It's been nearly two months since the Institute for Functional Medicine's annual conference. I enjoyed the lectures (Integrative cancer care, dementia, toxicants, medical cannabis, heat/cold therapy, to name a few), and it's a wonderful experience to hang out with like-minded healthcare professionals passionate about science, whole health, and healing.
One thing stood out to me as a lingering question: Is Functional Medicine only for wealthy people? The exhibition hall was full of diagnostic testing companies running for hundreds of dollars and supplements, some of which cost over $150 for a month's supply, which is just one in what one assumes is a panel of supplements. Functional medicine doctors are only sometimes covered by insurance assuming that one even has insurance, and I have heard that an initial consult can run upwards of $800. Add on diagnostic tests, retesting, referrals, and supplements and you can forget about that vacation you'd been trying to save up for.
There is interest in optimizing and bio-hacking health, and there are some fascinating and clinically useful tests out there. However, it is necessary and responsible to teach clients about less expensive options- and support using them. I meet so many people who are confused. Do they need all the tests? Do they need all of the supplements? A lot can be understood from conventional panels if one is experienced in reading them from a functional perspective. Vast improvements can be made when the correct emphasis is placed on exercise, nutrition, stress perception shifts, and supportive interpersonal relationships. I believe these are the best tools in our functional medicine toolbox, but they take more time and effort than a supplement or fancy test. Every doctor's office needs a board-certified coach to support their patients in habit implementation and adherence. I was happy to see that coaching was covered at the conference.
One more thought (or two)- IFM should be talking about the latest functional and integrative approaches to menopause. It should be done yearly to make up for all the years that the NHANES study floated around with its faulty design. 50% of the population will go through menopause. I have met doctors who still think that HRT is potentially harmful (yet prescribe birth control without reservation). I have clients who have worked with conventional and functional medicine practitioners in peri and post menopause yet don't have a plan (diet priorities in peri and post, strength training, awareness of increased risks due to the decrease of estrogen) or know their options (there are many and they work synergistically). IFM can keep the conversation moving forward by continuing to bring it up, not just in the hormone module.
I suggest a theme for next year's conference: the physiology of belief. This is the new microbiome. The research is emerging, and it inspires curiosity and hope. What are the physiological actions that start with our conscious and subconscious beliefs, and how do they influence a path to health or disease? TBC!