Not too long ago something that I posted on Instagram created a lot of buzz. Good buzz! It discussed something many people have experienced within the conventional healthcare system, and something I hear often:
The fact that anything outside of conventional or traditional medicine is considered “alternative.”
Let’s dive into this and think about this topic in a different way that might just change the narrative of what healthcare could actually look like.
Countless of my patients have felt unsupported by the traditional medicine model or by their doctors as they look for answers to their chronic health concerns. Some have even revealed they felt shamed and delegitimized by the doctor if they do anything outside of their recommendation of conventional medicine.
To begin to rewrite this script of “conventional medicine” we have to ask ourselves the question, “What does true health mean to me?”.
Foundationally, the two main pillars of conventional medicine are to prescribe drugs (medicinal matchmaking based on symptoms) and to perform surgery. This looks like treating any symptom or problem with prescription medication or cutting out anything that is not performing right within one’s body. Think about that, why is cutting off the malfunctioning organ or limb a go-to solution?!
To be clear, conventional medicine is necessary and it can save lives – this post isn’t intended to deny that! But that puts medicine and surgery as the first option and the picture of health, rather than an alternative to improving the physiological function that is displaying as symptoms. If we think about the traditional treatment process and our definition of what health is, it kind of feels like maybe we have it backwards.
By contrast, in Root Cause medicine, we pull out all the stops to figure out why our bodies are not functioning well or why we may be displaying symptoms. This detective work is step one, medicine or surgery is step two.
Here’s a true story from one of my patients that inspired a lot of this original post. This patient has dealt with Crohn’s and autoimmune diseases for several years. He has felt failed and misguided by the traditional medicine way of thinking. He even said one day “I have to believe that there is something more to do than taking this injection once a week OR to cut out part of my intestines. Surely there is something else to do.”
This patient is new to functional medicine, but knew he wanted to think differently about what his body is doing and what he can do to help his body perform better. As patients of traditional medicine, we aren’t left with a lot of options and many times we just have to accept what we are told is the truth and what we are told by our doctors.
While there are many differences between mainstream medicine and functional medicine we can create a happy unity between the two. To begin to transform the trajectory of functional medicine you need to consider these three questions if you are trying to figure out your own health and how to be the best advocate for yourself.
- Are my labs optimal? In my practice, I rarely consider what other doctors consider to be normal as what I consider optimal. The reference ranges in most blood labs are based on unwell-standard-American ways of living and should not be seen as optimal.
- If symptoms are a language of the body, then what is your body trying to tell you? It’s time to become so intune with your body so you can listen to it. The symptoms are your body’s language, and using the tools of functional medicine, I am here to help interpret it for you.
- Is there something I can do to improve the function of my body or organ function? (ie gastrointestinal bloat, pain after you eat, and are there any patterns in my lifestyle and my symptoms) This is an essential question to ask yourself and your doctor so you can utilize lifestyle modifications in order to reduce symptoms and improve function.
If you ask yourself these three questions and really begin to think about your health or body in a different way, it will allow you to create resilience and peak performance for years to come. We don’t have to accept the status quo and the narrative that we have been given about health. If we want to change the trajectory and update the script we have been given about health, we need to really think about what is considered “alternative medicine” in a different way.
Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments below! Or feel free to leave questions or stories you have that relate to this struggle of functional versus traditional health!