How To Find The Best Functional Medicine Doctors And Why You Should 

why you should see a function medicine doctor

Article Contents

1. Research Beyond Marketing & Ads

2. What is Functional Medicine 

2a.Treats each patient as whole

2b. Identifies Root Causes

2c. Personalized and Individualized

2d. Addresses All Root Causes of Disease

2f. Aims to Reverse and Prevent Disease

3.Why Do We Need Functional medicine

4. History of Functional Medicine

5. The Institute For Functional Medicine

6. Principles of Functional Medicine

7. Physician Training And Certified In FM

8. How Is Functional Medicine Different Than Conventional Medicine

8a. Approach

8b. Relationship

8c. Advanced Testing

8d. First Do No Harm

8f. Personal Experience and Connection

9. What to look for when searching for a Functional Medicine Doctor

10. What To Expect When Partnering With A Functional Medicine physician

10a. Investigate

10b. Analyze

10c. Develop

10d. Treat

10e. Empower & Educate

11. Benefits of Functional Medicine When Properly Applied

12. Functional Medicine Doctor Los Angeles

A Deeper Understanding Of The Field 

Functional Medicine is the fastest-growing field of medicine in the USA Today. The reason is that conventional medicine does not provide answers to the growing epidemic of chronic medical problems faced by Americans such as thyroid disease, autoimmune disease, obesity, diabetes, gut problems like irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, fibromyalgia, attention deficit, mood problems etc.

When searching for a great Functional Medicine Doctor to partner with on your health journey, in Los Angeles, or anywhere both if you are in the US or abroad, naturally you want to make sure that you are in the best hands and get the best results. A plethora of google ads, internet marketing, social media ads and other marketing agendas implemented to get more patients it may be easy to choose someone who seems to have the best marketing campaign. However, that’s not always the best way to find the right physician partner to restore and optimize your health.  When it comes to your health, especially in a field like functional medicine, you want to go the extra mile for yourself and research deeper, beyond what you may see in advertising campaigns. 

Read below to learn more about what a functional medicine doctor is and who is qualified to refer to themselves as that, what to look for in terms of credentials when choosing a doctor, how physicians become certified in functional medicine to make sure yours makes theft and how to verify it, differences between conventional care and care you receive with a credentialed functional medicine doctor, what to expect as far as results and relationship with your doctor.

First, there can be some confusion about what is a Functional Medicine Doctor and who is qualified. To make sure you are in the best hands it’s important to research the topic and learn the facts beyond what may be advertised through marketing or online reviews so you get optimal results, improve your health, reverse disease, prevent future disease and do it effectively and efficiently without disappointments, wasted financial resources and receive the answers that will help you live your life with optimal health.  

For example, most who are searching for a great Functional Medicine physician may not be aware that physicians can advertise functional medicine without having any training in it, being certified in it, or even practicing it. Of course this is not ‘kosher’ however is not illegal either yet and authorities have not yet cracked down on this.   

Many turn to online reviews as well when searching for a physician. However online reviews can not be fully trusted, for one, there are companies that sell outstanding 5 star reviews to physicians. For example a doctor can purchase five 5 star reviews for twenty dollars. A recent article in the Washington post titled ‘Fake patient reviews are making it increasingly hard to seek medical help on Google, Yelp and other directory sites’, article goes on to say that “there are no signs of imminent crackdown”.

recent study  published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research examined just this topic, and exemplified it by looking at mortality rates ( rates at which patients die ) for heart surgeons and found no correlation between those with low death rates and high rankings. “Physicians with high death rates often had great ratings,” wrote Dr Benaroch, a physician blogger, in a post titled “Physician rating sites deserve their own ‘Black Box Warning.’ ” He went on to say that “Those physician rating sites tell you nothing;” and in reference to sites like yelp or vitals it states “It can be hard to know whether posts are legitimate”.  The best way to connect with a great doctor is through recommendations from friends and family or other physicians the article states.

