In this week’s House Call, a reader asks, “How do I go about finding answers or the underlying root causes if conventional doctors won’t/can’t, but you can’t afford a Functional Medicine doctor?”
This is not only a great question, but it’s an important one. For a variety of reasons, many of you are not able to work with a Functional Medicine practitioner. I am here to tell you that you still have the power to work with your doctor to get the tests that you need.
A big part of my work is helping patients who are dealing with what I call “diabesity”. Diabesity is the continuum of abnormal biology that ranges from mild insulin resistance to full-blown diabetes.
The spectrum of diabesity includes diabetes, elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. These are all simply downstream symptoms that result from problems with diet, lifestyle, and environmental toxins interacting with our unique genetic susceptibilities.
Though there are many things you can do yourself to resolve diabesity, working with a doctor to incorporate a comprehensive approach to treating this problem is essential. Having a good relationship with your primary care physician and undergoing regular evaluations is critical in monitoring your treatment.
However, there is one problem. The vast majority of physicians practicing today are not familiar with the concept of Functional Medicine. Some may not take a truly comprehensive approach to the diagnosis and treatment of diabesity, or even be aware of the appropriate panel of tests. Others may not test you at all unless you have already progressed down the path of disease, and they then test and interpret results quite differently than I do.
Many take a “wait and see approach,” which can be dangerous and detrimental to your health. In this situation, I encourage you to be proactive about your health. Make all of the necessary lifestyle and dietary changes that you can on your own. Remember, food is the most powerful medicine we have available, and anyone can change their diet to eat more whole foods – starting today.
Now, if you cannot get your primary care physician to cooperate in your treatment the way that you want, you may need to consider looking for another doctor. However, it is my hope that when armed with the right information, you can work with your doctor to get the correct diagnoses and corresponding care that you need.
Good health care is a team effort between patient and doctor. I hope you can find someone you enjoy working with to treat whatever illness or issue you are concerned with.
I’ve put out tons of material about the importance of getting the right tests. In fact, I’ve created a companion guide to go along with The Blood Sugar Solution called, How to Work with Your Doctor to Get What You Need for anyone who is concerned about insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and more.
When it comes to identifying diabesity, you must get the right tests. Most doctors focus on fasting blood sugar. This is actually a poor indicator of diabesity. The best test to identify the condition is an insulin response test where insulin levels are measured at fasting and then again at 1- and 2-hour intervals after consuming a glucose drink. If you do nothing else, demand this test from your doctor.
There are other areas of the body that my ebook, How to Work with Your Doctor to Get What You Need, addresses – things like cholesterol and liver function. Download it to bring to your next check up with your physician. Start the conversation with, “I really need us to partner on my overall health and I’d like to consider this information as we look at my personal situation and make a plan to move forward.”
Another common question I get from readers and patients is about thyroid health. Unfortunately, many doctors do not provide the right tests when it comes to the thyroid.
The newer guidelines of the American College of Endocrinology consider anybody with a TSH level over 3.0 as hypothyroid. Most doctors think that only anything above 5 or even 10 is worth treating. Unfortunately, this leaves millions suffering unnecessarily. Besides TSH, Functional Medicine practitioners perform other essential tests including free T3, free T4, and thyroid antibodies. We also look for associated problems such as gluten intolerance, food allergies, and heavy metals, as well as deficiencies of vitamins D and A, selenium, zinc, and omega-3 fats. For more on thyroid health and getting the right tests, click this link and also, check out the eBook.
Another test I recommend having done measures levels of inflammation in your body. Besides obesity and type 2 diabetes, inflammation contributes to almost every modern disease – including heart disease, cancer, and dementia, as well as arthritis, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and digestive disorders. So, it’s important to know if you have chronic inflammation and address it immediately. The next time you visit your doctor for blood work, make sure that along with your lipid profile you request a C-reactive protein (CRP) test. CRP measures the degree of hidden inflammation in your body.
These are just a few examples of how you can work with your doctor to get what you need. I truly believe that a combination of doing your own research and working with your practitioner can be very powerful.
Remember, your doctor works for you. Your doctor is supposed to help you. If you have a doctor who refuses to order the right tests or does not want to work with you to get what you need, I highly encourage finding another practitioner. There are plenty of doctors out there who are open to alternative treatment methods.
A great entry point to Functional Medicine is working virtually with a Functional Nutritionist. I always say that lifestyle change and changes in diet often work faster, better and more cheaply than medication and can be as effective without any side effects or long-term complications.
The team of Functional Nutritionists at The UltraWellness Center have been uniquely trained by me and have many years of experience integrating the science and art of functional nutrition therapy. For more information on how to work with a Functional Nutrtionist, click here.
Now I want to hear from you. Were you able to take charge of your health without the help of a Functional Medicine practitioner or integrative doctor? Comment on my Facebook Page, and if you liked this video, be sure to share it with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. Also, tweet me your questions, using the tag #housecallwithdrhyman, and maybe next week I’ll make a House Call to you.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD