Episode 12: Functional versus Traditional Medicine


In this episode, you will learn:

The difference between functional and traditional medicine

When pharmaceuticals are the better option than a natural remedy and vice versa

The link between the subconscious mind and chronic illness/pain

How and why functional medicine can help those with chronic conditions

This is episode 12 of the pain changer podcast. This week I have a treat for you guys. In an earlier episode, I mentioned that a functional medicine doctor is vastly different than a traditional medical doctor. But it didn’t really tell you how. Today I’m going to be talking to Dr. Sean McCloy took the path of being a traditional MD and opted to go into functional medicine. Join us so you can learn the difference for yourself and how a functional medicine doctor can help those with chronic conditions. That’s coming up next, you’re not going to want to miss it. But first, let’s call out the listener of the week. Today, our listener is Miss Carrie H, who left the review and says it is a fabulous resource, a podcast about pain. Not everybody’s first choice. But for those of us with chronic health conditions. It’s an easy way to learn on the go. And Katie makes it fun. Because if you can laugh at it, it doesn’t own you. Thank you so much for your feedback. Carrie, please send me a DM on Instagram so I can get your address and send you a little gift to thank you for being part of spreading the message that chronic doesn’t have to mean permanent. And now I would like to introduce Dr. Sean McCloy. Dr. McCoy, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you doing?

Dr McCloy  1:39  

Katie? I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast. And thank you for spreading the good word about all these options for chronic diseases and for pain.

Katie Wrigley  1:48  

Oh, awesome. And it’s my pleasure. This is why I feel strongly that I’m here on this planet is to serve and help others and show that there’s there’s different ways to do things.

Dr McCloy  1:58  

Well, kudos, yes, this is a fascinating podcast. I’ve a bit appreciate you listening to it.

Katie Wrigley  2:02  

Awesome. Well, thank you very much for that. So if you could please tell our audience a little bit about you and how you came into functional medicine?

Dr McCloy  2:11  

Well, sure, I’d be happy to. So I am the medical director for Integrative Health Center of Maine, we’re located in Cumberland, Maine, and I am dual board certified in family medicine, as well as holistic medicine. have kind of a circuitous path to get to this point here actually started out wanting to be a neurosurgeon, when I entered medical school, fascinated by how the brain works, and I really liked surgery, I’ve done good with my hands. And it was kind of fun being in surgery. But as I worked my way through medical school, I reached out to neurosurgeons and other surgeons in general and started to talk with them about you know, what their lives are, like, Are they happy doing what they’re doing. And I couldn’t find one single neurosurgeon who was satisfied with their career decision, they were all burnt out, they couldn’t stand the system in which they’re working, you know, typically, their patients really wouldn’t get much better. We’re talking about, you know, brain cancer and spinal cord injuries and things like that. And so I really took a hard look at what I wanted to do with my life and why I entered the field of medicine in the first place, and found that I still garnered a lot of joy from just getting to know my patient, and and watching them get healthy, you know, being a part of their lives and helping them find ways to get better. I loved working with kids, I loved working with adults. And so I really did a 180 and aimed myself towards family medicine. And where I can really work on on preventative care as well as acute care and work towards that goal. And as far as the integrative medicine part came about, Gosh, I guess I began to be a little disenchanted with the limitations of what pharmaceuticals can do. Certainly, there’s a role for pharmaceutical medicine. And I still do prescribe pharmaceuticals in my practice when I have to, but really, as a family doctor, I’m trying to get people healthy. And drugs don’t make people healthy, right. So I needed more tools in my toolbox. And I really wasn’t getting that from my allopathic medical training. And I began to be interested in integrative medicine. So combining some of these natural options, holistic options, alternative medicine options, I really do like that term integrative medicine, because it means we are putting all those options on the table, whatever is going to help that patient in front of me and and so in doing that I decided to do my residency in Portland at the medical center, because at that time, there was one that was one of two spots in the nation that had an integrative medicine component as part of their family medicine residency. I just loved Portland as well so really liked coming here. And that kind of set me off on on this journey here and when I graduated from residency I kind of looked around at what my options were and decided I didn’t want to be beholden to the insurance companies and limited to now we get about nine minutes with each patient as an insurance model. So I didn’t want to do that style of medicine, you really can’t do a good job of being an integrative medical provider and being stuck in that system. And so I decided to open up my own practice. And that way I could spend as much time as I wanted with my patients really do all the things I felt like I needed to do to be a good physician for my patients. And, and I’ve been happy ever since. So, integrative health center of Maine has grown and grown and grown over the years. And in 2019, we built a brand new, eco friendly integrative Medical Center in Cumberland and moved the practice there, and just really, really happy with where we are. So that’s how I came to be here.

