How to find a good Functional Medicine doctor, Part 1

I administer several forums, most notably a group on the social networking site Facebook called “Functional Medicine“.  To find it, simply enter “functional medicine” in the search box and select the “Group” (not the “Interest” – that’s different).  One of the most common questions I encounter both on- and offline is, “I need a good Functional Medicine doctor.  How do I find one?”

The short answer is, sometimes it takes a little digging and reading between the lines.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

The long answer is, there are several ways to find a good doctor who practices real, genuine Functional Medicine.

To get started, please see my two posts on what Functional Medicine is not, Part 1 and Part 2.  This will weed out a lot of the fat.  It’s important to keep in mind that each Functional Medicine clinician will practice slightly differently; however, a few basics should be consistent.

Guideline #1: The practitioner really should be a doctor of some kind, or perhaps a nurse practitioner–maybe.  I would not visit an acupuncturist, massage therapist, physical therapist, pharmacist, nurse, midwife, or non-doctor clinical nutritionist for this type of care.  Not only can many of them not legally order or interpret diagnostic testing, they also many times lack the depth of foundational information that doctors receive.  I also would not visit any unlicensed practitioner for Functional Medicine, such as a holistic health counselor, wellness coach, or, depending on the state, naturopath.

Beyond that, however, the type of doctor does not matter.  Whether he or she is an MD, DO, DC, or, (depending on your state!) ND, a good Functional Medicine doctor will practice much like another.  A good Functional Medicine MD (medical doctor)  will practice just as well as a Functional Medicine DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) and vice versa.  It’s nearly impossible to tell the difference other than the initials behind their names.

Guideline #2: The practitioner should be from the United States, or possibly Canada.  It’s possible to find good Functional Medicine practitioners elsewhere*, but the quality of education could be questionable and there may be a lack of standard.  Although Functional Medicine in North America is largely unregulated, true Functional Medicine doctors generally do a decent job of regulating themselves and raising the bar of quality for themselves, constantly striving to complete more training, stay on top of current research, and invest in elective training, conferences, and symposiums, both domestically and abroad.

Many Functional Medicine doctors here in the States will care for patients/clients outside of their state or even country, via telephone, fax, email, regular mail, or Skype.  Often, the distance between doctor/consultant and patient/client is not important at all.  Some doctors require that their patients make the trip to the office or clinic at least once; others don’t have this requirement.

Guideline #3: When searching for a good Functional Medicine doctor, the web could very well be your best tool.  Look for those who specifically mention Functional Medicine.  Look for some who list their CV (curriculum vitae, a professional type of resume) online, including where they went to school, their areas of focused study, and their continuing education beyond school.  Many will list the post-doctoral classes they’ve taken.  Look for information; if the website is scanty and it barely offers any information, move on.  Now, not every site will be filled to the brim with information like Mercola or Mark Hyman, but it should be more than a single page with hardly any information. If it strikes you as cheesy or high-pressure sales-like, with lots of bold or red text, or yellow highlighted text, they may be a good doctor, but move them down your list.

More to come!  Stay tuned…

*If you live outside the United States and you need Functional Medicine care but a trip to the US is out of the question at this time, please email me through our website (just scroll all the way to the bottom and click “Email Us”) and I will send you a list of members of a reputable organization I’m personally familiar with – although it is based here in the US, it is truly international.

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