I saw allopathic doctors exclusively for years, and always felt overlooked, ignored, and just part of a quickly-moving, impersonal system. Every appointment I would bring up my health concerns and symptoms, and was asked the same general questions, and prescribed more Omeprazole + higher doses of Asacol every. single. time. I got to the point of feeling hopeless, where I thought that my symptoms were simply a part of who I was now, and that my only path was to continue taking ineffective maintenance drugs to keep from getting worse. It was such an awful place to be in, and one that has honestly given me a totally new view on the American healthcare system.
After years of doctors looking at my symptoms and nothing else, I began hearing a lot about functional medicine. Long story short, I began seeing a functional medicine practitioner, and very shortly after, began seeing amazing results I never knew were possible. I started to experience life without constant pain again, filled with energy, and real food/nutrients. I don't want to go too far into detail one what I have gained from switching to a functional medicine approach simply because, I've spoken on it before and that is not the point of this article (feel free to DM or email me for further detail!). The point of this article is to show you how I prepare for my quarterly appointments to amplify their benefit and get everything in I want to discuss.
So, I feel like the community I have surrounding me is extremely open, and I absolutely LOVE that! I have literally had countless conversations with topics ranging from poop, to hormone imbalance and mood changes, to other various weird IBD symptoms. So, just like always, I'm not holding anything back in this post. These are my actual, extremely detailed health notes from November 2017-January 2018. Let's get into it!
#1: Begin taking notes of notable changes a few months ahead of time
- During your appointment, your functional specialist is going to ask you for any changes that have occurred, and may want some detail on specific things. Keeping a monthly journal like this enables me to look back month-by-month and see what symptoms/changes occurred when. Did I introduce a new food? Did certain symptoms occur in correlation with that? Was a certain period painful? How was my mood and during what time of the month? Did my bowel habits change? Was I having mucus in my stool or any bleeding? Did I feel tired with adequate sleep or have pain in particular areas? Did I begin any new medications? When? Literally, everything. Mine looks like this.
#2: If you are a human with a period, track it.
-And not only your period, but the symptoms leading up to it, including: mood, pain, etc. ALSO, know what day of your cycle you got your blood work (if your functional specialist is checking extensive blood work each visit..WHICH THEY SHOULD). The day of your cycle you were on when you got your blood drawn is going to change your hormones, and various other levels that will be helpful in the interpretation of your results. I know I touched on this slightly in point #1, but just to stress it, as you can see, I have an entire section dedicated to my period. I use the Flo app on my iPhone, and absolutely love it for tracking every aspect of my period. So I either put it on paper, or pull up my app during my appointments.
#3: Write down a list of MAIN concerns.
-During your appointment, it's easy to forget what you wanted to talk about, and then you feel like you just wasted a whole bunch of time and money. Taking the time to create a "concerns" section helps me to organize my thoughts, and stay focused on the main point of concern. Often, I create a list like I did above without any "concerns" section and simply highlight what is most important. This particular quarter, I made a concerns section, and it just happened to be mostly focused on hormones and periods (this is when my hormones were MAJORLY thrown off).
#4: Have questions ready
-As you can see above, my questions this time were pretty surface level. I wanted to know WHYYY SCD SAYS I CAN'T HAVE CACAO (I have now solved this issue and no longer tie myself to a diet just because it says so), and I also wanted a doctors note for school for the second semester of my senior year stating that I did, indeed, need chapel time for a meal and supplements so I didn't look like a druggie taking 15 pills duringclass 😂. Whatever your questions may be, write them down in a separate question and have them ready.
#5: Record your visit
-Although this is not a tip to help you prepare, you are going to get a LOT of information and might miss a few things. I use a recorder on my phone (my functional medicine practitioner actually recommended this) to record my appointments so that I can review them later if needed.
So that's about it! This is exactly how I prepare for each and every appointment I have with my functional medicine practitioner. My appointments are 30-minutes long and I always feel like I get a ton out of them. If you are just looking into switching over to functional medicine, it is important to remember that not all doctors are equal. This is even more important when looking at this type of practitioner, because many are not covered by insurance, therefore, pretty expensive. Finding a good one is going take a lot of research and/or talking with other patients, but it's so vital and worth it! I want to do a post soon talking about what to look for when finding a functional medicine practitioner, but for now, I hope this article was helpful for those with upcoming appointments, or for future reference. If you have any questions or ideas for new posts, I would love to hear them via Instagram or Email! Thanks for reading!