Q&A: What is Functional Medicine?
This week, I spoke with Dr. Nayo Wills.
This week I was lucky enough to interview Dr. Nayo Wills, the founder of I Bar Wellness.
Wills is board-certified in Internal and Integrative Medicine and has extensive training and experience in mind-body medicine, metaphysics, acupuncture, weight optimization and nutritional healing. She practices a type of integrative medicine called functional medicine. Her office is just down the road, close to the Rhode Island Avenue/Brentwood metro station. She will join us at the Riverdale Park Farmers Market and lead a cooking demonstration later this summer.
Wills is my doctor and she has helped me though many of my health challenges.
I asked her to share her thoughts on what functional medicine is, how it is different than traditional western medicine, and what she sees as the role of the mind in health and healing. This is the first of a two-part series with her responses to those questions.
Beth Allgood: Can you tell us a little bit about functional medicine?
Nayo Wills: Basically, the approach for functional medicine – the primary emphasis – is on prevention of any ailment or illness that a person might experience. This also includes chronic disease. Functional medicine is very specific to the person. The basic approach is to look at the patient as a whole, and it is very patient centered. So it isn’t that a patient comes in with high blood pressure and you give them a pill. It is looking at that person’s entire experience through life, all aspects, including emotional experiences, different traumas they might have had, environmental exposure, what their support system is like, their nutritional status, and how their metabolic system and endocrine systems are working. It takes everything into account Then the physician along with the patient will come up with a tailored plan for that patient, based on the interconnectedness of all of the issues that that person is facing.
The reason that this is different from other medicine is that typically medicine just looks at a problem and it is treated irrespective of the person who is being treated. This instead recognizes that everything is connected. So if you are coming in with a bowel problem, that is connected to your immune system which is connected to your nutritional status which is connected to your endocrine system, which is connected to your social support system. The main charge is to restore people to whole health and that is very different fro traditional western medicine in which the primary focus is providing a cure. A cure for a symptom doesn’t necessarily mean that you are eliminating or healing the underlying cause of the problem, it just means that you have eliminated the symptom.
In functional medicine, we are really trying to rebalance every system within the body to create whole health.
Allgood: What is your background and training and how did you become interested in practicing functional medicine?
Wills: I am trained as an internist and when I finished my residency, after practicing for a little while, I went and worked for a pharmaceutical company in addition to clinical medicine. I got to really see very intimately the pharmaceutical industry’s approach to wellness. I hadn’t seen it quite like this prior to working for the industry. I saw that the real emphasis was really on keeping people on medicine. The pharmaceutical industry was based on a medical system that had no intention of getting people well, but to get them from cradle to grave as comfortably as possible. I started feeling like there had to be a better way. Then I just started to read more on it and one by one I got introduced to different organizations and eventually functional medicine and other integrative disciplines. That’s how I came into a more functional and integrative practice.
Next week, I will share Dr. Wills' perspective on the role of the doctor in functional medicine and the critical importance of our thoughts and our food in making us well.