So now that we have the basics of functional vs conventional medicine out of the way, I’d love to share how I find my functional doctors, what I look for, and why I chose my (hopefully) new doctor.
HOW TO FIND A FUNCTIONAL DOCTOR
First of all, I usually start my search with google. I like to see the reviews, website*, location, office pics, etc. because those are important to me. Since we’ve covered that “functional medicine” can be a confusing label, I use different search terms to make sure I don’t miss any possible options. Some search words I use are functional medicine, of course, but also holistic medicine/doctor, naturopath and integrative medicine/doctor. Get creative and as specific as you’d like; really think about what you’re looking for here and you might find someone who is exactly what you need!
Second, the Institute for Function Medicine website has a practitioner directory that you can search by location. This “comprehensive, searchable network [includes] clinicians in various specialties and healthcare professions.” A quick search of my area shows nurse practitioners and registered dietitians as well as MDs and DOs. Each person/practice included in the IFM network has “attended IFM’s five-day foundational course, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP), and are also current IFM members” if that matters to you. Click here to check it out!
*tip: check their professional social media as well. Most small practices & doctors still don’t have pages, but the interactive nature of social media can really help you get a vibe for a person/place. If they’re using the platform(s) for engagement with their community, information and education about relevances topics and even spotlights for treatments etc., that’s great. If I see a lot of product placement and emphasis on things (over prioritizing knowledge and health), that’s a red flag for me.
WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A FUNCTIONAL DOCTOR
I know in Part 1 of this series I said (and I quote) “conventional medicine and I did NOT get along.” That being said, I really like when a functional doctor has experience/history with conventional medicine for two main reasons. #1: They have a base of knowledge and understanding for my medical past since that was strictly conventional. They’re familiar with the majority of medications, processes and procedures that I’ve experienced. And #2: I feel comfortable that I’m not “missing anything” by having a doctor who has conventional and functional training. For example, I still like to have regular bloodwork and imaging done for my thyroid and currently still take a presctiption thyroid medicine. Having a functional doctor with a conventional background makes me feel very confident that I don’t need an additional primary care and/or endocrinologist to work with.
I look for a doctor who specifically mentions that they specialize in my area of need/interest (autoimmune health and thyroid disorders for me). There are functional experts in prenatal and childcare, dietary and weight control issues, digestive disorders, allergies and athsma, holistic (100% natural) remedies, neurological disorders, cancer treatment support, alternative therapies, and so much more.
Next, while I’m often suspicious of integrative practices that seem to offer every possible treatment and service under the sun (How could they possibly be experts at everything? They’re usually not), I do like it when a doctor/office offers additional support and benefits. This may be in house lab work, partners who offer separate specialties, supplement and prescription compounding, etc.
Finally, and this is more of a personal preference, I like to work with the primary physician and/or owner of the practice. If the person whose name is on the building isn’t available, I’m not interested. Why? In my experience, this happens because the office regularly overbooks patients and appointments, and I don’t like long wait times and feeling like I need to fight for attention in a crowd. Also, I’ve just never had great experiences with the larger offices and multiple doctors because things just seem less straightfoward and organized. It’s only a matter of time before a schedule conflict or last minute appointment means I have to meet with a doctor who isn’t usually mine, and then it feels like starting from square 1 again.
WHY I CHOSE MY NEW FUNCTIONAL DOC
I chose my new doctor based on lots of positive google reviews, a location close to my home/Rob’s work (since he takes me), and because the office looks clean and welcoming in pictures.
He was previous ER doctor with 14 years of experience who switched to functional medicine after experiencing a “difficult health issue with his wife” and specifically mentions knowing what it’s like ” to be a patient in a system that doesn’t seem to understand.” He mentions being interested in “looking outside of the box” for answers. I relate to and appreciate all of this!
The office offers IV treatments and nutritional consultations, which are two resources that I’m interested in trying.
Finally, he looks about late 30s-early 40s and I’ve found that younger doctors tend to be more interested and involved in current medical research/staying up-to-date with health news. He has lots of adorable kids which means he’s probably kind and compassionate (and likely v tired too, but that’s okay).
MY GOALS FOR WORKING WITH A FUNCTIONAL DOC
This has been a pretty great year for me. I feel like I’ve reclaimed a lot of my independence and confidence when it comes to my health. I’ve been able to eat so many more foods (after my trial of AIP, I had developed such severe food reactions and intolerances I could only eat 10 or so foods for almost a year. It was terrible!). For a while, my health problems (and goals) were constantly at the forefront of my mind, and they’re now occasional thoughts that pass as I go about living my life. I’m so grateful for my progress and current situation, so I’m no longer looking for someone to give me all the answers to every question that comes up.
What I am looking for is someone who is knowledgable, experienced, and supportive to help me maintain my progress and be a resource for any current/future health issues as well. Here are my interests & goals:
- As I’ve mentioned, I prefer routine monitoring of my thyroid condition and medication.
- I feel like I got a lot of insight about my overall health from GI map and hormone testing, so I’d like to repeat and get updated results for that.
- I’ve had some reactions taking probiotics and my B vitamin supplement, and would like some insight and/or other options.
- I’m still weaning off of my very last Rx medication (not thyroid related) and it was for anxiety, so I’d appreciate further support & resources as I continue.
- I’m interested in my blood sugar and MTHFR status and will ask for testing.
- I’ve been borderline anemic forever and take an iron supplement every day but I want to ask how I can further help that.
- Finally, I want to discuss more about non-hormonal birth control options and will bring up my recent face rash/swelling to see what he thinks!
I hope this helps, and in the next part I’ll share some specifics about my appointment like what notes I discussed, what tests we agreed on, and what I thought about our first meeting. Again, I’ll try to be as specific as I can for those of who requested it!