I speak from past experience and know what many people who are struggling with illness, including autoimmune illness go through when they are yearning to improve their health and need to get on the right path, get answers and partner with the right physician. There can be a desperation to get answers, to feel better, to get your health back and even stop life threatening disease processes. It is not always easy to find the physician who will give you the answers you need to heal. But it is important to go beyond what you see advertised online and look deeper because you deserve the best, and remember what is advertised through marketing may be persuasive but not always transparent and fully factual. When it comes to your health taking some time to learn about the field can help you achieve your goals, prevent disappointment and heartache, and avoid wasted finances. 

What Is Functional Medicine

Functional Medicine is a 21st century model of medicine, created in the 21st century as opposed to traditional conventional model of medicine that was founded in the 18th century. Functional medicine is based on systems biology, and identifies the root causes of disease and how and why illness occurs for each unique individual by recognizing the body’s complex physiological systems, their interconnectedness, and their interplay with the environment. Functional Medicine treats each patient as a whole person, no longer seen only through the lens of a disease label, but instead as an individual who can be helped on the path to optimal wellness. 

The Goal of Functional Medicine is to reverse the disease process, optimize genetic potential, prevent disease and help each individual live harmoniously in their environment in order to cultivate health and prevent disease.   

Reading about the Functional Medicine model of care, you may think, isn’t this what medicine is or should be? You may think so logically, but conventional medicine to date is not based on the logical principle of identifying root cause of disease, addressing it with respect to the body’s interconnected systems and interactions with the environment. Conventional medicine is based on diagnosing, that is naming a disease and prescribing drugs to manage the disease. Although conventional medicine has been fantastic for acute emergent medicine and for addressing infectious diseases of the 1900’s, it has not come far for addressing the chronic disease epidemic of the 21st century that has become rampant and is draining our society of vitality with tremendous financial burden.  In modern times chronic disease is rampant and on the rise. 

The Functional Medicine model is an individualized, patient-centered science, vs conventional medicine that is a disease centered model of medicine.  

Functional Medicine empowers patients and physicians to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. Functional medicine requires that the physician have a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetics, biochemistry, and lifestyle factors and uses the information to implement customized personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes. You may not have known that physicians are not trained to do this in traditional medical school and residency and therefore if they are later interested, must obtain the necessary training to address root cause of disease rather than only symptoms, and to identifying the complexity of the disease process which is a very different model of care than the one delivered to us in medical school and residency.   

Functional Medicine understands that one condition can have many different causes and, likewise, one cause can result in many different conditions illustrating the interconnectedness of the body’s systems and fluidity of the effects of the environment on the individual.  However in conventional medicine every system in the body is looked at in isolation, that’s why there are completely separate doctors for each organ system as if the systems are isolated from one another and from the rest and every symptom or disease has drugs to mask symptoms with no attention to interconnectedness of the underlying processes and conditions.

Functional medicine treatment plans target all causes of disease in each individual rather than the conventional medicine one size fits all approach prescribing numerous standard drugs to mask different symptoms. By addressing all causes of disease functional medicine aims to reverse disease and reinstate a state of optimal health. This is a very different model than the conventional medicine model of diagnosis and corresponding pharmaceutical or surgical procedure, sometimes called the name it and blame it model where the ultimate goal is to label the patient with the diagnosis and prescribe the correlated pharmaceutical drugs that have numerous negative and sometimes life threatening side effects to manage the symptoms usually for life.

Functional Medicine identifies and evaluates the complex web of how illness is created in each unique person leading to earlier and more effective interventions that not only extend lives also give patients back years of living with vitality.

Functional Medicine physicians require detailed understanding of each patients unique environment, including their biochemistry, genetics, and lifestyle, using the knowledge to implement personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes and promote well-being.

Functional Medicine uses upstream medicine vs downstream medicine, looking back at all the environmental, lifestyle, genetic, biochemical factors prior to to feeling unwell and disease diagnosis, from the time you are in the uterus, to birth to present day that could have contributed to present day symptoms and condition. On the contrary conventional medicine only addresses downstream medicine which are the symptoms you see today almost completely ignoring all upstream events.  

History Of Functional Medicine 

The concept of functional medicine was founded by Dr. Jeffrey Bland who is known to many as the father of functional medicine, as a discipline that united the progress in basic medical sciences with expertise in clinical medicine to address the growing problems associated with chronic disease in 1990.

