Founder’s Note: We all hope we’re making the best healthcare decisions with the help of our doctors. But as Dr. Roberts writes below, our healthcare system doesn’t afford us the time it really takes to ensure our bodies are performing optimally. Read on for his thoughts on how to make an investment in your health that could save your life.
I often feel sorry for my friends who practice conventional medicine.
The deck is stacked totally against them. With minimal time and little compensation per visit, various medical issues to monitor and treat, and multiple medications to balance… it’s no wonder the physician burnout rate is so high.
We all know the system is broken. A 15-minute appointment that barely covers one health concern is not cutting it.
But what if you could spend 30 to 60 minutes discussing a plan to enhance your health with a well-trained health guru, one who is totally committed to helping improve your mental and physical health?
It’s possible… with a functional medicine doctor.
Build Your Team
I’ve written before about the role of a functional medicine doctor on your healthcare team.
Functional doctors are able to make the time to listen, balance and focus on refilling the tanks in your body that become low with aging.
Our conventional colleagues are often limited to four annual tests: complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel, urine analysis and electrocardiogram. If your doctor steps outside of this or orders too many tests, they will hear about it from the real powers that be – insurance companies. (Believe me, I know this all too well.)
If your test results are within the normal range, it’s not obvious what your issues could be. Normal results are often interpreted to mean you are not sick, so it must be in your head.
(The funny thing is, they are not wrong. The pituitary gland is found in your head and is often the cause of fatigue, lack of focus and mental slowing. It’s where the precursors for your hormones are made.)
So I’d like to dive into the crucial difference that spending more time with your doctor can make and why considering a functional doctor should be thought of as an investment in your body… and your life.
It’s a Test
Your first visit with a functional doctor will last close to an hour.
You’ll have to fill out 10 to 15 pages of paperwork about your dietary intake, medical history, medications, exercise routine and family history of diseases prior to seeing the practitioner. You’ll be asked what you hope to improve and what your health goals are. You and your doctor will create a road map for reaching them.
The doctor will want to know what you eat, drink and all the supplements you take (80% of seniors take supplements).
Functional doctors are quite familiar with supplements and can advise you on the best brands and amounts to take and whether you need to stop taking some of them. After all, some may adversely interact with your medications.
Functional doctors don’t need to refer you to a dietician. It’s been my experience that dieticians think the food pyramid is the way to eat – totally wrong!
These docs can talk about why you need to avoid certain foods and explain the ways they affect your body. You’ll learn, for example, how sugar acts like nitro in a car engine and redlines your body in many ways, burning out parts and organs.
Be prepared to bring your best veins. Lab testing will be an entirely different experience. Expect many more than just two tubes of blood drawn. You’ll end up with pages of lab data to better understand how to best get yourself back on track. It’s good data to have to see where you are and where you need to be.
Functional doctors test all kinds of things… because if you don’t test, you’ll miss it. In all my years of ordering labs, I found less than a handful of men had optimal levels of testosterone. It explained my patients’ fatigue, headaches, lack of energy…
And other tests revealed 15% of my patients had Rocky Mountain spotted fever!
But here’s the kicker… and what could save your life.
Time to Ask
A friend recently called me to talk about nonconventional medicine. His 79-year-old father was on 18 different medications and had developed Alzheimer’s and renal failure. He was also recently hospitalized.
The issue was clear to me in an instant. One of his medications was a proton pump inhibitor. These medications cause a 44% increase in Alzheimer’s and a 30% increase in renal failure.1, 2
Unfortunately, this is the case far too often. Without the time to ask the right questions, it could be too late to reverse the damage.
So is it worth it to go outside your network to expand your healthcare team? Only you can decide.
But one thing you can do is look up the functional medicine doctors in your zip code by going to the American Academy of Anti-Aging (www.a4m.com) or the Institute for Functional Medicine websites (www.ifm.org).
You can gather data and then make an informed decision.