Back in the day, getting health information meant going to the doctor. You called and scheduled an appointment, then waited several days, weeks or months until your appointment.
With the internet, things have changed. Web MD got the ball rolling with their Symptom Checker. (Which, in the early days of the internet, I used frequently. At one point I had tingling in my foot, which Web MD indicated was either caused by MS, stroke, or brain tumor. I called my mom in a panic with my dire diagnosis, and she told me to get new shoes. I switched them out, and the tingling was gone. This complete diagnostic misfire happened a few more times before my husband shut me down from Web MD.) Several websites popped up with medical advice and information, and forums were created where people could trade ideas about illnesses and medications. And there, Dr. Google came to be. When you are under duress and trying to figure out what is wrong with you, waiting a month for an appointment seems like an eternity. When there is a plethora of information out there, it is hard to pass up the opportunity to self-diagnose.
In addition to the issue of waiting for appointments, short visits with doctors and limited solutions have led frustrated people to turn to the internet more and more frequently. That is especially true of functional and naturopathic medicine, as it is a concept that tends to hit home with a lot of people. Doctors like Mark Hyman, Amy Myers and Dr. Mercola have built audiences and become go-to sources of information.
As a Functional Medicine practice, we are always happy to see the word spread about Functional Medicine. Many people do not know that there is often a root cause of their misery that can be addressed and reversed. Functional Medicine helps remove “tacks” that make people feel miserable and gives your body the tools it needs to heal itself vs. band-aiding symptoms.
The problem comes in when people think that every Functional Medicine “tack” applies to them. During my time doing new patient intakes, I have seen patients treat themselves for yeast, SIBO, food intolerances, Celiac Disease and vitamin deficiencies. They put themselves on low-FODMAP, or Specific Carbohydrate diets that are extremely difficult even for those schooled in nutrition. At the very least, this can be inconvenient and ineffective for the patient. In some cases, it can be dangerous.
Here’s an example: I had a friend in Functional Medicine coaching school who decided she needed lots of probiotics and went all in with the fermented foods. (Kombucha, Kefir, etc.) Turns out she had a major yeast issue that she didn’t know about and the fermented drinks caused the yeast to multiply very quickly, rendering her very ill. It took a visit to a doctor and testing to set her on the road to recovery.
When I first started my job as a health coach, I would try to guess in my head at what my patient’s tests would reveal. What seemed like cut and dry cases would always surprise me. Take my husband, for example. He always had athlete’s foot and issues with his skin. I was betting his yeast was off the charts. Tests showed his yeast was low, not requiring treatment, but he did have Vitamin B deficiencies and insulin resistance. I did not see that coming.
Everyone’s genetic makeup differs. Combined with environmental factors, there could be a lot of reasons that your body can react. Insomnia is a problem we see very frequently. For some people, a B12 shot is all they need to get back on track. Others need magnesium. For women, hormone variations can be the cause. My husband has the “warrior” gene, which means he’s built to go on “campaigns” for several days and forsake rest. He also has the “clock” gene, which means his body struggles with time. Sleep does not come as easy for him genetically as it does for others, so he needs support like melatonin, GABA and theanine. There is not a one-size-fits-all cure for insomnia, or really any other condition.
The bottom line… please do not do it yourself. See a doctor to find out YOUR specific issues and get guidance on how to treat them accordingly. Just because supplements are natural and do not require a prescription does not mean that they are appropriate or safe for everyone. And truthfully, for many patients, seeing numbers and a definitive diagnosis means the difference between compliance and non-compliance.
And no matter what, please do not turn to Dr. Google. He is always on call but his information is sketchy at best.