One month into my Family Medicine Residency Training Program (August 2004), I met my amazing wife, Stacy. She was full of life, social with friends, a great cook, traveler, small business owner and committed to growth through self-examination. Four months later, she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and I had no tools to help her. She had adrenal fatigue, her cortisol levels (the main adrenal hormone) were non-existent and she was told to rest up and she would be better within one to two years. She purchased a sauna, took adrenal supplements and coffee enemas and worked on her psycho-spiritual side and she was mostly better in 3 years. I felt powerless and began my path learning everything I could about fatigue.
After I graduated residency in 2007, I started my own practice. I realized that my energy wasn’t like it was prior to residency. I was able to function, but I was tired. I didn’t have much energy for exercise, nor did I prioritize it. I had worked long and hard for my opportunity to create the kind of integrative medical practice that I wanted, so I pushed ahead. I thought it was a post residency issue that would resolve on its own in a few months.
Unfortunately, it didn’t get better, and with the birth of our daughter in 2008, my energy and brain fog worsened. I could only see patients part time – four days per week, six hours per day. I realized that I needed an administrative staff person to help me. At the same time, my wife and a colleague purchased a medical building in 2010 and I moved my practice into that shared space.
My brain fog was so bad that I couldn’t remember much without making a list. I wasn’t able to help at home which made me feel guilty since my wife was running her own business and taking care of our toddler. I couldn’t provide management for my employees and I couldn’t afford to hire someone to help. When my wife closed her consulting practice, I increased the number of patients I was seeing to help cover our expenses, but I knew it wasn’t sustainable. I hired other providers hoping to decrease the number of patients that I was seeing. Everyday was a struggle just to get to work and ensure that I still provided the best patient care. When I got home, I didn’t have any energy left for family. It wasn’t the existence I wanted for myself or my family.
As I went to conferences, read books and evaluated the research, I began to compile my list of the causes of chronic fatigue. In medical school I was taught, “If you don’t think of it, you won’t diagnose it.” I broadened my differential diagnosis to include all potential causes. Many of these causes I was able to find in conventional textbooks, however, the testing methods to determine which causes were present were lacking.
With Functional Medicine, however, I found the testing methods I needed to assess these potential causes. I implemented what I was learning with my patients and was very pleased with the success.
I learned Functional Medicine after residency as a complement to the Holistic and Integrative Medicine that I was already practicing. Functional Medicine looks for the cause of disease and dysfunction and areas of imbalance. It looks at where the processes have become abnormal and removes the problem or replaces the deficiency so the body can heal itself. As I implemented new concepts in my patients, I began to treat myself as well. I began replacing my vitamin and hormone deficiencies and moved my energy from a 3/10 (10 being ideal energy) to a 5/10. However, it wasn’t until I learned more about infections, heavy metals, chemicals and molds (through additional Environmental Medicine training) that my energy improved to a 7-8/10.
Patients were getting better, faster. We were resolving very challenging medical conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyagia, Diabetes and High Blood Pressure! It was wonderful to watch and to be a part of. I was fine tuning our protocols and kept learning about more obstacles to health and the treatments to remove them.
After almost 10 years in practice, I now knew what my mission was in life.
It is to help all those suffering with Chronic Fatigue. To create educational programs (online classes, podcasts, etc.) to show them how I helped my patients and give them the resources to get the help they need to resolve their symptoms.