Physical Exam – A Functional Medicine Approach
Annual physical exams generally start at birth with wellness visits throughout childhood. Once a person reaches adulthood, however, they may or may not follow-up with their physician if they feel healthy. Physical exams are still important for the following reasons:
- Maintenance of a healthy lifestyle
- Early screening of disease or illness
- Assess risk of future medical issues
- Establish baselines
In a typical physical exam, a doctor may check:
- Height & weight
- Eyes, ears
- Nose, throat, lymph nodes and glands
- Stomach & intestines
- Nervous system
These areas are a positive start in staying healthy but a functional medicine approach to your physical exam dives even deeper.
Beyond the Surface
If symptoms are discovered during a physical, a conventional doctor will offer a diagnosis and a prescription. A functional medicine physician, however, goes beyond the surface.
Functional medicine offers a patient-centered, whole body approach to the physical exam. Instead of broad sweeping generalized tests, a functional medicine physician will get more details on:
- Nutrition and diet
- Sleep patterns
- Chronic pain or other acute symptoms that may be overlooked or not a concern to a conventional doctor
- Health history
- Vitamins and supplements
- Neurological concerns
- Weight problems
- Autoimmune conditions
- Hormonal or other functional imbalances in the body
- Fatigue/energy levels
What to Expect
In order for a functional medicine physician to determine and attempt to heal the imbalances in a patient, a variety of lab work must be done. Like an investigation, your functional medicine physical exam involves a close inspection of each clue as it is uncovered.
As with your conventional physical, routine blood work will be done to determine how well your body is functioning. Depending on your symptoms or anything that showed up in your health history, however, there may be other blood tests requested to look more particularly at certain aspects. The blood work will include red and white blood cells, cholesterol, vitamin levels, inflammation, blood sugar, organ function, and thyroid levels.
Food Sensitivity Testing
Any chronic autoimmune conditions, chronic pain, sleep issues, neurological conditions or gastrointestinal problems could be caused by food sensitivities. Part of a functional medicine physical exam will include food sensitivity testing.
In today’s society, many of us are eating on the go and not choosing the best foods. Even if we are taking the time to choose and cook healthy foods, we simply cannot be sure where the foods are coming from, what pesticides or hormones have been used or if there are additives that we may be reactive to. Food sensitivity testing may provide insight and relief from imbalances and inflammation helping you to maintain health and feel good doing it.
Other bodily fluid samples
Yes, that’s right. Your body offers clues in other bodily fluids than your blood. Your functional medicine physician may ask for a stool sample or a saliva sample. Saliva samples will help determine hormone and cortisol levels. Stool samples check for gastrointestinal distress, probiotics, bacterial infection, malabsorption, parasites and anemia.
Functional medicine and other natural medicine doctors may use applied kinesiology or muscle testing to determine illness or treatment. Muscle testing is a way to check the body’s response to provide information on functioning of the organs, deficiencies or other blockages that prevent health. This non-invasive method assesses your body’s needs during a physical exam.
Return the Body to Health
Your body’s natural state is health and a functional medicine physical exam will help uncover the blocks to this natural state.