The Functional Medicine Timeline
There is one thing about health I know to be true for everyone.
Your health today did not happen overnight.
Everyone’s health is a sum total of their life factors that cumulatively worked together in synergistic and antagonistic relationships to bring you where you are today. The factors that affect your health are more extensive than most people realize. Factors such as your birth, childhood, sleep habits, and even your relationships seriously impact your health.
When you work with an experienced functional medicine practitioner, one of the most important things they will do, is to collect comprehensive information from your entire life and listen careful for clues to weave together as many details about your health as possible. All of this information is then laid out in chronological order, creating a visual timeline. These functional medicine timelines are very positive and powerful. When I work with a patient in my clinic on their timeline, a kind of magic takes place between us that blows me away each time.
When I say “magic” I’m referring a combination of two big things. The first is a series of aha moments where patients begin to see how their health has potential – often for the first time in years or decades. It’s so very exciting and inspiring to see patients find possibility where there was once devastation – these are the moments I live for. The second comes with the retelling of the story, described below.
How the Functional Medicine Timeline Works
Here is what happens in my practice. While gathering your personal history, I break information down into these three categories.
These are predisposing factors that impact your health. Some examples of antecedents include:
- Genetic predisposition
- Birth factors
- Physical trauma – ie. sports, car accidents…
- Emotional traumas – ie. witnessing a death, sexual abuse, natural disasters…
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Drug or alcohol use or addiction
- Intestinal permeability
These are factors that provoke the symptoms of your illness. Some examples of triggers include:
- Physical trauma
- Psychological trauma
- Food sensitivities
These are perpetuating factors that contribute to the pathological changes and dysfunctional responses in your body. Some examples of mediators include:
- Ongoing psychological stress – ie. toxic relationships, career related…
- Environmental toxin exposure
- Sleep deprivation
- Inflammatory cytokines
- Mitochondrial damage
Finally, we pinpoint the moment where your illness actually began, which is sometimes much earlier than many people initially realize.
After I build your timeline, I tell your story back to you in my own words to ensure accuracy and understanding. This allows you to see how I’m breaking down the details and gives you a chance to clarify or correct anything I may I have missed. Your story becomes a conversation, a partnership between you and me. Your story becomes the foundation of your treatment plan, which is the map of your journey towards better health.
The Magic Happens When You Tell Your Story
Working with a functional medicine practitioner is completely different from the experience you have probably had within the conventional system, because the foundation of our work comes from a complete look at your health in the context of your life. This isn’t a list of boxes to check about your parents medical history or a “Yes” or “ No” list of symptoms you experience. Together we outline your health timeline which includes:
Your mother’s pregnancy
Any significant trauma
Mapping out your health timeline is an extraordinarily powerful tool for a couple of reasons…
First, it’s often the first time you are able to see your health in a big picture format. This causes light bulbs to go off! When you see for the first time how everything is connected it can make your body and health feel less like a mystery, which is incredibly empowering.
Second, as I tell your story back to you, you are invited to correct the narrative and clarify any details you feel pertinent. Not only does this give the me a better understanding of your story, but you are heard in a way that is unique to functional medicine.
I often hear from patients that they feel heard for the first time since seeking help with their health, and that this is the first time they feel like someone has understood what is going on in their body.
This is because it’s a very different approach from conventional medicine, which gets you in, gives you a white-coat opinion, and gets you out. When you work with a functional medicine practitioner, you have a partner in this process.
Finally, once we’ve mapped this process out together, antecedents, triggers, and mediators make themselves clear. It’s amazing how we can identify these variables and develop a plan to leverage each for positive change.
Sam’s Story – A Composer Who Got Her Music Back
I briefly want to tell you the story of Sam, who is a composer. Sam came to me after 27 years of slow decline in her health. Her symptoms began when she was 15 but it took her decades to get to the point where she reached out for help. By that point, she was so far along in her chronic illness it perplexed every doctor she saw.
It wasn’t until she came to me and we completed a functional medicine timeline that we discovered numerous compounding issues:
MTHFR gene malfunction
These worked together to cause weight gain, critically high blood pressure, unrelenting exhaustion, acute headaches, numerous trips to the emergency room, and such an intolerance to stimulation – even music overwhelmed her body.
After developing a treatment plan and Sam’s hardwork and dedication to stick to that plan, she is now up and about, making steady progress forwards every day and most importantly, able to listen to music again.
Work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner
After your functional medicine timeline and appropriate testing, we work together to build your personalized, comprehensive treatment plan. This is why I love functional medicine – it examines the body as a whole, the way medicine should. The body is complex, sophisticated, and beautiful. To understand an individuals health takes time and that is the power of the functional medicine timeline.
If you’ve been struggling with your health, I recommend you find a functional medicine practitioner that makes you feel heard. I see patients virtually via Skype, phone or FaceTime, so I am accessible from wherever you are in the world, and I have offices in London or Kent.
If you would like to work on your Foundations of Health, you can do so here with my new guided program. There is no need to live a subpar life – I believe there are solutions to a better life for everyone, it just takes time and careful detective work to find them!