Functional Medicine/ Naturopathy

Functional Medicine/ Naturopathy

Post-excision when I got diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome, I began seeing a functional medicine doctor, and later, I changed that doctor for a naturopath. Seeing a doctor that looks at the whole body instead of each system individually and separate from one another has been one of the best things I’ve done for my health. Between them, they did a comprehensive stool sample, a hormone test, and looked at my body’s methylation and detoxification. With those results, they formulated a protocol (dietary changes, herbs, supplements, and medication) that over the next 6 months helped me immensely with my mast cell symptoms.

Costs

Prices and insurance coverage can vary for these doctors, as well as their expertise, focus, and experience. They also may want you do tests that aren’t covered by insurance and can be very expensive, like specific a hormone analysis or comprehensive stool sample. I know in my own case, I told the doctor up front that I was concerned about costs, and we first prioritized my gut health, then moved onto my hormone health because I couldn’t afford to do it all at once.

My functional medicine doctor had his own brand of herbal anti-microbials for gut health and he even sold his own oral progesterone drops. All of those were very expensive, and it took me a few months of struggling to pay for his treatment to realize that there were much cheaper anti-microbials available for gut dysbiosis sold online which were commonly utilized within the functional medicine space. I also talked to my primary care physician to get a prescription for a much stronger dose of oral progesterone, which was covered by my insurance, for a fraction of the price. I didn’t need to use my doctor’s branded medications. Obviously, you will need to speak this over with your doctor – you should never just make changes to your treatment without discussing it with your prescribing physician.

My point here is that costs can add up quickly, but there may be ways to explore different tests or medication brands to help reduce those costs. My doctor also wanted to “check in” every two weeks, but since that would cost me money, I told him that if I felt the treatment was going well, that I only want to check in about 3/4 of the way into treatment. Again, this is something to talk to your doctor about – I’m not recommending you skip appointments if they are truly necessary because doing so could come at a detriment to your care. I just felt like with my first doctor, he wanted to meet constantly, just for me to say “the anti-microbials are going well” and get charged $100 to tell him that! He was kind of pushy too, so it felt like I had to stand up to him, which was hard for me to do. After we finished my gut health treatment, I ended up changing doctors to a naturopath who felt like a better fit for me and more understanding to my economic situation.

Some doctors also really rely on the tests they do, and while testing is important, there are reliability issues with certain popular functional medicine tests (especially certain comprehensive stool samples or hormone analyses). My functional medicine doctor was all about the tests – we did tests, then did his treatment protocol, then he wanted to repeat all the tests. Since they had already cost me several hundred dollars the first time around, I said no, especially since many of my symptoms were now improved, and then he was a bit lost on how to proceed with my treatment without the follow up tests. When I changed to the naturopath, she used the tests I had, plus the experience and response I had on the other doctor’s treatment, to continue crafting a treatment plan for me without me having to test and retest and retest each time we needed to decide next steps. The only test she asked me to do was a stool sample specifically for giardia, because that pathogen was found on my first stool sample, and she said we needed to make sure it was fully gone. So instead of me paying another few hundred for a full on stool analysis, she told me to ask my primary care physician to prescribe it at the lab for me, which cost me $8 with insurance. 

My naturopath, vs the functional medicine doctor, was very open to me working with my primary care to get whatever tests or medications that were available to me within my insurance plan, which cut my costs greatly. 

Choosing a doctor

Like when finding any doctor, it’s important to interview the doctor to see if they are a good fit for you and have the experience to treat you. Some doctors have special interest in gut health or hormones or thyroid or histamine or methylation, etc, so try and find a doctor that has more experience in the issue you are looking to tackle with them. In my own case, I choose my functional medicine doctor after coming across his podcast episodes on gut health. He was helpful and knowledgeable about gut health, but when we moved onto the hormone side of my health, he didn’t seem to have as much experience, so I looked for another doctor and ending up finding a naturopath with a special interest in perimenopause, who coincidentally was much cheaper too!

While a patient often gets a longer time with a functional medicine doctor or naturopath, in my experience 30 minutes can fly by and you haven’t even finished talking about everything you need to. It’s helpful to be very organized and write down bullet points about your symptoms, responses to their protocol, etc, and email it to them prior to the appointment so that they can pull it up during and not have to lose time taking notes.

Naturopathy can’t heal endometriosis

Some doctors are misinformed and believe that they can cure or heal your endometriosis or that “balancing your hormones/body” will remove your endometriosis, but this is not the case. Endometriosis has no cure and the disease can still progress even if you become symptom free. I personally think functional medicine or naturopathy may be more helpful for certain conditions, and less helpful for others, but each patient experience will be different and of course depend on the doctor’s knowledge too.

I personally didn’t see my functional medicine doctor or naturopath for endometriosis or the symptoms, but rather for gut health and hormone imbalance for mast cell activation syndrome.

For more info

  • The Institute for Functional Medicine – They provide a comprehensive, searchable network of clinicians in various specialties and healthcare professions.

  • Dr. Chris Kresser – Dr Kresser is a functional medicine doctor and avid researcher. He provides evidence-based information on all kinds of health topics. I rely heavily on this site to learn, especially about gut health. Don’t miss his free downloadable e-books on various topics.