The best way to start a functional medicine practice is to start a functional medicine practice
THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY HAS EXTRAORDINARY INFLUENCE over our health care system. The NIH, FDA, and CDC are full of people with ties to that industry. Drug companies give money to medical schools and organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics. Medical journals are financially dependent on drug ads. Because of this influence, the pharmaceutical industry’s view of health care is dominant.
The “science” put forth by the pharmaceutical industry consists of finding a single chemical to relieve a symptom. They then perform a study to prove that chemical is useful. They have so much influence over the medical journals that they are able to fudge their results.
The opioid crisis is largely due to the falsifying of data to avoid showing that opioids were addictive. This is not science. Science relies on clinical observations, which are then tested and formed into theories. There are thousands of health practitioners who have made observations about natural therapies, but their observations are ignored and even suppressed as “unscientific” and “unproven.” This suppression of natural health care exists simply because there is nothing patentable to be had by using natural therapy.
Using a single drug to suppress a low-grade chronic symptom usually does more harm than good. In natural health care we view symptoms as the body’s way of telling us what is wrong. People with allergies, arthritis, asthma, sinusitis, IBS, GERD, colitis, SIBO, headaches, depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, insulin insensitivity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, immune system problems and even autoimmune disease need to take steps to restore their health (even when a drug therapy has been deemed necessary). In general, natural health care does not interfere with medical care. In many instances it outperforms medical care.
As a result, Americans are getting sicker. Our biggest problem is that we are focused on fighting disease and not restoring health. This, combined with the fact that the people with the most influence in health care are interested in patents — not in healing — has given Americans substandard health care. This means that most people with a chronic health problem do not get the health care they deserve.
We are getting sicker
The statistics are clear:
- Autoimmune diseases are increasing by a rate of 7% per year.
- The number of people with allergies has more than doubled since 1970.
- Autism affected 1 in 150 children in 2000. It now affects 1 in 44.
- The prevalence of Parkinson’s disease has grown by 50% in the last five years.
- The rate of new diagnosis of celiac disease has increased 7.5% every year for the past few decades.
- 10% percent of U.S. children have ADHD. The diagnosis has increased by 30% since 2011.
Why are we so sick?
The average American eats 10 pounds of chemical additives (that is not counting the stuff they spray on crops) and 200 pounds of sugar each year. The CDC has found that most Americans have 125 different chemical additives in their bodies; 77% of us have plastic in our bodies.
Our crops are sprayed with glyphosate (Roundup), which disrupts the bacteria in our intestines. This practice is linked to Parkinson’s, autism, autoimmune diseases and allergies. We feed our infants soy formula — which has been sprayed with Roundup. It disrupts their microbiome, and then we wonder why there is so much autism (autistic children all have gut ecology issues).
Glyphosate has literally made most grains toxic; no wonder we love ketogenic diets. In the meantime, medicine ignores diet, the environment and the microbiome; probably because there is nothing patentable to be found there.
What does this mean for your practice?
There is no shortage of sick people. We are the only licensed health care professionals not influenced by the drug industry. We can provide answers and be the ones to reduce America’s $4 trillion annual health care bill.
Getting started is easier than you think: Start with a diet that reduces inflammation. You will be surprised at how many chronically ill people get better with a simple change of diet. Do some basic supplementation and check on how they are doing. Expect improvement (not cure). Adjust what you are doing and try to get a better result. You have time.
Talk to colleagues, read and look at the research. Every patient will teach you something. Most of the things you come up with will at least help. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Bad functional medicine is better than good pharmaceutical care when it comes to the chronically ill. Even if they are taking drugs, like cardiac meds or blood pressure medication, you can improve their situation. Natural health care seldom interferes with medicine.
Get out of the medical model
Medicine treats disease. Functional medicine is the art of finding underlying causes and restoring balance.
For example, most patients with asthma will improve if you give them magnesium; it enables the bronchioles to relax. Magnesium, however, does not treat asthma. It treats a magnesium deficiency. An asthmatic who is deficient in magnesium will be more symptomatic than one who is not magnesium deficient.
If you address a patient’s asthma (or any other chronic complaint), make it clear that you are not treating the asthma. You are merely improving infrastructure. The thing is, if you do a good enough job, the symptoms go away. When you explain what you are doing, use metaphors like, “peeling the onion” or “taking straws off the camel’s back.”
Why they call it ‘practice’
If you see a patient with a chronic complaint; let’s stay with our asthma example. Asthma is basically about inflammation, tight bronchioles and thick mucus. You can change the diet, give magnesium to help relax the bronchioles (75% of Americans are deficient in magnesium), and give iodine to thin the mucous. They will at least improve, but the result may be less than perfect.
Maybe they have digestive issues and much of the inflammation is coming from there. Maybe they have dust or mold in their living space. Maybe they need adrenal support. It becomes detective work. The good news is that after time, you start seeing patterns and it gets easier.
The best way to start a functional medicine practice is to start a functional medicine practice. Vince Lombardi said, “The Packers never lost a game; they just ran out of time.” The functional medicine equivalent is that you are never wrong, you just didn’t hit the problem hard enough.
PAUL VARNAS, DC, DACBN, is a graduate of the National College of Chiropractic and has had a functional medicine practice for 34 years. He is the author of several books and has taught nutrition at the National University of Health Sciences. For a free PDF of “Instantly Have a Functional Medicine Practice,” email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or for a patient handout on the anti-inflammatory diet.