Katie Wrigley  5:52  

Awesome that that’s such a great story. And there’s, there’s so much in there that you said that was just filled with goodness, one piece that I want to pause on, and then I want to really dive into the difference between functional and traditional medicine. But you mentioned the limit of pharmaceuticals. And that’s something I’ve talked about in a previous episode, I will actually talk about in a couple episodes, and I, I feel the same way that you do that there is a place for pharmaceuticals. But they’re given if this is accurate or not, they’re given more quickly than they need to be, before we actually can assess the whole situation to look at what that individual may mean. So do you, what is your rule of thumb, I guess, so to speak for when you are going to go to a pharmaceutical for help versus taking a more traditional or natural path?

Dr McCloy  6:43  

It’s a great question. Well, you know, I think that pharmaceutical medicine can be very effective, especially for acute issues. So if you’ve got pneumonia, you want to be on an antibiotic. If you are in a car accident, you’re probably going to need some pain control medications, you know, but when it comes to chronic diseases, that’s where really the US healthcare system fails. And in general, and I think it’s because we are over reliant on expecting a pill to solve all of our problems. And that’s, of course, not the case. So when it comes to chronic diseases, long term suffering, think things that Western medicine or allopathic medicine is not really good at figuring out or treating. So I think about chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, all of these syndromes really are just collections of symptoms, and, and getting to the root cause of what’s causing those syndromes really is a much more effective strategy than simply covering up the symptoms with a medication.

Katie Wrigley  7:41  

Absolutely, I agree. And getting to that root causes how we can actually permanently affect the changes in a chronic condition versus just band, aiding it and patching it and covering up symptoms as we go.

Dr McCloy  7:53  

It’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. You mentioned the term functional medicine before. And so really, that’s what functional medicine is all about, I think is getting to the root cause of what’s going on with that patient, that human being in front of me. And typically a functional medicine practitioner is going to incorporate genetics, nutrition, metabolism, environmental factors, kind of the circles around you, what is your family life? Like? What is your community life? Like? We’re looking in the past in terms of what we call antecedents. So these are predisposing factors that perhaps are setting up a person for illness? And then what are the triggers that have happened that set off the current symptoms? And then how do we actually fix all that stuff, hopefully using natural methods? So that’s what functional medicine is all about in a nutshell.

Katie Wrigley  8:42  

Wow, I love that, that getting into the root, what is what is actually here the antecedents? What is the trigger that’s making this cause now and how do we resolve this? Eye? That’s a much deeper approach. So as it should if, if this was a traditional doctor who was looking at the same person, what would their thought be that differs from what you just described? Dr. McCoy.

Dr McCloy  9:07  

So in my training through through allopathic, regular MD medical school, you know, the way most employees think is we we very quickly try to gather what symptoms is this person complaining about? We call them complaints. And so we take all those complaints and we maybe do a physical gym, maybe we don’t, maybe we order some labs, maybe we don’t, but then we have all this data to do something with and so we’re trained to take all that data and put all that into a kind of a box of you. Okay, here’s what all these symptoms match with. Is this type two diabetes is this hypertension? Should we just call it major depressive disorder? Should we just call it chronic fatigue syndrome because the person is tired and we can’t figure out why. And so once we have that diagnosis, then we attach a medication or combinations of medications to that diagnosis, again, to really more to suppress the symptoms. When it comes to chronic disease, yes, if the person’s got an infection or a urinary tract infection, you know, okay, you can do a urinalysis, there’s the infection, you see, you give them some antibiotics, you’re killing off the bacteria, and the infection is going to resolve itself. Yay, that’s a really good example of how powerful modern medicine can be. But if somebody has type two diabetes, with metabolic syndrome, and high cholesterol and too much weight around the middle, you know, you can’t just throw medicine medication or two at them and expect them to get a cure out of that, it really is going to involve a much more in depth, lifestyle intervention, training that person how to be healthy again, maybe using some, some supplements to really control their their blood sugar or their hypertension to things are dangerously high. But you know, the ultimate goal is curing and reversing that disease. And that’s what drugs don’t do for that person.

