Increasingly I’m noticing a pattern in my clinic. Many people seeking my support from a nutrition or functional medicine perspective have already been on a huge – and often frustrating – journey in their quest to get well.
Typically, this involves trips back and to the GP, tests which might shed light on an issue or may put the person further in the dark. They may have been prescribed medications which further add to symptoms or even create new ones. People may or may not receive a diagnosis, and if they do, may end up none the wiser about how to get well.
It is often at this point – when someone has tried all other options and isn’t seeing an improvement in their health – that they will seek out my help. In an ideal world, it would be great if they came to me sooner, however, I understand that in our culture, nutrition isn’t the first thing we are taught to think of when we become unwell. Instead, we are taught that there is a ‘pill for an ill’.
Almost always, the people I see in clinic will have read reams of information on Google about their health complaint and will have tried a myriad of ways to overcome the issue themselves. People who have done their research can be very informed about the condition itself.
And it can be beneficial when someone comes to me armed with information about their concerns, particularly if there have been some tests and a consequent diagnosis that we can build a picture upon.
NHS England is big on patient participation and encouraging people to take an active role in their healthcare, and I’m a huge advocate for this. Empowering people to take responsibility for their health is a big part of what I do, but contrary to popular belief, it can actually be counterproductive in the early stages.
Let me explain.
When people consult Dr Google, or act on the advice they have read in a newspaper or on social media about the latest superfood or health supplement that may help with their condition, they are missing a significant piece of the puzzle.
A vital part of my work as a Functional Medicine Practitioner is to take a full and detailed history of each person I see. This is because everyone, and every ‘body’, is so different that the advice and suggestions I give to one person with a condition will not necessarily apply to another person with the same condition.
While there is a lot of good quality information on Google, we are not taught how to translate it into what the advice means for our unique body and life situation. That’s essentially my role: to take the guidance and tailor it to the individual.
So, when someone comes to my clinic for the first time, I will take a full and detailed personal history that includes diet, lifestyle, stressors, family background, traumas, home environment, education and more.
By looking at all of the factors that influence a person’s health, we can trace back and often see how the body may have adapted to certain external triggers. It is this work – looking at the person and their life journey, not just the health condition – that informs the recommendations I will ultimately make.