Dr Bland, together with his wife Susan, had the vision of bringing to clinical medicine the emerging evidence and insights that would help medicine move from the drug-based model of fighting infectious diseases, that worked so well in the 1900’s, to a systems-oriented, patient-focused clinical model designed to REVERSE the growing chronic disease epidemic.  

Dr Bland recognized that today’s most prevalent health issues are caused by the interactions between genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures and that successfully treating them requires an understanding of these interactions to design individualized, personalized treatments.  

As a result of the vision and efforts of Dr Bland, The Institute For Functional Medicine emerged. Over the past 25 years, the field has been growing rapidly and the importance of addressing the rapidly growing chronic disease epidemic in the US has become even more apparent. Leading physicians and scientists have been researching personalized medicine, known as genomic medicine, and emerging science about disease origin has validated the principles of functional medicine revealing that epigenetic factors—including diet and nutrition, environmental toxins, and lifestyle choices—are causing the development of chronic diseases. 

Why Is Functional Medicine Is Necessary 

We are in the midst of a chronic disease epidemic with more and more Americans including children, and youth being affected by chronic disease every day and numbers are rising. 

In 2018, 51.8% of US adults had at least 1 chronic condition, and 27.2% had multiple chronic conditions. Prevalence was highest among women, non-Hispanic white adults, adults aged 65 or older, and those living in rural areas. 6/10 adults in US have one chronic disease and 4 out of 10 have two.  According to the Centers For Disease Control, in 2015–2016, 45.8% of the U.S. population used prescription drugs in the past 30 days. Prescription drug use increased with age, from 18.0% of children under age 12 years to 85.0% of adults aged 60 and over and these numbers have risen since. 

Another very concerning fact is that prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death in the US, as the published  article  ‘Prescription Drugs Kill Us In Large Numbers’ discusses.

When including indirect costs associated with lost economic productivity, the total cost of chronic disease in the United States reaches $3.7 trillion each year, approximately 19.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.  Functional Medicine addresses this epidemic and can save costs both in terms of individual wellbeing and livelihood and the tremendous financial burden caused by chronic disease and conventional treatments on society.

The Institute For Functional Medicine

The Institute For Functional Medicine (IFM) was officially founded through the vision of Dr Bland in 1991 and has since set the gold standard for functional medicine education and training. Since its onset, IFM was already focused on using the emerging knowledge of genomics and personalized medicine to adapt therapies to the unique patient rather than the reverse that is adapting the patient to one size fits all medicine, by training physicians to examine the genetic and epigenetic factors for each unique patient to develop individualized treatment approaches that address underlying factors.

Today IFM is more determined than ever to help clinicians and patients develop the nutritional, environmental, social, and lifestyle strategies that, over time, will move us away from reacting to the chronic disease epidemic and toward a preventive, patient-empowered healthcare system focused on optimum wellness, not just managing symptoms with pharmaceuticals .

How Does A Doctor Learn And Become Certified To Practice Functional Medicine

Physicians who practice functional medicine are trained as in medical school and complete residency programs in various specialties. However, it may be surprising to know that the concepts of the root causes of illness, environmental effects and personalized, individualized care are not taught in medical school, where we learn how to name a disease, make the diagnosis, and then what corresponding pharmaceuticals and surgical procedure can be used to manage the disease, which is the same for everyone. In this way the humanity and uniqueness of each patient can be overlooked as the focus is on the diagnosis, pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures, not the individual.  

Physicians who choose to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the disease process and its root causes must obtain additional training in functional medicine beyond their residency, as continuing medical education.

The Institute For Functional Medicine (IFM) offers this training to physicians through continuing medical education and more intensive long term certification process. 

Physicians come to IFM from different backgrounds including family medicine, cardiology, gynecology, gastroenterology and any other specialty, and can learn functional medicine and incorporate it into their practice Physicians are rigorously trained to bring their focus back to the principles of biochemistry, molecular biology as effected by environmental influences, lifestyle factors, genetics in each individual. Health and illness are seen as a continuum resulting from and changing with the dynamic interactions of body systems with their environment.  Physicians can take courses as continuing medical education, modules that are days long or a week long intensives and learn to incorporate these principles into their practice.

