What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine is healthcare tailored to the individual, which works with the whole person to find the source of disease instead of simply alleviating surface problems. At the center of functional medicine is a supportive, doctor-patient partnership and an evidence-based approach to care. Practitioners of Functional Medicine take the body’s various systems into account, considering how each interact with each other to discover the cause of inflammation and illness. They do so by getting to know each patient individually, taking a detailed medical, nutritional and lifestyle history, completing a thorough examination and consulting lab tests. They work with your primary care physician to achieve optimal health.
The beauty of Functional Medicine is that, by working to heal the whole person, not only are current issues addressed, but by looking for dysfunction in all of the body’s systems, practitioners can evaluate the potential for future problems. Educating patients about the way in which their body works and how they can best work with it, Functional Medicine can support the body’s ability to heal and prevent disease later on. Most Functional Medicine Practitioners believe that genomics (genes) determine only 20% of a person’s health, while lifestyle, nutrition and environmental factors (nutrigenomics) affect 80%. This means that every individual has the power to make choices that can support his or her long-term health; all it takes is education and action. In this way, Functional Medicine works in a paradigm of proactivity that encourages patients to create a lifestyle which lowers risk of disease, rather than treating problems later (which is the approach of conventional medicine). Functional Medicine practitioners believe strongly in the power of healthy diet, lifestyle and system alignment to impact one’s overall health.
How is it different from conventional medicine?
Generally, most physicians are trained in acute care, which treats immediate problems. There is a place for this type of care, and Dr. Shair never hesitates to recommend medical intervention when that may be indicated. However, standard medical treatment may be unable to resolve the underlying problem (often the result of a complex combination of genetics, environment and lifestyle). Without considering these functional factors, many people may receive temporary relief, but go on for years without ever resolving the issue. Functional Medicine is the emerging paradigm in healthcare for the 21st century, which changes the focus of care from the disease itself to the individual as a whole. The need for this type of care is on the rise, as chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders become more and more commonplace. Generally, most physicians are trained in acute care, which treats immediate problems. There is a place for this type of care, but it often is unable to resolve the underlying problem (often the result of a complex combination of genetics, environment and lifestyle). Without considering these factors, many people may receive temporary relief, but go on for years without ever resolving the issue. Functional Medicine stands apart because it requires an understanding of each individual. It also goes beyond to promote healthy living and a vital lifestyle as insurance against disease now, and in the future.
It should not be assumed, however, that Functional Medicine is opposed in any way to traditional Western Medicine. Instead, it is an integrative approach which combines the best of all medicines, including diet, nutrition and exercise, modern lab testing and technology, combinations of pharmaceuticals and botanical medicine, vitamin and herbal supplements, and other therapies of all modalities. In short, Functional Medicine combines the best of both worlds to provide patients with not only recovery from illness, but a long and healthy life.
Is there evidence to support the efficacy of Functional Medicine?
Evidence, in the medical world, means the presentation of clinical research trials which compare the benefits of Functional Medicine to that of Conventional Medicine. This type of research is difficult to conduct in the Functional Medicine paradigm, as each case is different and comprised of a unique combination of existing conditions, genetics, environmental influences, and lifestyle choices. While clinical trials can give some answers, they are not necessarily the best measure of the efficacy of functional medicine. The clinical experience of practitioners may be of greater value in confirming the potential benefits of this approach.
However, research from the scientific community has increased practitioners’ understanding of how different factors, including environment and lifestyle, genes, psychosocial experiences, and personal beliefs, can impact physical health. That knowledge has confirmed over and over that Functional Medicine practitioners have a means of care that is just as powerful (if not more so) than western medicine.
Studies of the therapeutic effects of a healthy diet (including both food choices and the use of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients such as fish oils), herbs, exercise, stress management, detoxification, acupuncture, massage, and other mind-body techniques show that Functional Medicine can have a dramatically positive impact on the body, which is a foundation of functional medicine. Further, research has proven that the outcome of a person’s care is closely linked to the relationship the patient has with his or her practitioner. That partnership, too, is a basis of functional medicine practice.
So while there may not be a chart, graph or statistic an individual can point to as proof that a particular Functional Medicine intervention works, the overwhelming outcome of our patients, as well as emerging research which confirms our fundamental tenets are testimony enough.
What can I expect during my first appointment?
The goal of the practitioner is to give the patient back control of his or her health, working with them as a partner in education, change, and healing. You can expect your first appointment to last about 50-70 minutes, during which Dr. Shair will take an in-depth medical, nutritional and life style history. There will also be a comprehensive examination and discussion about prospective options. Every patient is different and the cost of your first visit depends on the amount of testing and supplements required.
How many visits will I have?
That depends on each case individually. In general, most people see positive changes within the first month, though certain chronic conditions may take longer to show results. There is no timeline for health, though we appreciate your desire to feel better as quickly as possible. We work to meet that goal in as few visits as we can.
Can Dr. Shair be my primary care provider?
While Dr. Shair is available for consultation, it is recommended that you have a primary care physician for routine screening exams, as well as emergencies and hospital visits.
Does Dr. Shair accept medical insurance?
We do not accept any form of medical insurance or Medicare/Medicaid. However, the office will provide you with the required paperwork for you to file a claim with your insurance company. You may also use funds from a Health Savings Account (HSA – see below) to pay for your office visit and lab fees. Medicare patients should not and cannot file for reimbursement for our services, as we do not participate in the program.
Why doesn’t Dr. Shair accept health insurance?
We are aware of the financial burden of out-of-pocket medical expenses, but believe strongly that our care will ultimately save our patients thousands of dollars. Physicians who participate in insurance are contractually obligated to give care based on the standards of the insurance company, rather than what the doctor may consider best practice. Insurance companies are not usually proponents of preventative-wellness care; they support the conventional model of medicine. Further, these doctors can only accept the fees the insurance companies choose to give them – usually, an amount that covers only short appointments. For this reason, doctors are forced to see many patients in short intervals to stay afloat. This is contrary to the core of Functional Medicine, in which we spend a significant amount of time with each patient and take a whole-person approach. In other words, we don’t accept insurance in order to give you the care you need and deserve.
Will my insurance company reimburse me for my visit?
Every plan is different; please call your insurance company to confirm coverage. We have found that many patients are reimbursed at a reduced out-of-network rate.
Does your office accept credit cards?
Yes, for your convenience we accept all credit cards except for American Express.
What is an HSA?
An HSA is a Health Saving Account with pre-tax or tax-free funds set aside to be used for medical expenses. Speak with your insurance provider to learn more.