A Consumer's Guide to Choosing A Functional Medicine Practice
With Functional Medicine being all the rage these days, choosing the right practice can be confusing and overwhelming. Avoid costly and frustrating mistakes by learning how to ask the right questions up front.
Dear Health Seeker,
Choosing a Functional Medicine practitioner isn't easy. Why? Because you are constantly bombarded with misleading advertising, confusing claims and outdated information.
From super low prices, high-pressure sales, unqualified practitioners, and near-worthless methods - how will you ever find a qualified, competent, professional functional medicine practitioner?
You can start by reading this consumer's guide. In this guide you'll discover how to spot 3 red flags when searching for a practice, 5 painful mistakes to avoid when choosing a functional medicine practitioner and 4 steps to better energy, health and vitality.
I wrote this guide to help you better understand functional medicine. With this information you can make an informed and intelligent decision when searching for a local practitioner.
If you have any questions about functional medicine, I invite you to call our office at (306) 781-2222. We've dedicated our business to educate consumers. We'll be happy to help you in any way we can.
Dr. Candice Esposito
Read this guide and you will discover:
Functional Medicine Myths Debunked
This is a phrase that we hear over and over on our discovery calls. Many patients feel like they've done everything that they can to get better. However, within a few short minutes it becomes clear that there are many stones still unturned. When a person submits to the thought of having "tried everything" they subconsciously submit to the idea that nothing more can be done.
Most people we speak to have never had functional lab testing, an emotional analysis, or an assessment of their living space - all of which can be fundamental to the healing process. Chances are there are many aspects of your health that have not yet been fully explored.
Allopathic medicine operates out of a completely different paradigm than functional medicine. Allopathic medicine focuses on the name of the disease and implements a one-size-fits-all approach that centers around symptom management and pharmaceutical drugs. This is fine for acute care or emergency interventions to help you feel better in a traumatic or life-threatening situation. However, in long-term chronic care circumstances, treating a disease through symptom management never leads to true healing and can often end up exacerbating the problem.
In stark contrast, functional medicine is more focused on uncovering the root causes of your health issues and providing a personalized plan to correct them and help you actually get better. We help optimize your adaptive physiology by treating the entire body as a whole, integrated unit that has the ability to self-heal once it is properly balanced and provided with the correct inputs.
We are all allotted the same amount of time in a day and that time passes whether you're healthy or sick. Few things are more wasteful than time spent managing an illness or disease. Think of all the hours spent online researching your illness or sitting in a doctor's waiting room for a 15-minute visit. When you don't feel well, you're also less productive at work and that can impact your finances - which leads to more time wasted spent worrying about your bottom line.
We believe that being healthy is one of the best ways to free up more time for you to do the things you enjoy the most with the people you love the most. In order to help you make the most of your time, we offer the option and convenience of telephone and video consultations to provide you with clear, concise directions on how to finally take control of your health and your life.
The next 24 hours are going to pass regardless of what you do. Why not spend them pursuing better health?
This is the biggest misconception about Functional Medicine - primarily because we've been conditioned to expect insurance to pay for everything. In doing so, we have unwittingly ceded control of our wellness over to the lowest bidder - at the expense of our own health. In reality, Functional Medicine is the most affordable form of healthcare on the planet, especially when you consider that the average person spends more money in their lifetime in the allopathic model managing a disease or illness without ever truly healing.
Thankfully, some forward-thinking insurance companies and governments are now running pilot projects to demonstrate the significant cost savings to both patients and healthcare systems using a functional medicine model, while at the same time helping participants achieve increased positive health outcomes.
Sometimes the true cost of services being rendered isn't just measured in dollars and cents, and just because something is covered by your insurance company does not make it cheaper. We're proud of the fact that the average Wellness Blueprint autoimmune patient saves thousands of dollars each year in medical expenses, while at the same time learning a liberating life skill that can be taught to their own children and loved ones.
When choosing a healthcare provider, it's important to look beyond the cost of something, and instead consider it's value. In this manner, functional medicine wins every time.
We live in the era of information and the entirety of the world's knowledge is available at your fingertips. Yet the most valuable information you need for true healing is the knowledge of what's going on inside your body and until now you weren't allowed to access this information without the permission of your doctor or insurance company. Dr. Esposito is trained to ask you the right questions and order the right lab testing to provide you with a deeper insight into your personal health challenges and how to overcome them.
