Updated: Sep 2
Whether you have a chronic illness and visit your doctor frequently or you only go every few years - you'll want to make the most of your visit.
This appointment is your opportunity to get personalized, expert advice for all those things you keep googling: "is my persistent stomach pain serious?" "do I have depression?" or "can I treat my arthritis naturally?"
Come to your appointment armed with a list of any severe or new symptoms so you can mention them first.
Think about asking these four questions too.
1. "What Lifestyle And Dietary Changes Can Help Me?"
This question will tell you a lot about how your doctor thinks.
Despite mountains of research proving the efficacy of diet and lifestyle in mitigating the symptoms of even advanced illness  - some practitioners are still only interested in treating symptoms.
Unfortunately, by the time symptoms are present, a disease process is already well underway.
Whether you have increasing joint pain, reduced energy, difficulty losing weight, trouble sleeping, anxiety, or low mood - there are usually simple, scientifically-backed techniques that you can employ to help your body regain balance naturally.
Even if medication is necessary for your situation, diet and lifestyle are still forms of treatment that you can self-administer multiple times a day to complement your treatment.
These changes could be as simple as starting a specific diet to reduce your symptoms of IBS or avoiding well known migraine triggers so you do not have to take your medication as often.
Another change could be balancing stomach acid production naturally so you don't have to take your over-the-counter anti-acid tablets every day.
If weight loss is your goal but you have been struggling with progress, then your doctor should want to know about your diet, your activity level and run some hormone, thyroid, and inflammation panels to see if there are biological reasons holding you back.
2. "What Screenings Or Testing Should I Be Getting?"
The recommended ages for mammograms, colonoscopies and heart screenings change, but your doctor should have an idea of your risk level and test schedule based on your symptoms, a physical examination, your age and your family history.
If you have a family history of, let's say, colon cancer, your timetable for your first colonoscopy may be moved up.
There are also tests that can measure how your body is functioning at a deeper level. These are the kind of tests that I, as a functional medicine practitioner, specialize in.
If you have gastrointestinal symptoms, a comprehensive stool analysis can assess nutrient absorption, localized inflammation and if you have an infection and, if you do, what kind it is.
A blood test can detect a bacterial infection, high levels of systemic inflammation (from something like a fungal infection in your sinuses), and the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (a common cause of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia).
It is a red flag when you are prescribed symptom suppressing medication (like pain killers or anti-nausea pills) when no testing has been done to confirm a diagnosis or to investigate why you are having your symptoms.
Testing For Diagnosis Confirmation
Often I get new patients who have been treated for years for conditions like Crohn's Disease or Mast Cell Disease when no testing has ever been done to investigate further into their diagnosis.
They frequently have different conditions altogether or the diagnosis itself is just the tip of the iceberg of what is really going on. These patients have been wasting time, money and energy treating the wrong thing.
A diagnosis is rarely cut and dry. Many conditions overlap and can be easily confused with each other if a patients case is not carefully investigated.
Crohn's disease symptoms can be the same symptoms as a food allergy, a small intestine bacterial overgrowth, or neurotransmitter imbalance.