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What is Functional Medicine?

Welcome to the Gut Honest Truth blog where a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner gives you digestible information to tackle your chronic health concerns.

That’s me, Katie Morra;

As always, working one-on-one for your specific needs is always our top recommendation, check out our appointment options to get started with one of our licensed health care professionals today.

Disclaimer: The intention of the following statement is not to undermine or discredit allopathic medicine. On the contrary, we deeply appreciate the value and necessity of traditional healthcare. Our mission is to emphasize the significance of a comprehensive approach that encompasses various modalities, in order to enhance people's overall health and promote longevity. We believe in integrating different perspectives and approaches to achieve the best possible outcomes for individuals.

On to the post...

What is functional medicine?

Long story short, functional medicine is a personalized, root-cause approach to healthcare. It encompasses a comprehensive system for assessing, treating, and preventing chronic illnesses. The main objective is to determine the underlying factors that contribute to an individual's health dysfunction and help to support them to function as a well-oiled machine again.

A functional approach involves thorough investigation and collaboration to best support the individual's well-being. By delving into a patient's unique circumstances, functional medicine practitioners consider various factors such as diet, genetics, hormonal changes, and lifestyle choices as potential causes and treatments for diseases.

Functional medicine practitioners stay at the forefront of medical knowledge, incorporating the latest findings in genetic science, systems biology, and understanding how environmental and lifestyle factors influence the emergence and development of diseases. By combining cutting-edge scientific insights, individualized care and active patient engagement, functional medicine creates a dynamic and effective healthcare partnership between practitioners and patients.

How is functional medicine different from allopathic medicine?

The primary focus of functional medicine is to optimize health, which often necessitates more time and extensive conversation with patients. In contrast, many conventional medicine practitioners are overwhelmed and exhausted due to heavy workloads and/or patient turnover. It is not uncommon for doctors to have to tend to more than 20 patients in a single day which does not grant space to dive much deeper than surface level ailments.

Did you know only a small fraction of medical schools (1/5th) mandate 25 hours of nutritional training throughout the four-year curriculum? Yet over 80% of chronic disease is due to nutrition and lifestyle. In contrast, functional medicine places a very strong emphasis on reversing chronic disease through dietary and lifestyle modifications, which are consistently integrated into their educational curriculums.

Another key feature of functional medicine is the emphasis on optimal lab values, even when running more traditional testing. These ranges which are slightly more narrow than the standard values used in allopathic medicine. Any deviations from these optimal values can reveal patterns and markers indicating potential disease trends. By closely monitoring these optimal ranges, practitioners can detect patterns and markers that may indicate a trend toward disease. Early identification of such markers allows functional medicine practitioners to intervene and potentially reverse or halt disease progression.

What to expect in a functional medicine appointment:

Functional medicine appointments are typically more comprehensive and in-depth than their allopathic counterparts (remember the flexibility and time allocation that most allopathic, insurance based providers simply do not have the luxury to offer). These appointments involve a detailed intake process and often include a recommendation and/or interpretation of specialized lab tests to gain a comprehensive overview of your body's overall performance and health status. Most commonly, the intake involves a comprehensive medical history, which includes family history, lifestyle history, personal health history, diet, exercise, traumas, and of course, the symptoms that brought the patient there in the first place. In most cases, the functional medicine provider will strategize an initial plan of care for the individual with recommendations ranging from testing, diet and lifestyle to supplement considerations.

Follow up sessions often range between 30-60 minutes, depending on the needs of each individual. In this follow up, one can expect an explanation of preceding test results, supplement adjustments/additions, and an in depth conversation about dietary, lifestyle, and behavior modifications that would best serve the individual. When appropriate, the integration of different modalities and referrals to other types of practitioners may take place at this time as well, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic, mental health professionals and allopathic specialists such as endocrinology.

