When You Know Something is Wrong (But the Doctor Says You Are Fine)
Are you always tired? Is your hair falling out? Are you gaining weight even though you watch your diet? Do you have horrendous menstrual symptoms? Are you bloated whenever you eat? These are extremely bothersome symptoms, and yet many sufferers have a “normal” lab workup and exam at their primary care provider.
The most common complaint that I hear is this: “My Doctor says I’m fine, but I know that something is wrong with me!” This is an incredibly frustrating feeling and Functional Medicine is the perfect place to turn. I am here to tell you that your symptoms are real and there is a reversible cause. Today I would like to dig deeper into this, talk about why this disconnect exists, and what can be done about it.
The Difference Between Allopathic Medicine and Functional Medicine
As an allopathic (traditional) AND functional medicine-trained nurse practitioner, I can see things from both sides of the aisle. Each has its value and place. Allopathic medicine shines in a crisis. When your appendix ruptures or your liver fails (this happened to my son and I am eternally grateful to modern medicine and the transplant technologies which saved his life!), you need acute medical care, and we have a great system for this. Unfortunately, the allopathic treatment of chronic diseases is sorely lacking. This is because the medical community is laser-focused on treating the symptoms of disease rather than the root cause in most cases. There are numerous reasons for this, many originating in finances and the need for efficiency. For example, it is impossible to identify and treat the root cause of chronic illness in a 15-minute office visit. To compound the issue, insurances will not pay for this type of care.
Functional medicine is individualized and thorough. In this realm, I have been trained to look at all factors, from birth through today, that may have contributed to your current condition. I believe that the way you are feeling has one or more root causes that are not spontaneous. Your symptoms are there for a reason- as an alarm to alert us that there is a problem. It can be very time intensive to look at the constellation of symptoms, possible triggers, and past experiences that have lead to where you are today, but it is well worth it! Through functional medicine your symptoms will not just get a “band-aid”, they will be a thing of the past as the root cause is treated.
Why Are My Labs “Normal”?
This is a very common question with a few answers. First, even though you are not well, your labs may appear to be “normal” because the wrong labs are being ordered. For example, by checking only a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level, you are not really getting a picture of your thyroid health. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in order to stimulate the thyroid to release thyroid hormone. TSH tells us if your pituitary gland is working, but it does not tell us if your thyroid is responding. The only way to know this, is to check the levels of the actual thyroid hormones. Note that I said hormones- plural. Look for more about this in a future blog post!
Another reason that you might be told that your labs are “normal” is that the reference ranges are not optimal. What many people do not know is that lab reference ranges vary by region. That’s right: The ideal level of many lab values is different in various parts of the country and world. Calculations are made based on the population average in any given area. If you live in a relatively unhealth locale, you are therefore allowed to have poorer lab values. This makes no sense!
Finally, the reference ranges tend to be very wide, sometimes varying by hundreds of points. Obviously, you are not well at a value of 9 and sick at a value of 10. There is a continuum. In reading functional lab reports, I want to see an actual ideal reading. If you are at the upper or lower limits, there is a problem brewing and I do not want to wait for a crisis to intervene.
What Can I Do to Feel Better?
Seek out a functional medicine evaluation! Your body will give you the signal that there is a problem. Do not wait to do something about it until there is irreversible damage or a major crisis. Get root cause care early, at the first sign of an issue, and get well for good. I also recommend preventative/maintenance care- functional lab workups can be done periodically to screen for developing issues that may not have obvious symptoms.
What if I Have Waited “Too Long”?
You cannot turn back the clock, but you can take action today! Functional medical care will meet you where you are. For example, if you have full blown diabetes, we can still make progress toward healing. While we may not be able to recover all pancreatic function in advanced disease, we can certainly prevent more damage and also facilitate improvement systemically. Through optimizing your body’s processes, you will experience enhanced wellness, overall health, and longevity. Many “incurable” conditions can be reversed. I have seen amazing things happen through the use of holistic, root cause medicine.
How Do I Get Started?
As you can probably see, I am a passionate believer in this type of care and feel called to help you to achieve optimal wellness. If you live in the states of Pennsylvania, Washington, Colorado, or Arizona, you can schedule a telehealth or in-person consultation with me at this link! If you live in other locations, I would be glad to help you locate a functional medicine provider who is licensed in your state. If you are not sure if this is for you or have questions, I would be glad to chat! Just fill out my contact form and I will give you a call whenever is convenient for you. Let’s not just talk about “feeling better” but “getting better” for good!