Functional lab testing clues you into information that you or your doctor would never know otherwise. Our goal when partnering with you is to help identify the root cause of your health problems, teach you the appropriate life skills you need to remedy them, and support you as needed. Self-navigating through the sea of conflicting information ends up costing you both your health and your sanity. We don't recommend it.
3 Functional Medicine Practice Red Flags
Unbelievably Low Price
To some degree, all of us are attracted to a low price because we want to work within a budget. But some functional medicine practitioners use price as the bait for their false and misleading advertising. They offer a cheap initial consultation - usually FREE - and then once you're in the office, they pressure you into buying an expensive, one-size-fits-all program. Functional medicine is not as cheap as some practices would like you to believe. Many practices are notorious for up-charging the costs of lab tests to recover their costs of offering free appointments. In the end, this makes testing more expensive for patients and may influence the practitioner's choice of test. Work with a practice that has full transparency about their pricing for both services and lab testing.
Unsupported Claims. "This Method is the Best."
You'll read this in almost every practice ad and hear this from virtually every practitioner's office. Remember this: the method that's best for you is the method that achieves your goal. So before you choose a functional medicine practice, identify your objectives. Then select the practice that you feel will help you reach those objectives.
Treatment Without Testing and Tracking
Many practitioners who claim they are practicing functional medicine are in fact simply practicing "green medicine." They are just treating the effect of a much deeper problem with supplements or alternative medications instead of identifying the ROOT CAUSES. This leads to expensive, on-going supplementation. It is also important to note that the cost of not addressing the underlying causes leads to further degeneration of a person's health and an ever-increasing list of supplements to take. A skilled practitioner will use supplements only after testing a patient's needs and will also attempt to address the underlying cause of their health challenge. Testing is the only way to identify clinical blind spots and monitor patient progress. Treating the symptoms should only be used to buy you time as you work to uncover the causes. For example, a key test that every functional medicine practitioner uses is a comprehensive stool test. If your practitioner isn't running this test on virtually every patient, they are not practicing functional medicine.
Which Approach Works Best?
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to functional medicine, some approaches are more logical than others. Choose a practice that provides functional lab testing, high quality nutraceuticals, and most importantly work with a practitioner that assesses and addresses your health from different vantage points. A functional medicine approach should include a thorough assessment of the following pillars:
Mitochondria are the batteries of your cells. They’re responsible for taking the energy from food and converting it into a form the cells can use called ATP. When your cells have healthy mitochondria, they are able to carry out their cell function. Just like when your cell phone won’t work if the battery isn’t charged, your body won’t function if your mitochondria aren’t healthy.
Detoxification and Oxidation
Unfortunately, we live in very toxic times. Our liver is meant to detoxify our body, not our environment. The liver is the largest internal organ and serves over 800 different functions in human physiology. It is highly critical to assess for an individual’s detoxification capacity and oxidative stress for best outcomes.
Brain Health, Neurotransmitters and Methylation
A healthy brain makes healthy choices. Inflammation, chronic stress, poor digestive function, sleepless nights, and poor nutrient status lead to brain-based imbalances. A good practitioner recognizes the importance and decision making capability of a healthy brain and pays special attention to address it.
Diet and Digestion
Most people are quite aware that what you eat is very important, but most do not realize the importance of healthy digestive function. Even a healthy meal, if undigested, creates a toxic burden on your system. A functional medicine approach will always include a thorough assessment of both diet and digestive function. This type of testing is typically done through stool analysis, urine, or breath testing.
Stress, Hormones and Inflammation
Today, our society is plagued with chronic stress, inflammation, and hormonal imbalances. This disrupts our body’s communication system and leads to many chronic health issues. It is critical for patients to learn appropriate stress management techniques, minimize inflammatory behaviours, and restore hormonal imbalances through better lifestyle choices instead of relying on pills and potions.
Lifestyle and Environment
Our health is primarily a reflection of our lifestyle choices and our environment. Imbalances in these two areas can lead to chronic health issues. A good functional medicine program will provide patients with the appropriate tools, coaching, and awareness to ensure that their lifestyle and environment are working for them, not against them.
An Effective Approach to Functional Medicine
Your cells are the smallest building blocks in your body. A collection of cells makes up tissues, tissues make up organs and glands (liver, pancreas, brain, heart, etc.), organs and glands make up systems (nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, etc.), and these systems make you...you.
