MY JOURNEY INTO FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE
I have always wanted to be a doctor and I loved every rotation in medical school so family medicine was the logical choice. I also love sports, I played soccer at a small university in Ohio (GO POLAR BEARS!)! And so I completed a sports medicine fellowship after my family medicine residency.
My first job was with the University of Oklahoma and in Oklahoma everything changed. I started having numb patches over a couple different areas. I cannot remember if it was before or after my first child. You think you are going to remember things…like the date of your last mammogram…you can’t!! I’ve had patients unable to tell me which knee was operated on! We’ve had to look for scars! So anyway…weird neurological symptoms in a 30 something year old female equals MRI’s and labs to rule out MS. Have you had an MRI? I felt like the criminal in Con Air with that mask on my face. My ANA (an autoimmune marker) was in the “gray zone”, not negative, but not quite high enough to be considered positive. However it was definitely high enough to freak me out. Plus my brain MRI had some abnormalities, abnormal but not quite consistent with MS. Great just what everyone wants to hear...that your brain is not quite normal. Couldn't be my left elbow or a toe...had to be the brain! Followed that up with spinal MRI’s, which were completely negative (great news because typically lesions in the spinal cord means active MS). And so I will continue with MRI’s yearly to every other year-ish to make sure nothing is changing in my brain. What caused the MRI changes? No one knows. But it is pretty freaky knowing they are there.
THE FREAK OUTS
Many of you have gone through similar scenarios I’m sure. So you start playing the “WHAT IF” game…a dangerous little game! I can what if myself into having an incurable cancer, into something happening to one of my kids, to the plane crashing. Specifically with the MS scare I “what if-ed” myself into a wheelchair. I remember one day my kids were in the car and one of them forgot something so I ran back up into the house, bounding up the stairs to grab it. While I was going up the stairs I thought to myself, “what if in ten years you can’t run up the stairs?” ….cue water works. I cried often and hard. In my warped mind I already had mom guilt about imagining the girls having their mom in a wheelchair at graduation and worried that they would be embarrassed of me, sad they would have to care for me. Seriously…and I have a lot of anxious patients so I know I am not the only one with the “what if’s”. Why don’t we “what if” my kid is so smart she gets a full ride or “what if” I meet an amazing group of friends that I just click with? Why does it have to be worst case scenario on crack??
THE UNKNOWN & UNCONTROLLABLE
I tend to be a tad of a control freak. So logically I looked at what I could control with these symptoms. How could I normalize my labs? I wanted to know the WHY. And so I started studying inflammatory foods, which led me to functional medicine. I changed my diet. Luckily I’m married to the most amazing man ever so when I said we are now eating a plant based diet he was totally supportive. We were not perfect but we were pretty good. And lo and behold…my labs normalized! My ANA dropped from 1:640 to 1:40…whoop whoop!!! Now the MRI is still abnormal, I'm not saying it is going to be normal next time. Honestly, medically speaking ANA is not part of the MS diagnosis, BUT no one likes having abnormalities. You want to be boring and normal when it comes to medical testing.
NEW WAY OF THINKING
For over ten years I have been treating patients with medicines...medicines and more medicines. I wanted to learn about natural ways. Well guess what…FOOD IS MEDICINE! What we eat matters.
Now I'm not perfect, we still love ourselves some pizza and I still bake cookies with my girls. We are no longer all plant based but we definitely eat more plant based. It is so cool (inner nerd alert) to see what a body was made to do and how a body uses the foods we give it. I grew up learning a calorie is a calorie is a calorie....oh so not true!! It is about the cascade of hormonal reactions that occur when we eat certain foods...it is amazing!!
One of the areas of my job that I love the most is education. I love educating patients. Now believe me there are times when I start on my "rants" about things I think are so great and a patient will stare blankly. Yes I then wrap it up quickly. However when I see a patient move towards the edge of their seat or their eyes widen in awe...it is on!! I will draw, demonstrate, re-inact, raise my voice in excitement! I love that part of my work. After all, who is going to do what I ask of them if they do not know the why behind it?! I have to "sell" my patients on the reason they need to eat a certain way or exercise a certain way. My goal is to give you the why behind things. Then and only then will you truly believe and then act. And once you prove it to yourself then you will be hooked!!