Functional Medicine, Food, and the Changes I've Made

Type 1 Diabetes Blog

Functional Medicine, Food, and the Changes I've Made

A few months ago, I switched my primary care to a physician at a functional medicine practice. Functional medicine may seem ambiguous, but it is defined as a biology-based medicinal approach that implements holistic treatments while focusing on the root cause of disease. I have wanted to find a functional medicine doctor, or in my case a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy), for quite some time now, believing that it would be the next step to further optimize my health and wellbeing.

It feels wonderful to have a medical professional in my corner who not only encourages, but helps to facilitate the implementation of holistic practices into my life. I recognize the need for traditional, Western medicine (thank you, insulin!), and at the same time I strongly believe that there are alternative practices and healing modalities (some that have been around for centuries), that can significantly contribute towards my health – body, mind, and soul.

As someone who lives with the chronic condition Type 1 diabetes and some of its subsequent complications, I know intimately what it’s like to be poked, prodded, and given medications that often feel like they hurt more than they help. I have also lived and struggled with gastric ulcers, gastroparesis, and a hiatal hernia. For a while I was frustrated and discouraged when I was told to just eat white bread, white flour, simple carbs etc. by registered dietitians who weren’t exactly sure how to guide someone with all the ailments that I experience. It can be difficult to live with multiple health issues and conflicts between traditional dietary recommendations and what my body can actually tolerate or keep down.

After years of questioning different doctors and various specialists, feeling like there just HAD to be better options out there, I finally decided I had had enough and had to take things into my own hands. I didn’t want to be told how manage symptoms… I wanted to HEAL!

I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and graduated last fall, closer to becoming a holistic health coach. Within the past year I also became a yoga instructor and reiki practitioner. I’m committed to exploring any and ALL holistic options when it comes to my health. In addition to incorporating things like yoga, reiki, and other energy healing, I place a strong focus on using food as medicine. I have also explored different dietary theories to see if I could find any relief through various options.

Making the switch to a functional medicine practice meant I was finally able to have some blood work done to see if I’m sensitive or allergic to any foods or general categories. After my gastroparesis diagnosis, I had an endoscopy to see if I had celiac disease. The results came back negative, so I assumed that wheat and gluten were okay for me to eat. Imagine my surprise when the blood results came back indicating that I have a sensitivity to gluten and wheat. I may not have celiac disease (an autoimmune condition where the lining of the small intestines becomes inflamed leading to discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, and nutrient malabsorption), but I do have a sensitivity that causes inflammation within my body. I am also sensitive to dairy, which was a surprise, especially since I mostly ate things that contained dairy. With one appointment with my new PCP, I was running head first towards an even better future.

Receiving this information was both helpful and empowering. It allowed me to devise a new strategy towards my pursuit of wellness -- since my focus shifted to finding the root of the problem, instead of simply masking the symptoms that were bothering me. Because I chose to keep asking questions and did not settle for what I was told initially, I could see that progress within my healing journey was being made. I have since used that momentum to further accelerate my growth.

Some of the major changes I’ve made on my wellness journey so far include:

  • Eliminating alcohol

  • Eating a gluten-free/dairy-free diet -- opting for whole, real foods

  • Limiting processed, pre-packaged foods

  • Eating plant-based, mostly vegan

I feel pretty great these days. I realize that I tend to feel a lot better when I don’t consume meat or poultry. I do continue to occasionally eat fish when I can opt for sustainable, eco-friendly choices. I also include both collagen and bone broth within my meal plan (to help with gut healing), but recognize that following a mostly vegan lifestyle is what currently makes both my physical self and spiritual heart feel best.

It can be challenging to eat a plant-based diet while also living with gastroparesis. However, I try to stay mindful of how I fuel my body and take care of my needs, however complicated and unique they might be - because it helps me strive to become the best version of myself that I can possibly be.