In my most recent post, I started laying out some guidelines I use to help people find a good Functional Medicine practitioner. To sum things up so far…
The most important aspects of a good Functional Medicine practitioner include holding a doctor license of some kind (doctors of all kinds receive similar training where it counts in Functional Medicine – all receive extensive Anatomy, Physiology, Endocrinology, Biochemistry, Embryology, Histology, Cytology, Biology, Lab Diagnosis, and more). Doctors of all kinds can order and interpret diagnostic lab testing in nearly all states, whether he or she is an MD, DC, or DO. There are indeed MDs and DOs who practice exclusively Functional Medicine without using medications at all, and there are indeed DCs (Doctors of Chiropractic) who practice exclusively Functional Medicine without ever doing a single spinal manipulation or physical rehab therapy session.
So now, let’s move on to a few more guidelines that can help separate the “men from the boys”, so to speak, and maximize your chances of finding a good practitioner that meets your needs. Here are a few more important clues to look for:
Guideline #4: Look for mentions of diagnostic lab testing, when surfing the web or calling around. Some websites will mention some of the tests the doctor will order. Look for standard lab work such as CBC (Complete Blood Cell Count), CMP (Metabolic Panel), immune profiles, antibody testing, and thyroid panels. Look for specialty testing such as salivary testing, hormone testing, digestive analysis, or stool testing. Shy away from anyone who says they can test your neurotransmitters by analyzing your urine; those tests are NOT reliable, diagnostic, or accepted. In fact, they have been disproven. Shy away from anyone using muscle testing instead of lab testing. A combo of muscle and lab testing is OK, but I would personally ignore any “diagnosis” or assessment given by muscle testing alone.
Guideline #5: When surfing the web (or calling the clinics), look for (or ask about) the depth of the paperwork. They should put a lot of stock in the intake forms. They should want to know your life story in terms of your physical, mental, and emotional health. They should want to know ALL KINDS of things about you, as far as your lifestyle, your travel history, your birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and more. If what is posted on the web is very basic and there is no mention of additional paperwork to come, I would call the clinic and ask what kinds of questions and information the doctor wants to know. Doctors practicing real Functional Medicine want to ask a lot of questions, and their receptionist should be able to tell you that. Proper healthcare begins with an extensive gathering of information, and it’s not uncommon to see intake packets of 20 to 50 pages or more.
Guideline #6: Some Functional Medicine doctors list their preferred supplement companies online. Word to the wise: many supplements, notably Standard Process, will inadvertently make their patients’ conditions worse, especially any autoimmune condition, because they contain wheat products. Another word to the wise: Many supplements are either multi-level marketing companies (such as Juice Plus or some glutathione supplements), or they are affiliated with cults such as Scientology. A Scientology-affiliated company can still make excellent products, but upon asking myself the question of whether or not I wanted to contribute financially to that type of organization, the answer was no.
Guideline #7: If they mention multi-level marketing companies (think Mona Vie acai berry juice, Juice Plus whole food supplements, Kangen water, or Nikken magnet products to name a few), I would personally shy away. MLM products are generally fads that produce little to no results. Some truly are good (such as the pH-based water); however, they tend to be overpriced and you may face some high-pressure sales tactics. Many claim to have undergone testing or research, but typically the testing is useless because it is done in-house, and not by an objective, standard third party. Thus, there’s a vested interest, which renders the scientific validity questionable at best.
Now…I’ll bring these next few things up because you’ll probably come across it in your research and if you’re like I was, you’ll wonder about the following:
- Many Functional Medicine doctors do sell supplements in their practice. Yes, this is ethical, as long as when they recommend a supplement, it is for a reason that benefits YOU, and it’s something YOU actually need. Again, beware MLM supplements. Google for a list of MLM companies; you may need to check several sources, as many MLM companies are newer and may not be on older lists. Chances are if you see the product/supplement advertised on someone’s car/SUV, it’s an MLM.
- Many Functional Medicine doctors do not file insurance. (This topic alone will probably be discussed separately in the future.) This is because insurance takes a lot of time and effort that the doctor would rather devote to your case instead of wrangling with bureaucrats. Coverage for these types of services will depend on the policy you chose; doctors don’t know anything about the literally tens of thousands of policies out there. Also, even if your insurance policy does not cover this type of care, that doesn’t mean it’s not valid or necessary. Health insurance companies do not care about your health; they’re trying to minimize costs, even at your long-term expense.
- Functional Medicine doctors should have no problem openly communicating with conventional medical doctors. If they seem shifty about this, think twice.
- Some Functional Medicine doctors may charge a fee to analyze your paperwork and review your records and history. This is perfectly normal and legitimate.
This is by no means an extensive list – there are always other indications of a quality practitioner, as well as pitfalls to watch out for. I’ll try to cover additional items as they arise. For now, however, you should be armed with a little more information to begin your search. Of course, the best bet is to ask around; although not many people are seeing a Functional Medicine doctor (yet!) you never know who may know someone. 🙂