Katie Wrigley  10:52  

And then I’m picking up some distinct differences there. So when you’re kind of walking through the world, traditional MD, I don’t believe I heard you talk about anything about the roots of the issue. Did I hear you correctly? No mention of the roots from the traditional angle?

Dr McCloy  11:06  

Typically, an MD would not be looking at things like, you know, genetics, and you know, sometimes maybe a family history? Yes. But they’re not going to do an in depth analysis of of, you know, nutritional factors, what’s missing from that person’s diet? What are they not absorbing, perhaps through their gastrointestinal system, maybe they have a lot of stress in their life, whether it’s a physical stressor or an emotional stressor. And when we are stressed, we use up some of our vitamins, especially the B vitamins a lot quicker to deal with the stress hormone production. So people are often be vitamin depleted. And a traditionally trained doctor really wouldn’t know about all that and certainly wouldn’t know how to test for all that properly.

Katie Wrigley  11:48  

And that makes a massive difference when you do have an a preexisting condition like that, to being able to understand at a deeper level, what else is coming into it, you know, you mentioned there, like I actually I have something called hemochromatosis. And that B vitamin deficiency that used to be me, before I had any idea about any of this stuff, I was in the traditional route, saw pills, fix things, and you know, all those ads that we see from big pharma with all those happy people, and all they did was take a magic pill. And who cares if your butt leaks a little bit? You’re happy, right? Exactly, right. Like, oh, and then you’re balancing off all these side effects. And it starts to get in this race. And a lot of times people don’t even realize like, hey, I can actually pause here and go, wait, wait, wait, what’s actually going on what else can be going on here and start to hook into that I was constantly be vitamin deficient, going through college, huge amounts of stress much to your point, and diet and being able to regulate that I’ve actually been able to help some of the doctors that I’ve worked with, if they have patients who are anemic, I’m like, Oh, I know how to eat, they eat the opposite way I do. And they’re gonna get out of anemia. And like, and they’re like, Ha, you know, like, and you don’t think about these things. Like, you can give someone an iron supplement. But unless you tell them to stay away from coffee or tea for two hours, guess what you’ve made that supplement only about 50% effective. Whereas it would couple it with vitamin C, or you couple it with beta carotene, you’re gonna absorb so much more of that iron.

Dr McCloy  13:26  

Exactly, right. And there’s a lot of certainly medication and herbal interactions that we’re learning about more and more everyday too. So it’s, it’s a whole, it’s a whole other knowledge base that really, you know, MDS are not trained in, it’s not their fault, right? They’re still good doctors and their staff what they do, right. And again, there is a role for allopathic medicine, certainly, but I had to, you know, really go outside of my my traditional training to get all this additional knowledge. And always continue to learn new things every every day. So that’s one of the neat aspects about practicing integrative medicine is it’s an intellectual challenge for me to try to stay on top of both the allopathic medical world and the natural medicines. And there are always new research coming out and new data coming out that I have to learn about all the time. And I like learning from my patients too. So kudos to you for for teaching your doctors some strategies to help their other patients.

Katie Wrigley  14:19  

And kudos to you for staying on top of it. I I actually just started listening to Tony Robbins book lifeforce. Have you heard of it?

Dr McCloy  14:26  

I know of him, but not that book specifically.

Katie Wrigley  14:29  

So a friend recommended it. And I’m fascinated half of it scares the crap out of me because they’re talking about robots doing surgery without any human intervention. And I don’t know that we’re there yet. That part kind of freaks me out. But he says a lot of really mind blowing stats, like because of the rate of technology right now and you just kind of hit on this, Dr. McCoy. He said that the new information is only relevant for 73 days in the medical community. Now does that feel right? remotely accurate from your standpoint, as someone who is actively seeking out new information all the time?

Dr McCloy  15:06  

Well, it reminds me of when I just graduated from my residency, and was taking the boards for the first time to become board certified. And my faculty teachers were, they were all saying, you know, as much now, as you will ever know, for the rest of your career, because it gets harder and harder to keep up with all of the developments every every single day, you know, so those, those younger doctors have just graduated, they might not have as much experience under their belts, but their their intellectual knowledge is pretty darn up to date. And I it is challenging to keep up to date, that’s for sure.

