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My Journey into Functional Medicine: Skepticism, Curiosity, and Need for New Answers

Kara Wada, MD is desperate to help patients whose mysteries defy the textbooks, as an allergist/immunologist who cautiously explores the world of functional medicine.

May 13, 2024

My Journey into Functional Medicine: Skepticism, Curiosity, and the Need for New Answers

As a specialist in allergies, immunology, and autoimmune diseases, I’m used to complicated cases.

But the patients I’m seeing with mast cell disorders (MCAS) and other multi-system maladies have truly thrown me for a loop.

Many have gone from healthy to unable to work without any clearcut reason. These folks defy textbooks, struggling with a constellation of symptoms no single diagnosis can neatly explain.

 

The patients I'm seeing with mast cell disorders (MCAS) and other multi-system maladies have truly thrown me for a loop.

 

I’ve been forced to get creative, digging into research the mainstream often dismisses. It’s here that the potential of functional medicine (FM) starts to peek through.

For those unfamiliar, FM focuses on root causes – imbalances in your body’s core systems that can trigger wide-ranging problems at times using lab evaluation and/or treatments that are outside typical medical training. 

Honestly, I’ve been hesitant about FM in the past and even written about the red flags.

Some of the money-making schemes and unproven claims especially surrounding food sensitivity testing from certain leaders in the field made me wary and continue to give me pause.

 And yet, my commitment to these complex patients led me to sign up for an introductory FM course this summer.

 

Some of the money-making schemes and unproven claims especially surrounding food sensitivity testing from certain leaders in the field made me wary and continue to give me pause. Click To Tweet

 

Why the change of heart? It boils down to a few key things:

 

  • Desperation for New Solutions: When patients are suffering, and traditional medicine keeps coming up blank, I feel an obligation to explore every possibility. 
  • The “Textbook” Patients are the Exception: The more I work with chronic illness, the more I realize neat-and-tidy diagnoses are often the outliers within this group of patients, not the norm.
  • Finding the Pearls: It’s about discerning the real science from the hype. Two recent books – Dr. William Salt’s “You’re On Fire” and Dr. Christopher Palmer’s “Brain Energy” – have opened my eyes to new approaches to gut health and how metabolic dysfunction might be at the root of mental health disorders. 
  • Conversations that Matter: My upcoming podcast interview with Dr. Vivian Asamoah, a GI physician with an elite educational pedigree with a successful integrative and functional practice, was pivotal. She’s proof you can combine rigorous, scientific training with an FM approach and get real results with your patients.
  • Leaning into my core values: Even if I don’t agree with the decisions of some of the leading figures in this field, I can continue to practice in alignment my core values and ethics- leaning into transparency, curiosity, and compassion as my North Star. 

 

This journey isn’t about flipping a switch – I believe deeply in evidence-based medicine.

But it IS about expanding my toolbox, leaning into that endless curiosity- a thirst for knowledge and deepest commitment and conviction to help ease the suffering of my patients.

My hope is that by exploring the world of functional medicine with a critical eye, I can find new ways to help those patients my current medical toolbox keeps failing.

Have you explored functional medicine? What questions or concerns do you have? 

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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One Response

  1. Bless you Dr Kara Wada for stepping out, stepping up to explore outside your “toolbox”. If only there were more doctors willing to explore unfamiliar areas of “medicine” to treat their patients effectively!!!
    Thank you

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