The moment has come when you have made a decision to share your burden – your physical burden that has extended itself mentally. You decide that 15 minutes with a PCP won’t cut through the 2, 5, 10 or 15 years of discomfort that you realize no longer serves you any kind of purpose except to make you feel even more isolated and uncomfortable. You find a cache of seemingly well-intentioned, well-educated and well-positioned integrative medical practitioners nearby. Yay! Deep down you know that once you find someone, you’re going to want them to intrinsically understand what you’ve been going through and to connect with you in a way that you can trust them with your mental and physical baggage that gets heavier with every step. You’re all set, but here’s the rub – how do you find the right one for you? Who is going to understand your needs the best?
Ideally, you can find someone willing to give you a few minutes and will describe their process. Once you get the financials out of the way (do they take insurance, are you going to pay out-of-pocket, etc?), here are a few tips on what you can ask them:
1) How long is your initial session and what kind of questions will you ask me?
2) Do you feel that you will be able to discuss with me what you feel is making me unwell?
3) Are you going to provide resources (written documents, protocols, etc) on how best to follow your advice and get my health back on track?
4) Do you use supplements to get someone better for the long run or just in the short term (e.g. will I need to take supplements for months and years to feel better or can you get me better by only using them temporarily?) They may say that some people will need to be on basic supplement support for the long-term for items such as multivitamins, minerals, vitamin C and vitamin D and this would be the better answer then…. Well, many of my patients need to take long term X supplement support to control their X, Y and Z problem.
5) Will you advise me to do a bunch of testing as part of my initial treatment and if so about how does that cost on average? Are you able to provide me a full review of my test results and answer all of my questions?
These tips are meant to get you on the path of getting what you really need from your healthcare provider. Integrative and functional medicine can be wrought with endless testing and supplements – do your best now to find out if your provider needs to use these modalities as a crutch or if they are truly capable of bringing you to a better place with eating the right foods for your current needs and a few basic
supplements. Even supplements that have a specific use in the short term (such as antimicrobial herbs) can be helpful but be wary if your provider feels that the only
light at the end of the tunnel is made by way of you spending $200-500 every month on pricy supplements for years.
Also, look for someone that can synthesize their approach… meaning, integration of your gut/microbiome health, immune system health, diet, lifestyle/exercise habits and current conditions (that which brought you to their office in their first place). For someone with a complex illness (such as an autoimmune disease), a comprehensive approach is the best that aims to tackle all of the above. They probably won’t be able to knock all the pins down during the first visit, but question their long -term approach. What is their vision of how your healing will take place?
Consider how dependent your provider is on testing? Are they recommending hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of integrative tests? Are they unable to help you without answers from these tests? Testing can be very helpful – you can see that you should avoid wheat/gluten or dairy.. or that you have dysbiosis in your GI system. Some testing is very important such as nutrient testing (to test for deficiencies), testing for malignancies, poor functioning of organs such as thyroid and adrenals. These results are key to putting together a plan but be weary of a provider that insists on multiple, expensive tests without being to explain your situation otherwise.
As a population precariously put in a place of loss of flexibility/adaptation to new stressors, we must be in a better position to argue for care that meets the whole person. Practitioners feeling the visceral demand to meet this need honorably rush to acquire a new kind of education and training however, you can also be a savvy consumer and argue for someone who is seasoned enough to put you on the most direct path towards healing.
Be sure that your provider realizes the significance of eating certain foods and avoiding others as part of your healing process. The days of just taking a pill are over. Realize that you will most likely need to change your eating habits to get better. Either your provider can expound on what you need to do nutritionally or refer you to a qualified nutritionist who can discuss the best way to eat for your needs.