Flirting With Functional Medicine

“I used to brag that I was taking all those medications so I could keep eating anything I wanted. I guess that isn’t working anymore”, said the rotund sixtysomething man in front of me.

I had never met him before, but I have seen plenty of people like him. His Hemoglobin A1c had been rising steadily over several years, and now his diabetes was way out of control and his copays for all the newfangled pills and shots he was taking were crippling his retirement lifestyle just as much as his obesity and neuropathy were.

I delivered my usual, miniature plain talk monologue, aided by my personal iPad. I have a table of what happened to another patient’s numbers in one year following such an intervention.


I call this person my “flex fuel man”, because, just like many cars, our bodies can run on different kinds of fuel, but most people are hesitant to switch fuel even though what they’re using now clearly isn’t working anymore.

I tell my diabetic patients that I agree with the notion that a balanced diet is generally best, but that their diet so far has probably been unbalanced enough to completely stress their carbohydrate burning system. It is as if they have already had their lifetime supply of carbohydrates and they now need to correct that imbalance.

The man in front of me became enthusiastic and said he would stop eating processed, carbohydrate rich foods and eat more like our ancestors, more similar to my own post-vegetarian diet (more on that here).

Thinking more deeply about these conversations that I am having more and more often, I guess I am steadily moving closer to what has had many names and permutations but has now become known as Functional Medicine.

Chronic disease is crippling our people and our healthcare system. Like the man said, many medications, blockbuster drugs, are developed and promoted so people can keep doing what is obviously hurting them. This is true for diabetes, hypertension and countless chronic disease processes we know to be linked to inflammation, gut bacterial imbalance and more or less subtle nutritional deficiencies and toxin buildups.

Functional Medicine is about addressing these root causes of disease.

I, for one, am starting to devote a few of my precious fifteen minutes with patients to the conversation starter “There is another way to handle this”.

Monday night, I registered for some free classes with the Institute of Functional Medicine and on my way up to Van Buren Tuesday night I finished Chris Kressler’s audiobook “Unconventional Medicine”.

My experiences with curing diabetes have nudged me toward a new journey.

6 Responses to “Flirting With Functional Medicine”

  1. 1 Lilian White November 8, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    As a medical student, the functional medicine movement is very exciting to me. It’s helpful to give a label to this type of practice for the purpose of gathering the like-minded, but really it’s just good medicine. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have to call it anything but that.
    It’s great to hear you’re using it to help patients already!

  2. 4 krb November 15, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    i don’t see why we need another name / branch of medicine for doing what we should have been doing all the time. “functional” = addressing root cause? anything that works is functional, so how is what came before “functional medicine” not functional? sounds like rebranding more than anything new

  3. 6 eathealthyandbehealthier January 31, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    Functional medicine like Lilian said is good medicine. It would be nice if conventional medicine was on board with type of practice.

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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