The Doctor Is In: Functioning Medicine

What is functional medicine and why are some calling it the next frontier in patient care?

On Wednesday, Dr. M. Elizabeth Swenor, functional medicine physician at Henry Ford Health System, discusses her approach to treating patients, from learning their personal histories as far back as birth, to understanding how their lifestyles, habits, past experiences, especially trauma, and physiological characteristics can affect health and wellness.

Typical diagnostic tests for functional medicine patients include nutritional assessments and food sensitivity panels through blood work, urine and saliva tests as well as an assessment of GI function through stool samples.

Many of these tests are not typical outside of functional medicine. They can uncover vitamin deficiencies, food sensitivities, gut issues, inflammation and other causes of illness or a contributors to a lack of overall wellness. Dr. Swenor often prescribes treatments with food or dietary supplements and offers an array of other non-traditional treatments and patient care options.

"The goal," she says, "is to treat the patient as a whole not in isolated parts."
"Conventional medicine often treats patients in silos. Functional medicine puts all the silos in one barn," Dr. Swenor says. "However, we work in partnership with conventional medicine as evidence-based science is a major part of what we do. We're not here to usurp the physician but to enhance patient care."

Because nutrition is a root of functional medicine's approach to patient care, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Alysse Calcaterra, shares breakfast recipes that are great for starting the day with energy and maintaining it.

"A lack of energy or feeling tired is one of the most common complaints I hear from patients," Dr. Swenor says.

Calcaterra is part of the Henry Ford Functional Medicine team that works directly with Dr. Swenor. An acupuncturist and massage therapist round out the team, which operates on the philosophy that many ailments, diseases or discomforts can be treated in ways that don't involve prescriptions or surgery.