Today I made the decision to elect medical care by Parsley Health, a primary care practice that takes a functional medicine approach. I feel genuinely excited that I am choosing to prioritize my health for the long haul known as life.
What is functional medicine?
It is an “approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease.” Practitioner’s assess the whole body, rather than each system or organ on its own. The Institute for Functional Medicine has more information here.
What led me to a functional medicine practitioner?
At my quarterly endocrinologist appointment for type 1 diabetes, I explained to my doctor that I was literally working my butt off at the gym and eating super clean, ahem–skipping all pastries in the office, and not seeing any physical results. My doctor’s response was that I should “eat less and exercise more” and that my symptoms were not thyroid related. The test results I received the next day indicated otherwise – my thyroid was in a full on death spiral. Does this sound familiar to some of you?
I have listened to countless health and wellness podcasts focused on topics like autoimmune and thyroid disease, and it’s painfully evident that my diagnosis story is not uncommon. Women struggle for years undiagnosed while their doctors doll out the same poor advice. I am literally sick and tired of this narrative. There is another way. I wholeheartedly believe that with the right oversight and guidance I can optimize my health despite my pre-existing conditions.
Complementary and alternative medicine in the U.S.
A 2008 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) report states that 38% of U.S. adults are using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The survey included therapies like: meditation, yoga, massage, natural products and diet-based changes. Yes to all of these options. The survey found that a large percentage of respondents incorporated CAM into their lives because they believed conventional medicine did not serve them.
CAM and chronic disease: where do the two meet?
I read through the comments on a June 2018 Glu poll that asked its community of people with type 1 diabetes (PWD) their thoughts on CAM and was surprised to see so many responses dismissing the potential benefits of complementary therapies. Complementary interventions are used together with conventional treatments. I understand that restored pancreatic function is the ultimate hope of PWD, but that’s just not a reality. I truly believe that PWD need to consider complementary therapies which can address problems associated to T1D and autoimmune disease.
The day-in and day-out toll that managing T1D brings absolutely heightens my control issues, stress and anxiety. I rely on the benefits of meditation for not only anxiety and stress relief, but improving my mood and creating more mental space to make mindful decisions every day. I feel similarly about spending time on a yoga mat. I am trying to treat both activities as non-negotiable.
Implementing specific diet-based theories has encouraged me to craft meals that are nutrient dense, full of color, and satiating to support my gut microbiome. A 2017 randomized control trial found an association between healthy dietary patterns and improved mental health. Bring on dark leafy greens. Not you, dandelion.
I hope to see a shift in perspective for PWD that complementary therapies can help support or improve other aspects of their health related to T1D. To me, the disease is not just about pancreatic function, but how it affects the whole body and mind.
What do I expect from this experience?
My hope is to understand where my hormone and nutrient levels are and develop a plan to optimize them; identify areas of improvement and self-care related to T1D; and determine a long-term health strategy that takes into consideration T1D complications, dementia, and age-related disease.
Level with me. Have you considered seeking medical care outside the traditional model? Or are you already seeing a functional medical practitioner? What has been your experience? I’d love to hear from you!