What Is A Functional Health Coach?

Nov 20, 2022

What is a Functional Health Coach? I get asked that quite a bit and thought the best way to answer the question may be to contrast it to something most do know about…conventional healthcare and medicine.

Functional vs Conventional

Flashback 20+ years ago to my own health scare and through that, my discovery of Functional Medicine. I am a 20 something vegetarian college student, living my healthiest life….right? Eating soy in some form at every meal from soy milk in my cereal to veggie corndogs for dinner, and don’t forget the fried tofu for a snack! Oh, and did I mention I smoked cigarettes? Yes, I was one of “those” vegetarians that would literally be smoking while lecturing you about the meat you are eating and how it’s going to give you cancer. I was the worst.

Anyhow, I developed a lump in my throat that continued to grow until it became uncomfortable to swallow, and quite noticeable as a golf ball sized protrusion right around my thyroid gland. I finally called my mom, who is a nurse, and we agreed it was time for a doctor to take a look. I went home from Oregon to California to see an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist.

After the ultrasound showed it was not cancer, the kind doctor aspirated it. The cells came back inconclusive, and my bloodwork showed my thyroid function was “Normal”. The doctor did tell me, casually as he was leaving the room, that I can expect to have a goiter when I get to a certain age. So, life went back to normal, the lump did not return, and I anticipated my golden years with a goiter.

Fast forward roughly 10 yrs, I am happily married to my best friend, we have a 2 year old little one and I am no longer smoking cigarettes (It was a short lived habit) or a vegetarian. As such, my soy consumption had decreased, as I learned it can interfere with thyroid function and I was not totally convinced that had nothing to do with the original lump. However, one morning I felt something familiar when I swallowed. I ran and looked in the mirror with my head cocked just right and sure enough, it was back. Smaller, but the lump was definitely there.

Finding the Root Cause

We had been seeing a Naturopathic Doctor for my son at a wonderful Integrative Medical Center in Santa Rosa and he practiced Functional Medicine. I trusted him with my son and decided rather than go back to the ENT, where I got no answers at all as to what this was, let alone why it had happened, I would see what a Functional approach would look like.

After a thorough history and exam, he ran an iodine loading test to see if my body was absorbing enough iodine. Turns out iodine is needed for the production of thyroid hormone, and a deficiency can lead to an enlargement of the thyroid gland itself, ie: a goiter! I was given a large dose of iodine, collected my urine for 24 hrs to see what was being excreted vs absorbed and wouldn’t you know it, my body didn’t absorb the iodine well at all. I was put on a supplement, and within weeks, the lump was gone. It has never returned. I got the what, I got the why and I got a solution!

Do you see the inherent difference?

Conventional medicine treated the symptom. The symptom was the lump. Aspirating it worked. The lump was gone, so case closed. Oh, and watch out for the goiter coming at ya!

Functional Medicine looked at me, all of me. It looked for the why, and found it quite effectively. I have had subsequent blood work over the years, and turns out there is a minor dysfunction in a conversion with my thyroid hormone production. I will likely take iodine supplements for life, not everyday, but every so often to give myself a boost. I don’t plan on having a goiter later in life either, thank you very much!

Ever since that experience 12 yrs ago, I have been studying Functional Health and Nutrition in one form or another. I see it as a much needed paradigm shift in how we view healthcare.

Empowered Healthcare

Functional Health Coaching takes all aspects of your life into consideration - sleep, stress management, exercise, fun, nutrition, and lifestyle habits.  It looks to see where adjustments can be made to bring you into a state of wellness. This differs from the ‘Symptom/Substance” model that so many have found in conventional healthcare to be ineffective. Functional healthcare is patient centered, not dis-ease centered.

There is no one size fits all solution to finding balance and wellness in our lives. Everyone has different genetic makeups, lifestyles, and needs. A Functional approach empowers you to take an active role in your health as opposed to being told what to do without question. It is also preventative to keep you well as opposed to reactive to keep you symptom free. The list goes on and on. I am not opposed to conventional medicine when it is warranted, like catastrophic injury, emergency medicine like surgeries and more extreme treatments for more extreme diseases. It simply does not align with my values or experience of health maintenance and overall wellness in our day to day life.

My goal as a Functional Health Coach is to empower you to take control of your wellbeing. My role is mostly that of educator as well as part detective, part coach, part cheerleader and part accountability partner. I want you to have tools to create your best life.

Want to know more? A Strategy Session to get clear on your specific health goals is a great place to start.

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