The highest level of training offered is becoming certified in functional Medicine that can take 2-3 years in additional training to obtain IFMCP status that are the initial credentials for Institute For Functional Medicine certified Practitioner, the initials of which you may see after their name, doctorate and board certification. 

It’s important for you to know that not everyone who advertises functional medicine may have had training in functional medicine or be certified in functional medicine. It is not illegal to advertise functional medicine without having training in it or even actually practicing it.  The best way for you to know who has actually taken undergone training and is certified to practice Functional Medicine is to look on the IFM website under find a practitioner, certified practitioners.

IFM Certified Practitioners Are the Gold Standard In the Industry

“With the best Functional Medicine education available, IFM Certified Practitioners are recognized as the most thoroughly trained and tested Functional Medicine clinicians in their fields.

Likewise, they are the most in-demand practitioners in academic institutions. Driven by the growing demand for Functional Medicine practitioners, IFM Certified Practitioners are sought-after by both patients and employers.” -IFM

If you see the above emblem with a superimposed date as above the physician is likely a certified physician.  Although advertising functional medicine even when not being trained in it or even implementing its principles is common and not penalized, the use of the above emblem is not permitted if a physician is not actually certified. So the chances are that if you see the above emblem with a date superimposed on it as above, your physician is certified in Functional Medicine through IFM on the specified year noted on the emblem.

How Is A Functional Medicine Doctor Different Than A Conventional Medicine Doctor 

Functional medicine physicians start with listening to you and hearing your story and learning about your journey.  Rather than the separation between doctor and patient seen in conventional medicine, in functional medicine you and your doctor are partners and team members that work together for the common goal of restoring and optimizing your health and vitality through a process that empowers you with knowledge every step of the way. You can learn more about how the functional medicine approach to care differs from the conventional approach and how functional medicine empowers patients and implements the healing process here.

Approach

One of the main differences is how a physician that is also trained in functional medicine approaches treating each patient. Rather than merely managing a diagnosis and changing medication doses to manage that diagnosis, a functional medicine physician approaches the patient as a whole, learning as much about them as possible from birth to present and aiming to investigate what is causing their symptoms and how to reverse their disease process and optimize their health not just manage their disease.

Relationship

We all know the white coat doctors wear to be identified as a doctor and maybe some have felt the separation that can be felt between doctor and patient.  Physicians who are also trained in Functional Medicine do not always wear their white coat. Some do this deliberately to eliminate the feeling of separation because in functional medicine you are a partner with your doctor and you both work together and have a closer relationship in working together toward a common goal. Your doctor also learns much more about you, your lifestyle, your past, childhood, life events and this by nature brings you closer and you may learn more about your doctor especially if they have had their own journey with health and disease and functional medicine and share this with you. 

Advanced Testing

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from patients who are searching for answers to their symptoms that they just had their physical and their doctor told them everything is fine. This is because conventional doctors usually only test limited factors in a physical that include cholesterol, a metabolic panel that looks at kidney and liver function and a blood count that looks for infection or anemia for example. Although these labs may look like many when you see them on paper they are in fact extremely limited and superficial in the kind of information they give you about your health. 

They do not test and give you no information about inflammation, nutrient status, hormone balance, advanced cardiac parameters, metabolic abnormalities and more which are some of the factors that may become abnormal in early stages of ill symptoms or disease processes. Conventional medicine only looks for and identifies disease in late stages. Physicians who are  trained in functional medicine do the basic tests included in routine physicals and in addition include in depth testing to identify imbalances in the body that contribute to disease.

These biochemical markers, nutrient, or hormone levels can be abnormal before organ system damage is identified, as seen when liver function or kidney function is abnormal on routine metabolic panels done conventionally on routine physical. Testing includes advanced cardiac, hormone, nutrient, toxins, and heavy metals, inflammation and oxidative stress markers, gastrointestinal testing that includes information about microbiome and imbalanced microbes for example.  The way we look at abnormal values is also very different. Whereas in conventional medicine a lab value that is barely normal  is accepted as completely normal even if one point away from the highest or lowest normal range, in my practice I look at labs along with clinical symptoms looking for what is optimal for the patient not just what is barely normal. 

