking how humans could have been practicing medicine so primitively before.
Let's meet a Functional Medical Doctor - Dr. Mark Hyman, MD
Dr. Hyman is the Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The Ultra Wellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author. His Ultra Wellness Center is in Lenox, Massachusetts. He is also Chairman on the Board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating other practitioners in this new medical paradigm.
In the video below, Dr. Hyman interviews another Functional Medicine Practitioner, Chris Kresser, and describes very well the principals of Functional Medicine and how they differ from traditional medicine.
Chris Kresser's website is one of the top 25 natural health sites in the entire world. He is a New York Times best selling author, and was recently named one of the 100 most influential people in health and fitness. His work is often cited in such national publications as Time, and is also cited on Dr. Oz and Fox & Friends, where he has appeared as a guest.
Chris Kresser wrote an interesting article on Ankylosing Spondylitis - Using a Low Starch or No Starch Diet as a means to treat the disease. Click HERE to read it.
Let's Meet Another Functional Medicine Medical Doctor - Dr. Susan Blum
Below watch a video where Dr. Hyman interviews another Functional Medicine Doctor, Dr. Susan Blum, author of "Healing Arthritis". Here she talks about all types of arthritis, including Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Regarding the use of diet modification to treat different types of arthritis, she mentions that for non autoimmune forms of arthritis, she only recommends eliminating the nightshades, gluten, soy and corn from the diet (allowing some other grains and starches). However, she clarifies in other videos that in types of arthritis that are autoimmune (such as Ankylosing Spondylitis), many patients need to eliminate ALL grains in order to improve their condition.
Dr. Hyman also agrees that patients with autoimmune types of arthritis, such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, should avoid all types of grains. Scientific studies show that, in addition to grains, corn and soy, AS patients benefit from the removal of ALL starches in their diet. For more information, including the references to these scientific studies, visit the page of our website that discusses the dietary approach to managing Ankylosing Spondylitis.
As you watch these 2 Functional Medicine Doctors interact in the video below, notice the depth of their knowledge regarding the systems of the body and how they work together. Notice how their approach is to search for the underlying CAUSE of the type of arthritis that a patient has, and how their emphasis is on healing the natural processes of the body. Notice how their approach to treatment is more heavily based on scientific research rather than on just prescribing the latest drug released by the pharmaceutical companies. This demonstrates well the differences between conventional medicine and functional medicine.
"Your Fork - The Most Powerful Tool To Transform Your Health And Change The World" - Dr. Mark Hyman, MD
Do you have a Functional Medicine Provider that you want to recommend, one who has greatly assisted you in treating your Ankylosing Spondylitis, and one who is knowledgeable or supportive of your efforts to follow the research on the Low Starch Diet for Ankylosing Spondylitis? (Most Functional Medicine Doctors ARE very much in favor of Dr. Ebringer's dietary approach because they understand the science behind it and, with their superior background in nutrition, understand that cutting out grains and starches, replacing them with healthy non starchy vegetable and fruit carbs, is actually a healthier way of eating).
Let your fellow AS'ers know about these Providers! Please send us their name and contact information so we can add them to an upcoming page which will be available soon to assist members of the AS community searching for just such a Provider in their own area.
Meanwhile, you can use the search function below to find a Functional Medicine Provider using the Institute For Functional Medicine's (IFM) search feature. They receive over one million searches per year, and you are able to search in over 40 countries around the globe where these specialists exist.