Buyer Beware:  5 Reasons NOT to Use Functional Medicine

Buyer Beware: 5 Reasons NOT to Use Functional Medicine

If you’re not familiar with the term functional medicine, it’s a delivery of healthcare that looks at the body from a perspective of systems and origins, not just symptoms and organs. You will see a spectrum of professional degrees adopting this manner of practice, from MDs to chiropractors to dentists, psychiatrists, nutritionists, and PhDs.

While looking at the body as infinitely interconnected and an organism that is miraculously designed to heal, this style of practice may not be good for you as a potential client.

Here are 5 reasons to reconsider your initial appointment with a functional medicine practitioner.  BUYER BEWARE.


Where modern medicine has had its success is also where it has its great failures.  Modern medicine has been amazing with event-based health care like infections and trauma.  The patient suffers from an event (infection, accident, etc), shows up to the facility, gets some treatment, goes home, and most likely gets better by not doing much other than resting.

Where modern medicine is getting exposed as a failure is with chronic illness.  86% of annual healthcare dollars are spent dealing with chronic illness, not event-based claims.  What are the greatest causes of chronic illness?  Lifestyle choices.

There’s no drug that creates nutritional sufficiency.  There’s no drug that helps you achieve the required movement standards.  There’s no drug that creates better relationships.  There’s no drug that creates a cleaner air environment.

If you plan on visiting a functional medicine practitioner, you had better plan on participating in lifestyle changes.  You’re going to have to change the way you eat, move, and think, just to name a few.  Only you can do that.  The practitioner will guide and give directions but he or she can’t do the work for you.


The biggest oxy-moron I encounter in the delivery of functional medicine is that people want a provider that thinks differently, analyzes their condition differently, has trained differently, spends more time with the patient, yet expects payment for those services to be covered under traditional, cheap co-pays and quick office-visit codes that insurances will accept.

It’s not that your doctor doesn’t want to accept insurance, it’s more than your insurance company doesn’t want to accept your doctor.  A provider has shifted to functional medicine because they see great holes in the standard of care.  The provider is fed up with managing a disease and actually wants to see people get well.  Insurance is also usually about 10-15 years behind what research has uncovered.  It’s a very slow moving system. Especially if it’s government-sponsored.

The standard of care is great for event-based care but horrible for chronic disease care.  Until the insurance industry gets hit by lowered profits, they aren’t going to change their model of care.  Therefore, your desire for something different isn’t going to happen under the traditional 3rd party payer model.  Until the government stops mandating insurance coverage for everyone, there’s no incentive to change.

Imagine if you had a product that the government forced everyone to purchase, regardless of quality and effectiveness. Would you strive to make it better?

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

You may think functional medicine is expensive, but I dare you to compare the rates to those for a hospital or ambulance EOB.  It’s perceived as expensive because you are paying directly instead of waiting for a third party to pay.  Just a reminder, you have most likely paid the 3rd party payer directly (your insurance company) plus deductibles and co-pays, way more than you would pay in direct payment to the provider.

What many people do is take advantage of tax savings by paying directly using an HSA or HRA plan.


A top reason your provider has adopted functional medicine is that, because "this is the way we have always done it," it wasn’t working.  Suppressing symptoms never made anyone healthy.  As a result, your provider then has to dive back into the books, spending hundreds, if not thousands of hours unlearning what their professional training taught them.

Something you may find in common among functional medicine providers is that they have a heart to teach.  The hardest thing to teach is getting you as the patient to unlearn the decades of faulty health advice hammered into your head via your preferred media source.

You may have to unlearn things like: cholesterol causes heart diseasebreakfast is the most important meal of the day, all you need is a TSH, and sunshine is dangerous.

As you unlearn media-induced health dogma, you will have to learn and adopt new practices and procedures.  See #1.


Chronic illness doesn’t develop overnight and therefore doesn’t resolve overnight.  The body is so amazing at adapting to the things we choose and experience that aren’t helpful, that we don’t often feel those negative effects until there’s a breaking point.

Often, when someone decides to see a functional medicine provider, their health has been in a steady decline.  When that person takes action, it’s not an immediate U-turn to health.  There’s an application of the brakes to slow the process down, then the actual U-turn, then the drive back up the street.

Many people have brakes so badly worn that the deceleration is nothing more than coasting until the person can turn safely.

Where people give up on the process is that they have U-turned and driven back up the street to the point that they entered the office, feeling like there hasn’t been a change, then they stop the process.  I’ve seen it enough, that those that stick with the process and get past that ‘I don’t think this is working’ point, finally have the break through that they have desired.

From clinical experience for almost 20 years, I often see this around 90 days after changes have been made.  It's the point of resistance.  The person is making progress and building momentum and then life hits them in the face, knocking them off their routines and rituals that helped them build the momentum in the first place.  It's really just physics.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Rejoice that you have resistance as you are probably making a difference.


Where functional medicine greatly differs from traditional medicine is that in functional medicine, life experience is not discounted.

A physical symptom can be caused by and/or exacerbated by emotional trauma.  Emotional imbalance can be caused by and/or exacerbated by physical means. They cannot be separated.  If a doctor discounts any connection, most likely they have no way of connecting those dots to help your situation.  There-in lies the essence of the training of functional medicine.

It’s looking at the non-obvious and connecting those dots.  Where the problems surface is often times not where the problems reside, but a compensation of a multi-layered problem.  There are rarely separate issues going on but a myriad of expressions of the same issue.

Therefore, self-examination is critical and essential to your journey.  That argument, that long car ride, or that movie ending may trigger a reaction in the body that subconsciously elicits a reaction that may leave clues to your root cause of dysfunction.  And in order to heal, you may have to confront an uncomfortable situation, offer forgiveness to someone else or even yourself, and kill some lies that you have been telling yourself for a long time.

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