We then work together to optimize, even if a number is in a normal range but not optimal always addressing what the patient clinically describes.  Meaning if you are experiencing the symptom, it should be addressed not shunned as is often the case in conventional medicine where patients are told symptoms are just in their head after very basic labs come back normal.  Even if lab values appear in range, the symptoms a patient is experiencing tell us that certain values may not be optimal for this unique patient. 

First Do No Harm

I remember, now decades ago, when graduating from medical school, the moment we took our Hippocratic Oath of ‘First Do No Harm’ the Latin translation from the original Greek “Primum Non Nocere”, to become physicians.  

This principle is one of the key factors in functional medicine because we aim to identify, investigate, reverse, and prevent whenever possible, rather than almost blindly prescribe drugs that can have deadly side effects easily. Meaning although we prescribe any drugs that are necessary for the well being off the patient we do what we can to restore health to the patient in any way that is least harmful and most natural before taking on treatments that increase risk and side effects. 

I always make sure to speak to my patients about medication side effects and make sure they are fully aware of side effects because almost all the time the patient has no idea that drugs they have been prescribed are states to have the side effects they do and many times some of what they are suffering from is due to the drugs. We aim to shed light on these processes and most importantly make sure the patient is fully aware of the effects of they are prescribed both good and bad.

Personal Experience and Connection 

It is also not uncommon for Functional medicine Physicians to form a connection with their patient. Many physicians who are experts in functional medicine have had their own personal journey with health and disease and have experienced illness and the value of functional medicine in giving them back their life in terms of living life with complete health and vitality. Because of having experienced illness and being let down by the conventional medicine model, then getting their health back through functional medicine, some functional medicine physicians are able to not only better understand, but better feel what their patient is going through and this creates a better connection that can facilitate the healing process.  

Also no matter how much concepts can be studied and researched, having personal experience gives you an even deeper understanding of the disease process. I know first hand, having gone through my own journey with rare and life threatening autoimmune disease although extremely challenging, being able to reverse these processes through my work and knowledge of functional medicine helps me understand my patients better and know what really works.

What To Look For When Searching For The Best Functional Medicine Doctor Los Angeles

Two of the most important things are ideally making sure that your doctor is certified in Functional Medicine by The Institute For Functional Medicine to give you the peace of mind that they have had the appropriate and rigorous training in the field so you can have the positive outcome you were hoping for and even surpass your expectations. Another important factor can be not only length of time in practice but length of time practicing functional medicine as a certified IFM physician to make sure you are doing what you can to be in the best hands.

Making sure that you feel heard and cared for, and that the practice and doctor are available for you, are also very important in the partnership.  Having friends or family that have partnered with the doctor and  can speak for them and recommend them is also invaluable.  Other important factors that set functional medicine apart from conventional medicine is the level of individual care and attention you receive and the access you have to your doctor, willingness to research if your particular needs require it not only what is readily at hand if it may not suffice in your unique situation.

What To Expect When Partnering With A Functional Medicine Physician

When partnering with a expert functional medicine doctor you can expect your physician to:

Investigate all aspects of your health, including genetics, environment, toxin load and exposure, diet and nutrient status, physical activity, stressors to identify the root cause(s) contributing to symptoms and or illness like gastrointestinal microbial imbalance, inflammation, toxicity, nutrient deficiency, hormonal imbalances, immune dysfunction.

Analyze not only standard labs but also advanced diagnostic testing as well as functional testing to reveal the underlying dysfunctions that are contributing to symptoms.

Develop Customized and personalized, integrative treatment plans that include targeted nutrient replenishment, detoxification, gut restoration, exercise, diet, with immediate support of stress, sleep, energy, and mood.

Treat deficiencies and metabolic imbalances that contribute to chronic disease with an individualized, comprehensive approach that includes targeted research based nutraceuticals, bio-identical hormones, amino acids, diet, exercise, stress management techniques, and if needed medications.

Empower and Educate you to implement customized functional medicine recommendations and lifestyle interventions to optimize your health not only for today but for years to come and the entirety of your lifetime. Once empowered with the tools you need by shedding light on what are the actual problems at play you are in a position to stay healthy for a lifetime.

