Have you ever gone to the doctor with a chief complaint of a chronic symptom such as fatigue, only to find that the medical staff is fixated on your weight and vital signs? Most likely, you had to cancel all plans for the day so you could sit in a waiting room for hours before seeing a doctor. Then, you were weighed and your blood pressure were taken — as if these were the most important measurements to determine your state of health. Finally, you got to speak with the doctor for a grand total of 4 minutes. He suggested maybe trying an anti-depressant because your blood tests all came back normal (AKA in the average range for the general population). Or perhaps you were diagnosed with something and told the only way to manage it is to cover up the symptoms with drugs or surgery.
This is what I call dysfunctional medicine. As long as your weight, vital signs, and biomarkers are “average” for the general population, you’re “healthy.” If you aren’t average, you have a pill deficiency or an extraneous body part that needs to be removed. If you don’t accept either of these verdicts, then you’re “crazy.”
Functional Medicine seeks to find the root cause of your symptoms, and then develop a personalized protocol based on that. Functional Medicine also seeks to not use outdated equipment (such as bodyweight scales) and lab tests (such as a total cholesterol panel) to determine your state of health. Research and technology are growing at an exponential rate, and I believe it is paramount to incorporate this into a constantly evolving practice of Functional Medicine. If you aren’t fond of the word “medicine,” you might prefer to call this biohacking.
The field of Functional Medicine is rapidly changing as new research and new technology become available. I always encourage my clients to understand and “own” their health by using home self-tracking devices such as a heart rate sensor for tracking heart rate variability and a glucometer for tracking blood sugar. Some individuals have been able to completely eliminate chronic insomnia, for instance, after getting a glucometer and finding out that they were suffering from extremely low blood sugar at night. The quick fix for this common cause of insomnia is as simple as having a nightcap elixir of warm water or herbal tea mixed with 1 tbsp of collagen peptides, 2 tsp raw honey, and 2 tsp Brain Octane within an hour before going to bed. This provides the perfect balance of protein, carbohydrate, and fat to support blood glucose without requiring the digestive tract to work all night.
Home tracking devices such as Cue (which is still waiting for FDA approval) will allow you to test your fertility, Vitamin D, inflammation, testosterone, and whether you have the flu or not, all using a single spot of blood, a test strip, and your smartphone. Right now, the ability to do medical tests at home is a lot like the internet was in 1994. Of course, you can collect bloodspot, saliva, and stool specimens at home now, but you still have to send them to a lab for analysis and wait several days for results. It’s my hope that within the next few years, we’ll be able to do most blood tests at home using a finger lancet, a handheld device, and an Apple watch.
Until then, you should take advantage of the lab tests and tracking capabilities that we do have. Know your healthy baseline for your hormones, find out if you have a chemical imbalance in your circadian rhythm, detect micronutrient deficiencies that may be causing suboptimal health, learn about your toxicity load and ability to clear toxins, test for food sensitivities, and find out if you have any chronic, parasitic, viral, fungal, or bacterial infections that are flying under the radar.
In future installments of this Functional Medicine “Boot Camp,” we’ll discuss some of the most common causes of chronic fatigue and how to test for them. What are your #1 questions about Functional Medicine, fatigue, autoimmune disease, and nutrition? Just hit reply to tell me your questions, and I’ll try to answer them in this Boot Camp.
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