Ever heard the term “gut health” and wondered what it meant? Functional Medicine expert Dr. Elizabeth Swenor explains.
Because there is no one else like you.
Functional medicine is a patient-centered approach to individualized medical care that focuses on the whole person. By examining your entire life and complete medical history, we find underlying causes that may be contributing to health problems or chronic disease, such as nutritional issues, stress levels, hormonal imbalance, environmental influences and genetics. Functional medicine looks for the root cause of disease by examining how all the systems of the body work together.
Why choose functional medicine?
When your body’s biological systems become out of balance, chronic disease may follow. Functional medicine seeks to restore and rejuvenate the body’s optimal functions that have been metabolically disrupted by aging, lifestyle, diet, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, autoimmune diseases or cancer. Some hallmarks of functional medicine include:
- Evidence-based medicine. Functional medicine uses the latest medical science and research to guide diagnosis and treatment decisions.
- Individualized health assessment. Functional medicine doctors use specialized tests to gain a better understanding of your body’s metabolic functions. These tests may include a comprehensive stool analysis, urine metabolite testing, saliva and hormone assessment, and serum analysis.
- A comprehensive health study. You are the greatest resource for your personal health. That’s why your doctor will listen to your complete health history, including discussing symptoms pertaining to digestive health, autoimmunity and chronic inflammation, hormonal imbalances, food allergies or sensitivities, genetic influences, and physical and social environmental factors.
- A focus on quality of life. Functional medicine focuses on the whole person – mind, body and spirit – to guide the body to an optimal state of well-being.
- Applies to any condition. Functional medicine physicians work closely with all medical specialties and any medical condition. Functional medicine also applies to patients of any age with chronic conditions or those seeking generalized wellness and healthy aging.
Getting to know you
Knowing and understanding your entire personal and medical history is the foundation of functional medicine and the key to developing a comprehensive treatment plan. Prior to your first visit, you will be asked to complete an online health history through Henry Ford MyChart, our secure patient portal. The survey is confidential and includes questions about:
- Birth and infancy history. Where were you born and were you born naturally or by caesarian section? Were you breast or bottle fed, and at what age were you introduced to solid foods? These questions are relevant today because they may relate to your overall digestive health (gut microbiome), and the development of your immune system.
- Personal history. All major life events have impact on the body’s metabolic function and can cumulatively cause changes that lead to disease. Questions in this section look at the timeline of your life, including any major illnesses, frequent use of medications, physical or emotional trauma, major life stressors, change in jobs, marriages, finances, etc.
- Family medical history. Examining your family’s current and past conditions, diagnoses and treatments may shed some light on your own health.
- Environmental exposures. This section focuses on a geographical timeline of your life — specifically looking at where you have lived and worked during the course of your life to determine any possible exposure to environmental toxins.
- Lifestyle. A person’s lifestyle directly impacts health and wellness. The lifestyle section includes questions about your exercise habits, hobbies or leisure activities, sleep hygiene, stress management, tobacco use, and drug and alcohol history.
What to expect during your visit
Because a functional medicine doctor uses your complete personal and medical history to guide treatment recommendations, the first office visit is typically much longer than other doctor appointments.
During appointments, your doctor will:
- Discuss your life and medical history and review the relevant answers from your online medical questionnaire
- Discuss your health and wellness goals
- Address any of your medical questions or concerns
- Recommend necessary labs or specialized testing
- Develop a treatment plan
- Recommend follow-up evaluation and office visits with a physician, registered dietitian, nurse or other specialist
Functional medicine uses specialized testing to look at your body as a whole and evaluate how all the systems communicate with one another. Several different avenues are used to gather metabolic and biological data, such as evaluating stool, urine, saliva and blood. Assessments include:
- General genetic testing
- Hormone assessment, including cortisol, insulin, estrogen and testosterone
- Mycotoxin testing
- Nutritional deficiency testing
- Food sensitivity testing
- Gut health assessment
- When necessary, your functional medicine doctor will order MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds or other traditional diagnostic imaging tests.
Your personalized treatment plan
The results from your assessment, evaluation and testing are used to develop a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan that addresses your individual health goals and unique needs with evidenced-based treatment options. Treatment plans may include:
- Dietary and nutritional plans formulated by the physician and registered dietitian
- Prescription medications that may be used to balance stress, thyroid, brain and sex hormonal imbalances and sugar imbalances
- Counseling and treatment plans to address lifestyle changes which include stress management, weight management and improving sleep hygiene
- Certified pharmaceutical-grade vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements may be used temporarily to bridge a nutritional gap while implementing a healthy lifestyle and nutritional plan
- Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic care may be suggested
Coordinated care at Henry Ford
At Henry Ford, our patients are at the center of all we do. The functional medicine program at the Henry Ford Center for Integrative Medicine is led by M. Elizabeth Swenor, D.O., at our Northville location. Dr. Swenor and her care team work closely with other medical specialists to provide streamlined, coordinated care for all patients. When needed, we refer you to specialists and collaborate with other Henry Ford departments to ensure all medical concerns are addressed.
Is functional medicine covered by insurance?
Like other specialties at Henry Ford, the functional medicine program participates with all Henry Ford Health System accepted insurance plans and will bill your insurance company directly. Coverage of your functional medicine visits and specialized testing will depend on your individual health plan and coverage. We recommend checking with your health insurance company to determine what is covered under your plan prior to any office visit, testing or lab procedure. Specialized functional medicine tests and supplements are not covered by most insurance plans. Depending on your health plan, you may be able to use your flexible spending (FSA) or health spending (HSA) accounts for some of the costs. Our billing specialist is available to answer any questions you may have and can be reached by calling (248) 380-6201.