by Martin Miron
Doctors that are both science-based and patient-centered are the hallmark of functional medicine. Dr. Anita Burock Stotts, the owner of Healthy Endeavors Medicine, in Altamont, is one of few certified functional medicine practitioners in the Capital Region who is also an allopathic (traditional) medical doctor. She started out practicing both primary care and hospitalist medicine prior to turning her attention to functional medicine. She received a medical degree from Medical College of Pennsylvania 1980 and was certified by the Institute for Functional Medicine in 2014.
How do you define functional medicine?
Functional medicine is a personalized, systems-oriented model that empowers patients and practitioners to achieve the highest expression of health by working in collaboration to address the underlying causes of disease. Functional medicine recognizes biochemical individuality and honors the entire person: mind, body and spirit.
What role do you see functional medicine playing in our current healthcare options?
Functional medicine expands the toolbox available to help people achieve good health and to avoid disease. It is especially helpful in cases of chronic illness not well served by conventional medicine alone, and also emphasizes prevention in a modern, practical way. Functional medicine practitioners spend more time with their patients and develop truly individualized treatment plans.
Why is it getting so much attention recently?
Because our conventional health care system is geared towards treating acute injuries and illnesses. Chronic illness is becoming much more of a factor in the health of patients in industrialized countries, and we desperately need a paradigm that will effectively address these complex situations. Functional medicine practitioners look closely at the interactions among genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. The current epidemic of complex chronic illness will not be effectively addressed by the old system of making a diagnosis and prescribing pharmaceutical agents or procedures.
What are some specific treatments that are unique to functional medicine?
For irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive woes not well addressed by conventional medicine, a functional medicine practitioner would use an approach known as the “4R” program: remove, replace, re-inoculate and repair. Importantly, the plan would be individualized to fit the needs of each patient and would be flexible, so that if circumstances change, so does the treatment plan.
Patients with indications that they are at risk to develop full-blown diabetes would be advised of the importance of initiating treatment, including lifestyle, proper nutrition, exercise and possibly supplements in order to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, recognizing that harm is already being done to the body, and also that the condition usually can be ameliorated or reversed.
Does it cost less for the consumer?
Difficult to say; most functional medicine practitioners do not participate with health insurance, but on the other hand, how can we put a price on good health?
What is different about the care than traditional allopathic approaches?
Essentially the care is individualized; science-based, yet patient-centered. In functional medicine, we are not as concerned about naming the disease as in identifying and correcting imbalances, recognizing that the body-mind-spirit has the innate capacity to heal many health problems if we can remove or reduce the forces producing disease and support the processes promoting healing. We recognize the continuum between health and disease and the ability to move back toward health. We are willing to listen carefully and at length to patients and to collaborate with our patients.
Have you seen dramatic cures you did not expect?
Yes, sometimes dramatic improvement, but more often a growing understanding and improvement in health over time. A functional medicine treatment plan can be demanding; much more than simply taking a pill.
What are the specific limitations of functional medicine?
Each practitioner of functional medicine should know her or his limits and should develop a network of other practitioners, conventional and integrative, to best serve patients. I don’t think there is a set of specific limitations.
What do see as the future of this discipline?
There is a lot of work going on right now to help functional medicine practitioners develop financially viable businesses. This is important for several reasons: so that professionals already practicing functional medicine will continue to do so; so that conventional practitioners will consider adding functional medicine to their current practices; and so that practitioners in training will consider functional medicine as a career. I believe we sorely need this approach. I hope that we will see functional medicine in more academic centers, both as an offering to patients and as part of the curriculum for students. The collaboration between the Institute for Functional Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic is an important trial of just such a collaboration.
Healthy Endeavors Medicine is located at 2592 Western Ave., Ste. 102, in Altamont. For more information, call 518-355-2060 or visit HealthyEndeavorsMed.com.
This article appeared in the December 2016 issue of Natural Awakenings Magazine. Click to read more.