Tag Archives: scope of practice

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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What Functional Medicine is NOT, Part 2:

In the last post, I brought up a few myths that I frequently come across and dissected them.  As I mentioned before, when different practitioners use the same term (in this case Functional Medicine) to mean various things (such as nutrition, bioidentical hormones, or fad diets), this confuses people.  People are just starting to find out about Functional Medicine as it is, and many people aren’t exactly sure what it means.  And who can blame them?  It seems as though there is too wide a variety and not enough consistency, and people aren’t sure where to turn or who to trust.  I thought I’d help sort things out.

Since the last post got longer than I expected, I decided to split it into two parts.  Here is the second part…

Truth #5: Functional Medicine is not a scam, voodoo witch-doctor healing, or old wives’ tales.  The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) has published an authoritative textbook that covers nearly all aspects of true Functional Medicine.  The author page boasts an enormous amount of inter-disciplinary collaboration, meaning that Medical Doctors, PhDs, Doctors of Chiropractic, Doctors of Osteopathy, Naturopathic Doctors, Certified Clinical Nutritionists, Dentists, Massage Therapists, Physical Therapists, people with Masters degrees including Masters in Public Health, and Acupuncturists have all worked together to produce this resourceful body of knowledge.  The book cites numerous solid references to genuine studies published in standard, respected peer-reviewed journals across the world.

And that’s just the textbook that many of us use.  In addition, there are classes affiliated with educational institutions that are recognized and accredited by the US Department of Education.  There are cutting-edge authoritative books written for the public by esteemed authors such as Datis Kharrazian, whose protocols I follow (with a few modifications for individual needs and sensitivities), which by itself cites over 600 genuine references.

True Functional Medicine bases their holistic treatment approaches on diagnostic lab test results ordered through standard blood laboratories (the same ones that any hospital or conventional doctors would use), and other CLIA-certified specialty laboratories.  The reference ranges used to interpret lab work are narrower than these labs have set, but are nonetheless based on respected organizations such as the American Endocrine Society and the Vitamin D Council.

Truth #6: Functional Medicine has nothing to do with muscle testing or AK.  Some practitioners utilize “muscle testing”, also known as Applied Kinesiology (AK).  This involves having you hold your arm out, resisting the practitioner’s attempts to push/pull your arm in a certain direction (or directions).  Once he or she establishes that the muscle group s/he’ll use for testing is working properly, s/he’ll have you touch certain points on your body, make certain movements, hold certain positions, or hold certain objects.  These practitioners claim that the results of this “testing” can show if you have a liver problem or adrenal issue.

I have several significant problems with this.  First, the test itself may not be accurate or reliable.  Not only is it incredibly vulnerable to practitioner manipulation (whether he or she is aware of their influence or not), but the scientific research has not been done to back up the validity of this so-called testing.  Not only that, but even if its results are accurate (and let’s say the test really is valid for adrenal dysfunction), there are multiple kinds of dysfunction.  There is overactivity, underactivity, and normal activity but in a chaotic rhythm.  Muscle testing can’t reliably break things down that far, and it certainly can’t quantify it into objective numbers like real lab testing can.

Truth #7: Functional Medicine is a real, recognized form of medicine, not something the alternative medical community made up.  Functional Medicine is not a “chiropractic thing”; in fact, it’s not specific to any single healthcare discipline.  It’s definitely not a fly-by-night approach to be considered second to conventional medicine, with conventional medicine holding the ultimate authority, from whom everyone else (patients and other practitioners) must seek approval.  Functional Medicine, in most situations, can very well be regarded on an equal playing field as any medication-based approach, and Functional Medicine doctors are every bit as knowledgeable in their approach as (and sometimes even moreso than) conventional practitioners who have not studied this approach.

Functional Medicine is indeed a medical subspecialty; its non-pharmaceutical approach allows any non-drug practitioners, including Naturopathic Doctors (in states that license them–of which Texas, where I live, is not one), Doctors of Chiropractic, and others to practice.  Essentially, as long as the practitioner is licensed in the state in which they practice, and their license covers the ordering of diagnostic lab testing, then they may also legally interpret the results and offer a Functional Medicine approach.

I hope that clears up some of the confusion out there. 🙂