Treating Disease Vs. Dis-Ease
Do you want a quick fix or do you want to solve the root cause problem?
Have you ever gone to the doctor and shared that you just did not feel like yourself? Maybe it’s your hormones? Maybe it’s your thyroid? Maybe it’s allergies? You’re not sure, but you just know that you don’t have the energy you did in the past. Your doctor does labs. You don’t want there to be something terribly wrong, but it would be nice to have a clue as to why you feel so off. You wait for results with the anticipation of finally fixing the issue. Your doctor reports back…the tests are all normal…what?!?!
I see this every week in my office, and those labs may not be entirely “normal.” By traditional medicine standards, they probably are normal. However, traditional medicine doesn’t intervene until you have a disease, but what if you are having Dis-Ease and on your way to developing disease? Can we stop it before it becomes disease? The answer many times is yes! Many vague symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, indigestion, headaches are the body’s way of telling us something is wrong, and there needs to be an intervention before something serious develops.
What’s done when a patient like this shows to my office? The most important thing is the history. I have found that no one likes to sit down and complete a 14 page history questionnaire. Although that questionnaire is very helpful, I have found that starting with basic questions about the most concerning symptoms are the best and then going backwards from there.
The symptoms often lead me to ask about things you are eating, your sleep patterns, your digestion, your childhood or teen history, exposures to certain medications, surgeries like gallbladder removal or gastric bypass/sleeve. It really can go anywhere, and you may be surprised to find what the culprit may be!
During this time, I sometimes learn of symptoms that have not previously been evaluated and needs to be done so. Over time, with multiple meetings, the history unfolds. It’s like you are encased in a block of ice, and we chip away at that big block over time to set you free.
An examination is very important also. I have discovered thyroid masses, heartbeat irregularities, abdominal masses, high blood pressure. Sometimes, the tongue or fingernails can reveal what is causing some of the issues.
Based on findings from the history and exam, orders for blood work and/or radiology studies are given. I also may suggest a saliva test, stool test, allergy test based on your history and/or exam.
For many women, I find there is an imbalance in thyroid, adrenal, and/or ovarian function regardless of age! This will show up on the saliva test. These three systems affect each other. If one is not balanced, it can throw the others off. There are many things that can cause these imbalances. The most important task is to find the root cause and repair that root cause. With guidance, vitamins/supplements, and/or replacement medications, if needed, I have had many patients begin to feel good again. The goal is to get your body functioning as optimally as possible such that you eventually need very few vitamins/supplements and/or replacement medications.
When starting vitamins/supplements. It’s best to start the most important ones first and slowly. You don’t really want to start these quickly or in large volumes. With medical grade supplements, patients may not need very much! The same holds true for replacement medicines. I find that in traditional medicine, we are over medicating our ladies on hormones. They really don’t need the high amounts that many are taking.
Some symptoms or findings will require other medications, like antibiotics for bacterial overgrowth or parasites. It’s important to really tailor the visit to what’s going on with the patient. This is why I often spend 30-90 minutes of time with a patient at that first visit.
Trying to find a cause for vague symptoms can be very time consuming for both patient and physician. There can be multiple reasons for symptoms. The reasons need to be approached in a stepwise fashion, over time, in order to make the patient feel better. The process can take weeks, months, or even years for a patient depending on what is going on and how long it’s been present.
In traditional medicine, we give a pill to “fix it,” but it does not always solve the reason for the problem. It just fixes the symptoms. With a functional medicine approach, the patient doesn’t just receive relief of those vague, annoying, and life interfering symptoms. She receives what is needed to cure the reasons the she has the symptoms in the first place!