Katie Wrigley  15:39  

Yeah, I see that in my own realm, which is not nearly as expansive as yours, you know, I’m focused on a specific niche of chronic pain, you’re looking at human beings as a whole, that’s going to be much broader than just a chronic issue. So

Dr McCloy  15:54  

definitely, medicine involves a lot of different areas. That’s right. This is sort of a jack of all trades, master of none. But But again, I appreciate know, knowing what I know.

Katie Wrigley  16:02  

And I was lucky, I don’t know who else remembers this, who is you know, been around on Earth long enough to know, because HMOs came out in the mid 80s, which is when this doctor patient relationships started to get less, less intimate for lack of a better term, like I remember, as a kid, my doctor would spend 45 minutes to an hour with me, they knew my friends names. They knew my parents names, like they knew me as a person. And that’s what it sounds like. You’re getting back to and functional medicine. Am I hearing that correctly?

Dr McCloy  16:32  

That’s exactly right. Yeah, my new patient visits are typically 90 to 120 minutes, depending on the complexity of the patient. follow ups are typically booked for an hour. And, and it really is utter joy to come into the work every day and know that I’m surrounded by peers and colleagues who understand what we’re doing and kind of get it and really appreciate practicing together as a team. But then as I’m able to sit down with my patients and have that luxury of time, to talk with them to listen to them, to know their stories, and and really do some detective work with them. And have that on an ongoing basis, we get that continuity of care. You know, it really is harkening back to the good old days of of true medical care. You’re right before, you know before the insurance companies began to whittle away at the time is that a doctor is allowed to spend with their patient?

Katie Wrigley  17:28  

Yes, and that’s one thing I try to help people see. Because a lot of times for the time clients have come to me, and I’m sure you experience similar and you may even experience it more intensely than I do. But they feel like they’ve been gaslighted by the medical community, and they feel like no one has listened to them. And you just said something key in there that you spend an hour and a half to two hours to listen to them. That’s just beautiful.

Dr McCloy  17:54  

That’s exactly right. There was a famous old doctor who said, listen to your patient, because they will tell you what’s wrong with them. Yep. And we often forget that, you know, we don’t have the time or we’ll just order a bunch of tests just because we’re trying to defend ourselves against a lawsuit, the cetera and it’s it’s so frustrating how medical, I dare to call it health care, I suppose. But it really is disease care, that we the way we practice in this country is really backwards, in my opinion.

Katie Wrigley  18:21  

It is you know, and I’m experiencing that. And learning that on a whole new level, you know, is I’m what I do with cognitive movement, we focus on patterns. And one of the things that I’m learning is when we have a pattern running either consciously or subconsciously, we are going to find what we are looking for what that pattern is having us look for. So like we see this, you know, like when you’re ready to go buy a new car, suddenly, the car that you want to get is everywhere on the road. It’s not that everybody just had the same great idea that you did to go out and get this new car, it’s that that is what you’re looking for. So when you’re looking for sickness, what are you going to find? You’re gonna find sickness. And if you’re looking for wellness, or you’re looking for a solution, you’re likely to find wellness or a solution. Even if there’s things wrong, you may still see the solution because you’re looking for it.

Dr McCloy  19:13  

I always tell my patients, we have very wise bodies that want to be healthy, if only we show those bodies the way to health. So really, it’s a matter of taking out the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff and people get better. It’s just that simple. But it’s not sensible, of course.

Katie Wrigley  19:32  

Right and simple doesn’t always mean easy. You know, you’d mentioned earlier that a lot of what you’re promoting and teaching people to do is are lifestyle changes to promote and have and sustain a healthy life. That’s not easy to shift. If you’re in these patterns of of unhealthy of numbing of escape, that’s going to be a massive shift. That is not going to happen overnight.

Dr McCloy  19:57  

It’s a great point. I think a lot of What Every integrative practitioner I know views themselves as as a team member, right? It’s really the patient who it’s their health, their lives, their bodies, and we are guides, we are teachers, we show them what what should be helpful. But ultimately, it’s it’s an active process on the patient’s part to get better, they gotta take control of their own health, and take control of their own lives. And that is not easy. That is work you got to put the work in. But that is, again, I think, a big difference between that allopathic model where here’s your magic pill to fix everything, versus Okay, here are some changes you can make to feel good again.

