How to Find a Right Functional Medicine Doctor: Top Factors to Consider

July 2, 2024
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The purpose of the article is to guide readers through the process of finding and choosing the right functional medicine doctor, highlighting the essential factors to consider that align with their health needs and ensuring an effective partnership for their wellness journey.


Functional medicine is a field of medicine that focuses on how your body is currently functioning. This is a holistic approach to treating illness, one that focuses more on prevention and early detection rather than traditional medicine, which focuses on fixing a problem that has already manifested. 

If you are interested in taking actionable steps today to improve your overall health it is important that you figure out how to find a functional medicine doctor that really works well with you and your goals. When you find the right functional medicine doctor you can optimize your health outcomes.

Core Principles of Functional Medicine

Why find a functional medicine practitioner?

Personalized Care

The biggest reason to consider finding a functional medicine doctor is that functional medicine is a person-centered approach. Traditional medicine focuses on the disease rather than the person but functional medicine doctors want to better understand the biochemical individuality that you have as well as your genetics and your environment so that they can identify root causes of dysfunction in your body or diseases.

Systems-Oriented Approach

Another reason to find a functional medicine doctor is that functional medicine uses a systems-oriented approach. This approach means that there are several systems within your biology that overlap. Core imbalances in one biological system can lead to imbalances and problems in several other systems. By undergoing things like functional medicine lab tests, you can work with your doctor to analyze underlying dysfunctions in these systems instead of just focusing on a single symptom.

Focus on Root Causes

Functional medicine focuses on root causes as well. This area of holistic care seeks to promote overall balance and better function in all systems within your body by identifying underlying factors that are contributing to the general illness rather than focusing on fixing specific symptoms.

Think of this as a boat that has several holes in it and is filling up with water:

Functional medicine offers individualized treatment with your health as the central components. With a functional medicine doctor you can find integrative approaches that not only utilize prevention but appreciate the interconnectedness of different systems within your body and the role that has on how you feel. A functional medicine doctor can offer better Insight on your personal health journey.

Factors to Consider When You Find a Functional Medicine Practitioner

So, what are the most important factors to consider when choosing a functional medicine doctor?

Qualifications and Credentials

When you try to find a functional medicine doctor, the first thing you want to consider are their qualifications and credentials. You can assume that all physicians who are registered medical professionals and doctors got their degrees, completed a residency, and have practical experience under their belts.

However, functional medicine doctors typically have additional coursework and training specifically for the field of functional medicine. There might be board certifications in your area that apply as well.

Some examples include a doctor of naturopathic medicine, or N.D. certification as well as a medical doctor or M.D.

Experience and Specialization

Look into their experience and specialization. There is nothing wrong with a doctor who is just starting out. However, if you are worried about your personalized treatment plan because you have a genetic condition or a family history of chronic issues, then you might need a functional medicine doctor who specializes in multi-layered and complex conditions. This might mean people who have a lot of experience with environmental illnesses, autoimmune conditions, and hormonal imbalances.

Philosophy and Approach 

The doctor's approach to patient care should be something you review. Do they focus more on integrative medicine? Do they utilize evidence-based practices? Are they a patient-centered facility?

You want to work with a functional medicine doctor who has similar health values as yourself extending to things like conventional or holistic treatment approaches, and a doctor who is willing to accept your perspective about your health.

Patient Reviews and Testimonials 

Don't be afraid to look into patient feedback when assessing the satisfaction and effectiveness of individual providers. Ask the office if they can provide any information from clients who have already expressed a willingness to be a testimonial source for people like you. Look into different website reviews and ratings across any available source.

Accessibility and Location

Consider their accessibility and location. This one is more practical than many of the other factors you want to consider, but you need to know how far away their facility is, how easy it is to make appointments, and whether the fees they charge are within your budget.

Accessibility might also extend to how easily you can make appointments or get lab tests completed. You might want to look at what types of functional medicine lab tests they have available at their facility and what areas they specialize in so that you can prioritize decisions about testing and lifestyle changes.

Communication Style 

Tangentially you'll want to consider their communication style. It is very important that a functional medicine doctor be clear and open about communication. They should be able to, for example, explain complex health issues to you in a way that you understand.

One of the ways that you can determine this is to ask them to explain a complex medical issue that you currently understand during your initial consultation. If you like the way they offer an explanation and it makes sense to you, then it might be a great fit.

During your initial consultation and while you are evaluating different functional medicine doctors, consider how comfortable they make you feel. Your doctor should be a partner in your overall health, someone who puts you at ease with whom you are completely comfortable asking any questions, no matter how awkward they might be. If you don't have that immediate connection, it might not be a good fit.

The First Consultation

So, what should you expect during your first visit? Your first visit is an opportunity for your functional medicine doctor to better understand things like:

  • Your health history
  • Your lifestyle
  • Your living environment
  • Life stressors you have
  • Underlying factors that might cause health issues

During this first consultation, they'll spend a lot of time talking with you and gathering information that is used to identify root causes or potential contributing factors like stress, allergens, genetics, and even your microbiome.

You can maximize the efficacy of your first visit by bringing documents pertaining to your health history and having questions prepared that are most important to you. These questions might be things that help you determine whether this is going to be a good fit but they might also be questions about achieving your personal health goals.

Summing Up

When you find a functional medicine practitioner, make sure that they are a good fit based on things like their philosophy, experience, patient reviews, accessibility, and communication style. Take an active role in your selection process for better health outcomes.

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