Tips for Finding the Best Functional Practitioner – We all want a health care professional with an open mind, that is easy to talk to, and truly has our best interest at heart. However, this can be much easier said than done!
With so many functional specialists to pick from, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. We’re here to take the confusion out of choosing a practitioner by giving you the best tips, tricks, and questions to ask to ensure you’re finding a practitioner that will walk beside and support you in your health journey. Ready to learn more? Keep reading!
What is Functional Medicine?
Before we jump into how to choose a great functional practitioner, we should probably cover exactly what functional medicine is. Functional medicine is a science-based approach to healing. In functional medicine, each patient is treated as an individual, and the body as a whole.
This type of medicine joins the patient and the practitioner to work together in order to identify and address the root cause(s) of illness, instead of only treating symptoms. This way, the patient can work towards true healing. This also enables the practitioner to identify preventative measures that may be taken to prevent further illness in the future. Because of this, functional medicine takes on a preventative approach as well.
Functional medicine is not against traditional medication, and uses it as needed. However, unlike allopathic medicine, functional medicine seeks to implement methods that target the root cause of the issue first. They also place emphasis on prioritizing methods that have the lowest risk of causing additional issues.
Tips for Finding the Best Functional Practitioner
While we have lots of tips for finding the best functional practitioner, these would be useless unless we taught you how to locate a functional practitioner in the first place.
Finding a functional practitioner can be slightly more difficult than locating an allopathic doctor, as allopathic medicine is the norm. However, The Institute for Functional Medicine has made this process much easier! Simply visit ifm.org, and navigate to their “Find a Practitioner” page. From here, all you have to do is enter your location, and you will be provided with all of the IFM Certified Practitioners in your area.
This way, you can rest assured that the practitioners you are reaching out to have attended further functional training, and are certified to practice functional medicine.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Functional Specialist
We’ve already covered what functional medicine is, and how to locate a functional practitioner. Now, let’s jump into tips for finding the BEST functional practitioner.
Credentials + Experience
- What Are Your Credentials/Specialities?: Functional practitioners should have attended an additional certification program on top of their medical degree to practice functionally. While functional medicine practitioners often do everything, most will have something they feel strongly suited in (gut health, hormones, preventative aging etc.). Finding a practitioner that specializes in your disease or ailment, or something related is optimal.
Approaches to Healing + Philosophy
- Do You Think Diet Plays an Integral Role in Health and Healing?: Food has incredible power to either heal our bodies, or cause greater damage and harm to them. If diet isn’t highly stressed as a necessary part of healing, find a new practitioner.
- What Approach do You Take to Healing?: While a vague question, a good functional specialist will explain that they approach the body as a whole, and search for the root cause instead of jumping immediately to medications to mask symptoms.
- What is Your View on Gut Health?: Gut health is at the center of all autoimmune diseases, and houses 70% of our immune system. Without addressing the gut, healing is impossible. A good functional practitioner will place heavy emphasis on healing the gut.
Visits as a Patient
- How Long Will My Initial Visit Be?: While follow-up appointments are often shorter (30 minutes or so), initial visits with a thorough functional practitioner have a lot of ground to cover, and often take up to an hour or more. Finding a practitioner that wants to take the time to get to know your history is incredibly telling in what type of care you will receive.
- How Long Will Each of My Follow-Up Appointments Be?: Functional specialists are often not covered by insurance. Because of this, you most definitely want to get your moneys worth out of a visit. Nothing quite stings more than paying $250/apt. for 10 minutes. Functional practitioners should set themselves apart from allopathic practitioners by taking the time to listen, go in depth, and address questions.
- How Often Will I See You?: As you heal, your appointments may be scheduled further apart. This is normal, and is not a bad thing. However, in the beginning especially, your functional practitioner should be monitoring you on a regular basis. (A norm for this may look something like every 3 months.)
- Do You Run Routine Tests?: A huge difference between functional and allopathic medicine, is that functional practitioners prioritize preventative care, instead of only reactive care. If extensive labs are not being run on a regular basis, this preventative care cannot happen.
- Can I get in Contact with You Between Appointments?: Like mentioned above, functional specialists are often not covered by insurance, and appointments can be pricey. You should be able to contact your functional specialist directly (email, phone, etc.) between appointments to provide updates on your health, and questions that do not need an entire appointment to address.
Red Flags to Avoid with Functional Practitioners
While we gave a brief overview of red flags housed within the questions above, we want to spend a bit more time really diving into the red flags to be aware of when choosing a functional practitioner.
- Promises Cures: While you may be able to find much healing and even achieve reversal in severity of many diseases and illnesses with the help of your functional practitioner, your medical provider promising you a cure is a major red flag. Many diseases are simply incurable despite the amount of healing you achieve. Even for the ailments that are curable, there is still no guarantee. If you are given promises of cures, you should be suspicious that this practitioner prioritizes sales above honesty. In this case, you should walk away.
Approaches to Healing + Philosophy
- Are Satisfied with Simply Masking Symptoms: Many patients that see a functional practitioner would like to slowly phase out their heavy drugs that may cause further issues down the line. If your functional practitioner is satisfied because something is “working”, and doesn’t want to help you heal from the root, this is an issue.
- Does Not Believe in Root Causes: Just because there is a reason for your disease, doesn’t mean it’s your fault. Functional practitioners should want to piece together the puzzle of why your body has gotten to the place it is at. This way, they can reverse damage and help you truly heal by addressing those root causes. If your functional practitioner thinks you are sick due to bad luck, find another doctor.
- Doesn’t Prioritize Diet as a Main Component of Healing: Like we mentioned previously, food has the power to either help heal our bodies, or tear them down even further. A good functional specialist recognizes the power of food, and will prioritize diet as a main component of healing.
Patient Provider Relationship
- Short Appointment Times. In and Out: Save the short appointment times for allopathic doctors. Functional practitioners should have much longer appointments that dive deep, and leave plenty of room for discussion and questions.
- They Give You the Plan instead of Working with You to Form the Plan: You know your body best, and always have the final say in medical decisions. Functional practitioners should want to work alongside you, not dictate your healthcare plan.
Switching from allopathic medicine to functional was such a breath of fresh air, and is what truly kickstarted our healing. If you’re looking for a doctor to walk alongside, and support you in your health journey, functional medicine is definitely the way to go!
We hope that this article helps to clear the air on all things functional medicine, and how to find the best practitioner for you.