Katie Wrigley  20:40  

Yeah, and those changes, and you know, when people can make those changes at whatever pace works for them, a lot of times, we feel like, oh, we need to change, there’s 10 things I need to change. Let’s do it all now. And then we revert back to seven out of 10 things because I was too much to take on at once. So one of the things I try to encourage in my practice, and I’m really getting more succinct about the way I describe this is, I’m first about awareness, we don’t know what we don’t know, until we know it. So we want to bring awareness into life. And then it’s empowering the person, if they want to keep that thing that’s standing in their way that’s up to them. If they’re consciously deciding they want that, I’m going to let them have it because they’re consciously deciding it, they aren’t letting their life roll them, they’re choosing, hey, this is something that I’m okay having great. You’ve consciously chosen that Good job. You know, but it’s an I encourage people I understand wanting to change everything at once. But I everybody I know that does that winds up immediately in overwhelm, and then they revert,

Dr McCloy  21:43  

one of the parts of your practice that I admire is that you’re addressing the conscious, but you’re also addressing the subconscious. And I find that oftentimes in chronic disease, and really, with chronic pain, especially there often is this subconscious pattern that we probably are not aware of, and people will get stuck in that pattern and not even know that they’re stuck. And I’ve seen over and over again, people who come to me, you know, experience years and years of pain or fatigue, or whatever it is. And we begin to work together and make some incremental changes and take, you know, baby steps or patient sized steps towards health again. And sometimes people get scared, because they, they they do they feel different, they feel better, the pain is going away, whatever it is, is getting better, but they’re not used to that new way of being. And then sometimes those subconscious patterns take over and they revert back to, you know, whatever their old habits were. And it’s a very interesting phenomenon to observe. And, and it’s, you know, sometimes I point that out to patients like, Oh, you’re right, I am doing that, again, gee, I had done that for three years. But now all of a sudden, I started, you know, eating Cheetos again, or whatever it is. And they don’t even know that they’re doing it. It’s a subconscious kind of a thing. So it’s really interesting.

Katie Wrigley  22:59  

It is I find myself completely fascinated by the subconscious mind, you know, and like you said, I do I do deal with the conscious mind. But really, we’re talking mostly to the body. And we really talk into the neurology in there. And oftentimes, there is a subconscious pattern that is creating whatever this thing is. And it’s amazing to me how resilient and how brilliant the human brain is, to be able to adapt. And oftentimes, the subconscious patterns are created in early childhood, the first seven years of life, and they keep running, they were resourceful when the pattern was created, that’s why you had it, it got you through whatever was happening at the time. But that pattern in your 20s 30s 40s Probably not resourceful anymore, and it may actually be negatively impacting your body or it could be doing severe damage to it too. You know, if you’ve got something in you that has you compulsively smoking or eating sugar, or drinking, you’re going to have a larger health problem on your hands if it gets out of control.

Dr McCloy  24:07  

I’m always excited by how many more options we have now to access that subconscious mind and to retrain those patterns. Whether it’s medical hypnotherapy or acupuncture or biofeedback, neurofeedback, dynamic neural retraining systems, even low level laser therapy apply to certain parts of the ear as an auricular. Laser acupuncture, without needles or what you’re doing the neurocognitive movement therapy that you’re doing is fascinating. So we’re always discovering new ways of changing who we are for the better.

Katie Wrigley  24:45  

Yeah, and I love that because there’s more and more people that are starting to really get into this. And so we’re getting a bigger creative mindset and more collaboration going and I’m finding as a whole, we’re all getting more creative about okay, how can we help each other And where do Where do you leave off where I may be able to come in and be able to really help this person get back to the quality of life that they want and deserve to have?

Dr McCloy  25:11  

Yeah, absolutely. We’re talking before about all these tools in the toolbox that we have at the center, and you know, available elsewhere, too. And so there’s a saying, In Buddhism, there are many paths to the top of the mountain, to figure out what works for you, and what what appeals to you what is fun, what you’re going to stick with, and that’s probably going to change over time as well. So it’s nice to have so many resources.