The most common testing in functional medicine:

Stool tests- inflammation, immunity, digestion/absorption, bacterial/viral/parasitic infections

  • GI Map (Microbial Assay Plus) by Diagnostic Solutions Lab relies exclusively on qPCR technology to detect the DNA of microbes In the gut. offers a much more accurate way to detect and quantify organisms than standard PCR, culture, microscopy, or DNA sequencing-based methods.

  • Gut Zoomer by Vibrant Health uses a microarray hybridization technology platform, using whole genome data to detect over 300 microorganisms with 99% specificity and 98% sensitivity.

  • Genova GI Effects uses a combination of PCR, culture, and microscopic testing methods. Provides sensitivity to antimicrobials for some overgrowths.

Leaky Gut- intestinal permeability

  • GI Map Zonulin you have the ability to order zonulin only or add It onto a full Gi Map order

  • Intestinal Permeability Assessment by Genova Diagnostics this Is a great option for lactulose mannitol testing via urine

  • Gut Barrier Panel by KBMO is a great blood test that looks at zonulin, occludin and candida

Saliva/urine- hormones, metabolites

  • DUTCH complete is a comprehensive analysis of hormones, their metabolites, and organic acids

  • Toxic Burden Test by Vibrant America or Great Plains will test for mold, heavy metals, and mycotoxins to assess total toxic burden

Breath- hydrogen, methane and/or hydrogen sulfide levels in small intestine

  • Trio Smart can only be ordered by a licensed physician and is the only clinical breath test that measures the levels of hydrogen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide

  • Genova 3 Hr Lactulose Test this provides you the 2 hr and 3 hr option - only tests hydrogen and methane levels

  • Commonwealth Diagnostics this provides you the 2 hr and 3 hr options as well as glucose or lactulose- only tests hydrogen and methane levels

Post-infectious IBS

  • IBS Smart can only be ordered by a licensed physician

  • IBS Sure by Vibrant Wellness is a great option for those who are licensed to order tests but do not have access to IBS Smart, lab can not be ordered to New York State

Serum testing-

  • Thyroid Panel offers a comprehensive evaluation of the thyroid function, hormone production, and potential issues with hormone conversion/antibody count to determine the factors impacting the thyroid

Specialty testing-

  • Other testing depends on the specialty of the provider and necessity for the patient (you) and may include testing for Lyme and coinfections, EBV, viral load, etc.

How to find a functional medicine practitioner:

When searching for a functional medicine practitioner, you want to ensure that the provider or practice is experienced and comfortable working with your specific set of symptoms and conditions. Feel free to contact them directly by phone or through their website to gather general information about their background and treatment approach. It's worth noting that while some practitioners may have expertise in treating a wide range of conditions, others may specialize in specific areas. It is important to find a practitioner who is the perfect fit for your unique needs and preferences. A phenomenal starting place is where you can find a practitioner near you.

What is the cost of functional medicine?

Given the factors mentioned earlier regarding the time spent with patients, available resources, and care approaches, it is common for most functional medicine providers to operate on a cash-based system rather than working directly with insurance. As a result, the costs associated with functional medicine can vary and there is no standard pricing across the board. However, typically, initial consultations tend to fall within the range of $200-500, while testing expenses can range typically around $250-500 per test. The costs of follow-up sessions can vary depending on the specific clinic or practitioner, so we recommend inquiring about them beforehand to obtain accurate information.

Final thoughts

Functional medicine takes a non-siloed approach to healthcare which offers valuable insights to those who are both aiming to optimize wellness or find a deeper investigation of chronic health concerns. Functional medicine places greater emphasis on lifestyle modifications, dietary adjustments, and the use of supplements, rather than relying heavily on pharmaceuticals or surgical interventions. By taking a preventative approach, functional medicine can potentially save you money in the long run by addressing health issues before they become more serious. Additionally, it can detect the progression of diseases before symptoms manifest, leading to earlier intervention. This approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of various aspects of your well-being and considers the whole person in the healing process. In-depth laboratory testing is often employed to gain comprehensive insights. If you have been thinking about getting started with a functional medicine provider, the opportunities to optimize your health through lifestyle and behavioral modifications awaits you!

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