Functional Medicine (FM) is without a doubt the fastest growing medical specialty of the 21st century. Public interest and broad public acceptance of it continue to please me. Every day I hear the sentence, “I made this appointment because I wanted a functional approach.” When I ask patients how they learned about it, the answer is a variation on Dr. Google.
Here at WholeHealth Chicago we’ve been practicing FM for more than two decades. Our practitioners are encouraged to attend professional meetings to learn about the latest advances in the field. And while some mainstream MDs and DOs (osteopaths) do use functional medicine tests and treatments, their numbers are small. To the detriment of the US public, the vast majority of conventional physicians are pretty clueless about FM.
It may sound presumptuous to compare the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic with WholeHealth Chicago, but we do have something in common: a deep appreciation of FM. This research article links us in ways we never expected, though the conclusion didn’t surprise us.
In a summary sentence (all research papers open with one):
“In this study of 7,252 patients, 1,595 cared for at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine and 5,657 by the Cleveland Clinic’s family health center, those following the functional medicine path exhibited significantly greater improvements in health and well-being than those treated conventionally.”
And now, Dr. Parisa Samsami
Thus I’m truly delighted that Parisa Samsami, DC, a chiropractic physician and specialist with years of experience in FM, joins WholeHealth Chicago this week. Because there are so few FM specialists in the Chicago area, this seems like an ideal time for a quick review of what exactly FM is and how it works.
As a functional medicine specialist, Dr. Samsami has a patient-centered, science-based approach. At its core FM is a collaboration between doctor and patient, the exact opposite of the one-size-fits-all assembly line of conventional medicine.
When you work with Dr. Samsami, your mutual goal is to address the root causes of why things seem to have gone wrong for you and then move forward to correct those causes and promote a lifetime of wellness.
The key is this: FM practitioners like Dr. Samsami focus on fundamental causes rather than symptom suppression. They understand that dysfunction (i.e., things not working right) may have a variety of underlying causes and that FM treatment must be targeted specifically to the individual.
Because FM tests can be ordered by any health care professional and treatment usually involves lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements rather than Big Pharma, functional tests are widely employed by chiropractors, naturopaths, nurse practitioners, and nutritional counselors.
If asked, Dr. Samsami will be happy to remind you that correctly-taken prescription medications, the fourth leading cause of death in the US, are rarely needed when FM tests show abnormalities.
Let me make three important points about FM
1. When you go to any doctor with symptoms, the odds are in your favor that the cause of those symptoms is dysfunction rather than an actual disease.
Functional symptoms are a message from your body letting you know that something in your lifestyle, environment, or eating habits is causing mischief. A Functional Medicine physician will diagnose what’s gone wrong, help you back on track, and get you feeling well. To ignore symptoms, to live with them, or to suppress them with prescription drugs is like not answering your phone when someone is calling to let you know your house is on fire.
2. Most symptoms due to actual disease (diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and hundreds of others) likely began as a dysfunction that was ignored and allowed to progress.
Seeing an FM physician doesn’t necessarily mean giving up your primary care doctor. However, a functional medicine path may be able to reduce your dependence on prescription drugs or avoid unnecessary surgery. In other words, lifestyle changes can have a profound effect on the course of any chronic illness.
3. Seeing an FM physician like Dr Samsami is ideal for people who have longstanding unexplained physical symptoms and have too often heard the phrase, “We can’t find anything wrong with you. Your tests are normal.”
This is because conventional physicians rarely test how efficiently various systems in your body are working. Functional tests may include a full analysis of your digestion, your balance of sex hormones, micronutrient levels (vitamins, minerals, etc), how well you remove toxins from your body, and even if you have toxins at all.
Dr. Samsami will explore the “why” of your symptoms and the “what” you can do to achieve total wellness again.
The practitioners at WholeHealth Chicago truly live and breathe Functional Medicine. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Samsami, click here.
Let me add that as a Board Certified Internist, when I began learning about FM decades ago it completely changed my perspective on patient care. Fortunately for us all, FM is part of the curriculum at all chiropractic and naturopathic colleges.
Medical schools remain entrenched in the mid-20th century paradigm with two toolboxes: the prescription pad and the operating room.
When an MD, DO, or nurse practitioner wants to learn FM, she’ll take courses like those offered by the Institute of Functional Medicine.
To the AMA, however, FM is not a recognized specialty and, with the exception of the Cleveland Clinic, remains pretty much ignored by all the major health care systems in the US.
David Edelberg, MD
PS: Patients routinely ask if FM tests are covered by their health insurance. The answer is a solid “sometimes” depending on which of the 20 or so testing companies your situation calls for.