Amy’s Functional Medicine Journey
I started my journey in healthcare as a Registered Dietitian for several years prior to attending medical school. I always knew that lifestyle choices and our environment play huge roles in our overall health. Inflammatory diets devoid of nutrients, too little or too much physical activity, chronic stress, lack of sleep, high toxin burdens, etc. were major contributors to chronic disease. Unfortunately, these things were barely covered, and outright neglected, during my medical school education and residency training.
Much of my education and training focused on using pharmaceuticals and procedures to treat symptoms. While treating symptoms is necessary and much appreciated by patients, what’s more important is treating the underlying root causes that are contributing to those symptoms. The conventional medicine approach does a very poor job of uncovering and addressing root causes of disease. As many of you know and have experienced, a typical visit is around 10-15 minutes and usually ends with the doctor handing the patient a prescription to treat a symptom. Then, new symptoms typically develop as a side effect of the prescription pharmaceutical
I wanted no part of the “pill for your ill” approach of conventional medicine. I wanted something different.
So, I went to work in the ER. And while I enjoyed my time there, I felt a strong desire to empower patients to lead healthy lifestyles and avoid the chronic diseases that were behind so many of their ER visits. During my Family Medicine residency, I was diagnosed with “possible MS.” I had spent the last several years seeing multiple specialists for the evaluation and treatment of many chronic problems—horrible (I mean HORRIBLE) constipation, IBS, reflux, depression, neuropathy, spastic bladder, restless leg syndrome, vertigo, and rashes. No one could give me a reason as to why I was experiencing these things.
My family doctor did all he could before referring me to GI specialists, neurologists, physical therapists, dermatologists, and psychiatrists. After colonoscopies, EGDs, EMGs, CT scans, MRIs, numerous lab panels, and multiple medications, I still did not have any answers or relief. None of the pharmaceuticals helped, and many made me feel worse. I felt hopeless and crazy. So, after a failed defagram test (I would not wish this test on my worst enemy), my colorectal surgeon and I decided that it was time to “fix” my colon. I just could not entertain the idea of having to endure a life of constant abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation.
So, I had all but 18 inches of my colon removed. Well, that cured the horrible constipation I had been dealing with for 10 years, but the constipation was replaced with chronic diarrhea. I should have bought stock in Charmin. Not only was diarrhea an issue, my other problems remained and new problems developed. My fatigue was requiring me to take naps everyday. My Restless Leg Syndrome worsened. I was still having neuropathy in my feet and hands. My depression was worse, and I began having anxiety attacks.
I, too, have been a patient. I, too, have experienced the hopelessness of waking up every day with health problems that no one could “fix.”
I found myself in a state of despair…until I was introduced to Dr. Bette Bischoff, a certified Functional Medicine doctor. After one of the most interesting conversations about the GI microbiome and immune system, I dove head first into Functional Medicine. I had to know more! I signed up for my first IFM module and heard things I had never heard before. How was this not mentioned in medical school?!
I am happy to say that I am now “cured.” The root cause of my problems was a very unhappy microbiome—major dysbiosis and “leaky gut.” I discovered that I had intolerances to wheat, whey, and eggs. And those Diet Cokes weren’t helping either. I made sure I got rid of toxic exposures–I discovered I had elevated mercury levels. A regular sleep schedule became a top priority. This was something very new to me. Once I addressed my diet, stress, sleep, and toxin exposures and began an intensive gut healing program, my symptoms quickly resolved.
Was this for real? Was this going to last? Was it really that simple?
The answer: yes, yes, and yes.
I will be forever grateful for that chance meeting with Dr. Bischoff. Since that meeting, I have had the privilege of helping hundreds of patients improve the quality of their lives by uncovering and addressing the root cause(s) of their chronic problems. These patients, and their doctor (ME), are living happier and healthier lives because of a Functional Medicine approach.
Dr. Beard’s Credentials
- Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP) – Institute for Functional Medicine
- Medical Doctor (MD) – University of Arkansas College of Medicine
- Family Medicine Board Certified – University of Arkansas NW Area Health Education Center, Family Medicine residency
- University of Central Arkansas – Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics
- University of Arkansas for Health Sciences – Certificate of Dietetic Internship