Cells have incredibly complex functions to carry out, including repairing, recycling, and replacing themselves. This provides you with an incredible, ongoing opportunity to heal and regenerate - provided your cells are healthy and able to communicate with one another when these programs and functions should occur. When proper cell function is compromised, you can expect your health to suffer.
Improving your health from the cellular level means that the health of every system in the body improves. Although cells carry out unique functions, they all function essentially the same way. As the fundamental components of everything that makes you human, optimizing cellular health is the most logical approach to good health and wellness, and a key strategy a good functional medicine practitioner should employ.
6 Costly Misconceptions When Choosing a Functional Medicine Practitioner
You should wait as long as possible before making an appointment.
No. Your health is your most important asset. Your body is fighting hard for you on a daily basis to allow you to function normally. Chronic disease places a huge burden on your body’s systems (digestive, immune, cardiovascular, neurological, etc). The longer you wait the more damage may occur and can further delay the healing process.
The only reason to see a functional medicine doctor is to treat your symptoms.
No. Symptoms are usually one of the last things to show up during the progression of chronic diseases. For many years your body has been fighting hard to allow you to function symptom- free. Patients who only seek symptomatic relief experience a chronic recurrence of their chief complaint and ongoing costs associated with symptom management. The purpose of seeing a functional medicine practitioner is to find some immediate symptomatic relief, identify key contributors to your current health challenge, and also work towards addressing the underlying causes of chronic disease.
One method of functional medicine is as good as another.
No. Functional medicine requires many years of training and continuous, ongoing education to stay abreast of the immense amount of information that is available to practitioners. When searching for a good functional medicine practitioner, it is important to ask what certifications the practitioner has, what associations and educational platforms the practitioner utilizes, and it is also important to discuss how comfortable the practitioner is in laboratory interpretation. You may find that the same lab result is interpreted differently and more comprehensively by a more experienced practitioner.
Having the right lab testing and supplements is all a practitioner needs to get me better.
No. Virtually every single practitioner that you meet has access to the same supplements and laboratory analysis. It is very important to discuss with the practitioner why they use specific lab tests and specific supplement companies. But having access to the right supplements and laboratory testing does not ensure adequate clinical outcomes. A good practitioner relies on the things that they can measure, and more importantly, the things that they can’t measure. A very important component to clinical outcomes is taking a thorough history and using clinical experience to determine the fastest road to recovery.
The practitioner who offers the lowest price or the one covered by your insurance is best.
No. I’ve seen so many patients that gravitate towards seeing the practitioner that offers the lowest price or is covered under their insurance plan. The two most common problems with this approach are:
The price that you are paying may not include all the services that are required to get you better.
The price that you see advertised may not be the price that you pay because of additional hidden costs.
Working with the right functional medicine practice in the long run will save you both time and money. In fact, we believe that finding the right functional medicine practitioner will make you money and buy you additional time with your family and loved ones.
Honest functional medicine practices should be able to give you an exact price quote.
We wish this was true, but it is simply impossible. Honest, reputable functional medicine practitioners develop unique treatment plans for each of their patients. This is one of the underlying principles of functional medicine. A functional medicine practice would only be able to provide you with a fairly accurate estimate after thoroughly evaluating your case. Most people want to hear that their issues are going to be a cheap, quick, and easy fix. While we would love to give a quote over the phone, there is no way for anyone to know what testing, supplements, modalities, and strategy are best suited for your specific needs without assessing your complete medical history.
5 Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing A Functional Practice
There is no question that lab testing and high quality supplementation are extremely important in providing outstanding outcomes. With the right testing and the right supplements, a skilled practitioner is able to produce much better results. A good way to know if a practitioner is skilled in laboratory interpretation and supplement implementation is by asking about the practitioner’s experience and training with each one, because even the best tools fail when in the wrong hands. Ask them how many functional lab reports they have interpreted. Hopefully you are not one of the first few.
Low price can be the bait that attracts you, but once the provider gets you in their office they might provide a much higher price.
Low price may only provide a limited spectrum of the services that are required in order to help you receive the best outcomes with your care.
Low price usually indicates the level of value the practitioner places on their time, training, and services offered.
Who really wants to see the cheapest doctor? Most people brag that their doctor is the best, not the cheapest. You are not shopping for a blouse on the clearance rack; this is your health we are talking about.
