Unsatisfied with Your Chronic Disease Treatment Plan? Time to Try a Functional Medicine Practitioner
Chronic diseases are on the rise in America. According to the CDC, 6/10 Americans have a chronic disease and 4/10 have multiple chronic illnesses. These kinds of diseases are long-term and not easily curable. Diabetes, asthma, and heart disease are all examples of chronic diseases.
As anyone who struggles with a chronic illness knows, the toll that extended discomfort takes on the body can be draining. Patients often report lower quality of life, higher stress, and difficulty engaging in activities they once loved. Chronic illness can also strain families and caregivers who must assist in managing continual symptoms.
Unfortunately, our pharmaceutical-centered medical system has forced patients into maintenance mode when treating chronic diseases. Doctors prescribe an endless stream of medications that can only delay or cover up worsening symptoms.
But what if there was a treatment that could address the root of the disease? Functional medicine practitioners are gaining popularity across the country for their unique approaches to chronic disease. Here, we’ll dive into how a functional medicine practitioner might provide true, lasting relief for your chronic disease.
What is a Chronic Disease?
It’s important to understand that “chronic disease” is a broad term that does not share one single definition among doctors and medical organizations. One article published in Frontiers in Public Health notes that MedicineNet describes a chronic disease as “one lasting three months or more, by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear.” One academic paper by a geriatric researcher defines chronic illness as “conditions that last a year or more and require ongoing medical attention and/or limit activities of daily living.”
What do these multiple definitions mean for patients?
It means that expert consensus is not absolute when it comes to chronic diseases. It means you should get a second (or third) opinion before committing to a treatment plan. Most importantly, be cautious about placing your condition in a box. When diagnosed with a chronic disease, many patients immediately focus on symptom management rather than disease treatment. As we saw in the definition above, “chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication.” The chronic label makes patients believe that their conditions can’t be prevented or cured.
Do not blindly believe that chronic diseases are untreatable. Many chronic diseases can be treated to the point where symptoms become minimal or negligible.
While 5 Journeys believes that some diseases do remain chronic, we spend one-on-one time with our patients in order to rule out lesser-known causes and explore treatments that are overlooked by the majority of medical doctors.
What is the Difference Between Your Average Doctor and a Functional Medicine Practitioner when it Comes to Chronic Disease?
Functional medical practitioners focus on addressing the root cause of a patient’s symptoms. This is different from most doctors’ approaches. An average doctor will focus on treating symptoms. They will prescribe a medication that will reduce pain (receiving a cut from the pharmaceutical company in the process) without treating the issue causing the pain in the first place.
If doctors are unable to come up with an exact diagnosis for your condition, they may do nothing at all. This often happens with adrenal fatigue where millions of people suffer from symptoms, but doctors simply brush it away as a pseudo disease. Few diseases, however, perfectly fit their respective diagnoses, and many patients continue to suffer needlessly.
Another way to understand the difference between practitioners is to think about the questions asked of the patient. An average doctor asks, “What medicine can I prescribe to treat these symptoms?” The functional medicine practitioner asks, “What lifestyle changes can we introduce in order to treat the root of this chronic disease?”
The human body is a complex biological system. High career stress will inevitably impact the immune system and digestive tract. A leaky gut will have ramifications on the emotions. Functional medicine practitioners recognize these relationships and seek to achieve harmony among the different bodily systems.
The Five Journeys Approach to Treating Chronic Diseases
Functional medicine practitioners at 5 Journeys have recognized that effective treatment requires taking five distinct approaches. These approaches cover the five main areas of a person’s life: physical, chemical, emotional, social, and spiritual. Doctors that don’t practice functional medicine usually only focus on the physical and chemical areas with perhaps a limited emphasis on the emotional side of life in the form of counseling.
Our bodies should work in harmony – spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and physiologically. Treating a chronic disease means taking all of you into account.
The stereotypical visit to the doctor has you filling out forms for 15-minutes, waiting in the office for another half hour, then visiting with your provider for five minutes before they write a quick prescription and bill insurance for a horrifying sum of money. Not only is this kind of medical care unpleasant and impersonal, but it also leads to ineffective treatment plans. Maintenance is not an effective treatment for chronic diseases.
A functional medical provider at Five Journeys will take time to understand your unique medical situation. Your practitioner will use cutting-edge technology, comprehensive testing, and a thorough understanding of the body to identify the root cause of your issue(s). This means getting to know your genetic history and major life events to understand the factors affecting your health. It means trying different changes to your lifestyle.
Your chronic disease deserves to be treated with respect.
What Might A Functional Medical Practitioner Recommend for Treating Chronic Diseases?
After your initial consultation, where a practitioner sits down with you and listens to your history, symptoms, and overall health goals, you will be given a personalized treatment plan that will get you feeling back to normal.
Five Journeys believes in rigorous medical testing to determine the root cause of your discomfort and pain. For example, we do extensive blood work to see how your body is delivering oxygen, immune responders, and energy. We also test the digestive system to make sure you’re absorbing the necessary ingredients from your daily meals.
Expect your functional medical practitioner to create a custom diet plan. Many foods, especially highly processed foods, cause bodily inflammation, which is a major contributor to symptoms of chronic illness. Prolonged exposure to unhealthy foods can eventually damage your digestive tracts. A healthy diet can repair this damage and have you feeling good again. And don’t worry, we have recipes that taste great, so you won’t feel as though you’re living on cardboard!
Massage, Chiropractic & Bodywork
Proper body alignment allows energy to flow freely to wherever it needs to go. When the body isn’t aligned, such as when you have a pinched nerve or a tight muscle, you’ll feel tired and sluggish. Proper bodywork will assist the body in healing itself.
Your functional medicine practitioner will encourage you to find ways to stay active. These activities will be tailored to the severity of your chronic diseases. Whether you’re doing simple hand exercises to combat arthritis or running a 5k to tackle diabetes, exercise and healthy lifestyle changes are part of a holistic treatment. Don’t forget a good night’s sleep, too.
Emotional and psychological stress are serious contributors to chronic disease. A stressed body is unequipped to heal itself. By connecting patients with therapists and support communities, we create social environments that foster emotional freedom and treatment plan accountability.
Are you dissatisfied with your current chronic disease treatment plan? You may benefit from the personalized care of a functional medicine provider. Click here to learn more about getting started with 5 Journeys.