Benefits of Functional Medicine When Properly Applied

The benefits of Functional Medicine are numerous including enjoying the benefits of more energy, better sleep, mental clarity, resolution of musculoskeletal pain, improved digestion, resolved skin issues are all things I see regularly and patient benefit from. In the long run, as long as you do your part and follow the doctors plan, you can expect improved gastrointestinal health, more balanced healthy microbiome, better digestion of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, decrease in inflammation and inflammatory markers, improved lipid profiles, improved insulin and HbA1C levels. As a bonus when optimizing their health most patients loose extra weight and optimize their body composition, improve blood pressure and heart rate levels and exercise capacity. 

As these benefits are experienced, medications with serious side effects may be weaned and most patients are able to get off their medications. They may utilize targeted research based nutrient and micronutrient support, bio-identical hormones along with individualized prescribed lifestyle medicine to address their concerns and optimize their health. 

It is in sharp contrast to the way medicine is practiced today in the United States. Although our health system has generated great medical advancements in diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infectious disease and trauma, it is not as advanced in preventing and managing chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and depression. With today’s pressures to reduce cost and improve the quality of health care, functional medicine is quickly gaining momentum as the most effective approach to address chronic disease.

Functional Medicine Doctor Los Angeles

A Big Picture Approach To Your Symptoms And Chronic Disease

One of the most important principles in Functional Medicine is addressing the root causes of disease not only symptoms. Your Functional medicine physician will work with you not to only mask symptoms with drugs that can cause more health problems while the root of the problem worsens, but to reverse disease and restore your health so you can live your life to the fullest with vitality. Your functional medicine doctor will help balance your body’s physiological processes with attention to lifestyle and environmental exposure. Your treatment plan may involve proven medical therapies, including thyroid health support, hormone balance support, and therapies that optimize your metabolic health, weight and body composition leading to better cardiovascular health and overall well being.

What You Can Expect

As a patient, you work in partnership with your doctor to achieve well-being and to reach your health goals. Trust is a key element of this relationship. Here’s what your Los Angeles functional medicine doctor will do:

  • Obtain your complete physical/emotional/lifestyle behavior history from birth to present day during your first appointment
  • Identify and address any challenges that are affecting modifiable lifestyle risk factors and environmental exposures
  • Address imbalances by diagnosing underlying causes of disease through advanced hormone, thyroid, nutrient, inflammatory, microbiome, toxin testing and other medical best practices
  • Develop a customized treatment plan that includes recommendations for both conventional and Integrative and Functional treatments
  • Give you the necessary information, support and tools to make the best lifestyle choices that help comply with your personalized treatment plan

Most importantly, your functional medicine doctor will spend the time you deserve to get to know you. This includes getting your family health history as well as discussing what lifestyle and emotional challenges you may have that impact your physical health both in the past leading to present day. 

To schedule an appointment with 

Dr. Rashel Tahzib DO AOBFP IFMCP call 310-979-3434. For more information about the big picture approach to chronic disease, check out Dr. Rashel’s E book, Protect, Optimize and Restore Your Health, Functional Medicine Guide  

At Advance Health Integrative And Functional Medicine Dr Rashel Tahzib provides concierge level care for your health needs so you can protect and optimize your health and age gracefully. 

As an experienced and trusted holistic, Integrative Medicine physician, anti-aging medicine specialist and functional medicine specialist, Dr. Rashel Tahzib has been providing whole person health care to the residents of Brentwood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Torrance, Rodondo Beach and the Greater Los Angeles area in Southern California communities for nearly 20 years. Call today to learn how Dr Rashel Tahzib at Advance Health Integrative and Functional Medicine can help you prevent disease, protect your health, live with vitality and age gracefully.

Resources:

Fake patient reviews are making it increasingly hard to seek medical help on Google

National Library of Medicine

Why Online Review Are Not The Best Way To Choose A Doctor

Business Uses Fake Online Review

Prescription Drug Use in the United States, 2015–2016

Our prescription Drugs Kill Us In Large Numbers

Therapeutic Drug Use

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