Integrative or Functional Medicine Physicians: What are they and how can they help you?

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The desire to prevent future illness or addressing chronic medical conditions often leads people to these types of physicians, who think very clearly outside of the box.
Insight from pharmacist, Town & Country Compounding Pharmacy owner: John Herr, RPh.

You will often hear me say, “In the United States, we often talk about health care but we are not in health care- we really are in sick care.”  What is meant by this?

It means that our society and medical systems seem to focus on addressing only the sick, when someone is showing symptoms of a specific disease.  But what about addressing our health before we fit into the “sick” category? 

Our definition of what we need includes much more focus in the area of preventative care. Of course, we think we are preventing diseases by taking basic specific lab values and going to routine exams, but there is a lot more that can be done.

Ask any integrative or functional medicine practitioner!

The pharmacists at Town & Country Compounding have years of experience using natural options along with other non-opioid therapies and would like to share the information with you.

Integrative medicine refers to the blending of conventional and evidence based complementary medicines and therapies with the aim of using the most appropriate of either or both modalities to care for the patient as a whole. 

The Defining Principles of Integrative Medicine

  • Patient, practitioner and pharmacist are partners in the healing process.
  • All factors that influence health, wellness, and disease are taken into consideration, including mind, spirit, and community, as well as the body.
  • Appropriate use of both conventional and alternative methods facilitates the body’s innate healing response.
  • Interventions that are natural and less invasive should be used whenever possible.
  • Integrative medicine neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically.
  • Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry-driven and open to new paradigms.
  • Alongside the concept of therapy, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
  • Practitioners of integrative medicine should exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development. 
    Source

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Functional Medicine determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.

The Functional Medicine model is an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. It requires a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors and leverages that data to direct personalized therapy plans that lead to improved patient outcomes.

By addressing root cause, rather than symptoms, practitioners become oriented to identifying the complexity of disease. They may find one condition has many different causes and, likewise, one cause may result in many different conditions. As a result, Functional Medicine therapies target the specific manifestations of disease in each individual.

Source

  Our Experience with a Visit to an Integrative Physician (MD)

My other home is located in the Midwest and I am so surprised that they really only have big-box medicine. They have excellent health systems for addressing diseases, doing research, and dealing with emergencies but it is very difficult to find Integrative/Functional Medicine Practitioners.  Trying to find someone to prescribe Bio-identical hormones? We know that prescribers have actually been asked to leave a practice for prescribing. These are normal drugs, not voodoo! Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)? You can get in a few of the neighboring states, but not mine. It’s still a very new concept. Synapsin (RG3)? If it’s not on a formulary you will have a hard time finding someone to prescribe it for you.  Adrenal Fatigue? Still not a real thing.

I personally see an integrative Physician regularly in New Jersey and I recently suggested to my wife to get a thorough checkup with a local Integrative Practitioner since that would not be an option at our home in the Midwest. It was an amazing experience for her. She is a pharmacist also and now she is telling all of her pharmacist friends about the experience. Many of the tests they ran were tests that a doctor in the Midwest would have never offered her, and the results were eye-opening in the area of prevention. You can notice the difference between this office visit vs a yearly checkup with a traditional MD.

On the first visit, blood (a lot) was drawn and sent out to the lab and my wife was given a lengthy health and wellness questionnaire to fill out and return to the office. Note* many more lab tests are performed (therefore more blood is needed) vs a traditional doctor visit, so be prepared for that when you go.

 

After getting labs done she met with the doctor on the second visit for about 1 ½ hours and came out with a plan. For every lab value or symptom that was not perfect, she was given a suggestion for a medication, nutritional supplement or a lifestyle change.  She walked out of there amazed because as pharmacists we love real medicine but we also love looking at the whole picture of what we can do to hopefully live a healthy lifestyle.

Honestly, she went in there to get hormones tested and came out with a big list of things to work on!

But hey, that is preventative medicine. My wife is not one to really want to know all the things wrong with her because it can be scary.

On the other hand, I’m the one who is lining up ready to take the 23 and me to figure out what my genes say I’m susceptible to so I can start preventing now!

Town & Country Compounding can help analyze results with your 23 and me test and suggest supplements.

“Health Bonuses” we noticed with an Integrative or Functional Medicine Prescriber

  • Heart health:
    • Cholesterol/Lipoprotein Particle testing: they don’t just simply take your cholesterol and triglyceride level; they also get fractionated levels that break your LDL and HDL down which analyzes potential risk. Source 
    • C-reactive protein (CRP) I have always suggested for my wife to ask for a C-reactive protein (CRP) at her traditional  yearly checkups, but they always say it’s not necessary. Here it was standard.  I’m allowed to tell you that hers was high meaning she has a lot of inflammation! The doctor gave her supplements to try to get that level down. Source

 

  • Thyroid: Integrative or Functional Medicine presribers don’t just simply take your TSH but they also get Total T4, Free T4, Total T3, Free T3, TPO . Reverse T3 is often optional because it is expensive and probably not necessary on the first round of testing. Source. Often traditional MD’s  do not opt for the entire thyroid panel since conventional medicine simply looks at TSH or maybe just one or two other thyroid levels. The integrative physician takes them all and puts them on a gradient chart to look at the big picture of how they are all working together.

 

  • Diabetes risk:  Insulin levels over time can be an indicator for risk. Insulin was a standard test at the Integrative office visit. Source  
    Usually you would have to ask for this at a traditional MD visit. Source

 

  • Female hormones: Many levels are taken, not just estradiol. They also test estrone, estriol, progesterone testosterone free and total. I know my wife has been to a yearly exam before in the Midwest and they refused to take her progesterone level saying it doesn’t matter since it varies (?). Our integrative prescribers use progesterone on a regular basis in peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women, especially when their estrogen to progesterone ratio is high!

 

  • Autoimmune issuesANA testing was a standard test performed  Source

 

  • Food allergies and sensitivities: this test was standard. Over 100 things were tested. This was the bummer for my wife because she wasn’t expecting to be told to go dairy and gluten free!
    • *Note on our Pinterest page that we now have a lot of dairy-free, gluten-free and autoimmune/ anti-inflammatory pins

 

  • Lyme Disease: This was standard testing ordered by the Integrative MD. Many people are undiagnosed and traditional MD’s would probably not order this test unless there were symptoms. Source

 

Regardless of what type of patient you are, we believe that medication, lifestyle modifications and nutritional supplements are key.

Town & Country Compounding Pharmacy is located at
Town & Country Compounding Pharmacy is located at 535 East Crescent Ave Ramsey, NJ 07446

Town & Country Compounding provides the most advanced formulations based on the most recent research and peer-reviewed guidelines.

We work with patients and their medical providers to customize solutions that are right for their individual needs when commercially-made medications are not showing results.

Medication is not one-size-fits-all. 

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