To know exactly what the doctor recommends, schedule a no-obligation, in person visit with the practitioner. Expect to pay for an initial consultation; doctors who value their time also value yours. Some practitioners may offer a free introductory phone call to address any questions you might have before you make an in-person appointment. This is a good sign that the practice is not interested in wasting your valuable time and money.
Any functional medicine practitioner can say anything about his/her past success. Make sure you read testimonials from current or past customers of the functional medicine practice. Facebook and Google reviews can be good places to look as well.
It is important to choose a functional medicine practitioner who is trained and certified. The Institute of Functional Medicine and Functional Medicine University are two organizations that offer training in functional medicine. It is important to note their level of training and experience. Ask your practitioner how many hours of additional training they engage in on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis, and how many patients they have actually worked with. It also important to pay very special attention whether the practitioner is even living their message. You should always work with a team of people that inspire you to live your best life and are shining examples of their own work!
Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
The Importance of Value and Price
When you select a functional medicine practitioner, you can choose from a wide variety of approaches and prices. A seasoned functional medicine practitioner will be able to use his or her clinical experience to deliver a far superior and far more cost-efficient vehicle to achieving your health goals.
A good functional medicine program will provide value well beyond the program itself. In fact, a well administered functional medicine approach will yield a lifetime of benefit. This is why addressing the root cause may cost more initially, but will continue to deliver value and savings over your lifetime.
We highly suggest engaging in a program that offers live workshops, email access to your clinician, online patient education, patient resources, video lab summaries, etc. The more tools you have, the more likely you are to succeed.
Why you deserve a clean bill of health and vitality
Health is not for sale. If it were, no one would be able to afford it.
Your health is your wealth, period. Because health is your greatest asset, it’s important that you make a highly informed and educated decision regarding who to trust. If all you want is the cheapest practitioner possible, I respectfully ask that you reassess your position.
Each functional medicine method has advantages and disadvantages. Some methods may be very effective at treating the symptoms with natural agents, while others will go deeper. What are you looking for?
Working with a functional medicine practitioner should go far beyond lab testing and supplementation. A highly effective approach to your health includes interventions such as lifestyle, mindset, relaxation techniques, environmental assessment, patient education, and most importantly client support.
If you want to be able to protect and invest in your future with great health for yourself and those you love, work with a practitioner that you can trust.
Functional medicine is a highly personalized approach to your health and is unmatched in its value. Since a good functional medicine outcome is based on results, spare no expense when it comes to your health. A good practitioner should be able to deliver tremendous value to you if they are able to do their job correctly- without cutting any corners.
100% No Pressure Guarantee
A functional medicine practitioner should want you to be super pleased and absolutely comfortable with the doctor/patient relationship, and they should offer every new patient a 100% no-pressure guarantee.
What does this mean?
Simply this: if you are not convinced that the practice offers the best value in healthcare, simply part ways - no hard feelings.
Not every patient and practitioner are going to connect with each other. A mature practitioner recognizes the value of a strong doctor/ patient relationship - one built on mutual trust and respect.
The 4 Steps to Better Health, Energy and Vitality
If you’re thinking about seeking the help of a functional medicine practitioner, we encourage you to follow these four steps:
Step 1. Make a commitment to yourself to prioritize your health.
The longer you struggle with your health, the more difficult and expensive your recovery will be. Plus, the longer you wait, the more you and those around you will suffer.
Step 2. List your objectives.
Do you just want to feel better? Or do you want to really get to the root causes of your health issue and address them? Do you want to work with an honest, reputable practice - or are you willing to risk working with the one that offers the lowest price?
Step 3. Ask questions.
The way you learn more about any company is to ask specific questions and listen carefully to the answers. Here are 5 good questions to ask a functional medicine practitioner before you begin your journey together.
- What is your definition of health?
- What types of laboratory testing do you perform?
- How will you know if my health is improving?
- What accreditations do you have?
- How many hours of continuing education per year do you take?
Step 4. Once you are satisfied that you are working with an honest, competent professional, call their office to schedule a no-obligation appointment.
Do not expect this appointment to be free. The only way a practitioner will ever value your time, is if they value their time first. By following these four steps, you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed, intelligent decision. If you want to thrive and are willing to put in the work that’s required to make it happen, then start by spending some time finding the right practice to partner with that will help you get to the root cause and co-create good health.
Interested in learning more?
Book a no-obligation appointment with Dr. Esposito to find out if our Functional Medicine Practice is right for you.