Katie Wrigley  25:34  

Yeah, absolutely. You know, and that’s one thing that I encourage, you know, cognate movement works for me, and it works for a lot of people, is it going to work for everybody, maybe, maybe not, I’m gonna guess not, because that’s been my experience with everything. But it works wonderfully. For me, it works wonderfully for my clients. Part of what I want to do on this podcast is introduce other modalities, cognitive movement is not going to resonate with everybody, not everybody wants to play with a wacky looking soccer ball. And that’s okay. They don’t have to. There’s other modalities out there. So that is one of the things that I want to do on this show is bring that collaboration and other practitioners from your practice. And just as a side note for the listeners is I have recently joined Dr. McCoy’s practice, and I’m there on Fridays. It is a beautiful location that providers I’ve met with so far are absolutely phenomenal. And everybody is so heart centered and focused and truly caring about the clients and the patients. And I just I love being a part of it, too. So thank you to you, Dr. McCoy for including me in your practice.

Dr McCloy  26:38  

Oh, Katie. Thank you. And we love to have you here. It’s it’s a very special place. And so we’re really pleased to have you and what you do. I’m really excited to have you see our patients as well.

Katie Wrigley  26:47  

Yeah, I’m excited to have everybody in the staff doing a cognate movement session together soon. That’ll be fine. Yeah, let’s play together. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, play is plays so great for brain health. So I want to touch on something, you know, because it says clear on your your website, that you don’t accept insurance. And I’m finding that people have some preconceived notions about insurance being involvement, and whether that’s any kind of indicator of the efficacy of the treatment. So what do you think about that mindset with things, quote, unquote, need to be covered by insurance to be effective or worth my time, versus, you know, things that are not covered by insurance and why they may not be covered by insurance?

Dr McCloy  27:29  

Ooh, what a good question. I like that. I like that. So yeah, a couple of thoughts around that. You know, I think that most of us are finding that that American faced healthcare insurance companies are offering less and less and costing more and more, you know, what to keep in mind that this is a for profit industry. Yes. And so their, their motivation is not health, it’s not to get their clients healthy, it’s to extract as much money and capital out of their clients as possible to, you know, satisfy their investors. So that I think we really saw a gigantic shift in the US healthcare, philosophy and, and now industry, when things began to come about in the 60s and 70s, when HMOs, were starting up, and then the 80s becoming more popular. And that’s really when we saw our numbers change, when you look at it from a public health perspective. So you know, I guess that that’s, that’s one thing to keep in mind when it comes to what your insurance is providing for you. I think that it’s important to have health care insurance, especially for catastrophic illness. But I’ve not been so impressed with what insurance provides to us to to be healthy people. Oftentimes, my patients come to see me, we’ll have an in network, primary care provider. So they can see that person if you know, they need a strep throat culture, or if they get into an accident or something like that, yes, you should have insurance for that. But then when they see me, they really see me for those preventative medicine aspects that truly keep them healthy or get them to be healthy again. And people really understand the value of what it is to be a healthy person. So there isn’t out of pocket expense to see me. But again, compared to the premiums that people are paying, and the deductibles that are out there now for using their regular insurance model. I think you get a lot of bang for your buck when you come to see an integrative Medical Center, that’s for sure. As far as efficacy goes, and kind of linking that to what’s covered by insurance and what’s not that that is a good point. So I am constantly frustrated. As an evidence based physician. You know, I like to see studies I like to see data. I like to see research and read that you know what I’m doing or what I’m recommending should be helpful for my patient and it’s always great to see if there is a randomized placebo controlled crossover double blinded trial on Whatever I’m recommending, but when it comes to natural medicines, supplements, nutritional interventions, even lifestyle interventions, like recommending meditation or mind body work, it’s so difficult to apply that pharmaceutical model, that placebo controlled trial model to a much more complex and complicated treatment. So, you know, nutrition is a good example of that, how do you do a control for nutrition, it really can’t do a drug in a placebo when it comes to food. So I think the the insurance companies, again, they’ve been trained to use that placebo control model of healthcare, to say sup with something works or doesn’t work. And that simply is really literally impossible when it comes to a lot of these integrative interventions. Now, having said that, the other issue, of course, is money, always follow the money. And so it costs. Nowadays, it costs a half a billion with a B dollars to apply to the FDA to have a new drug or new supplement approved for use, and there’s no, you know, you’re not going to make a half billion dollars off of vitamin C, or off of Naisha. Right. So the money simply will never be there, to have the supplements, these natural remedies be approved as new drugs. And you have to have something approved as a new drug, oftentimes for it to be covered by insurance. So the way that our our quote unquote, health care system is set up really, again, it’s profit driven, it is drug driven, and we just will probably will never see those those level of medical trials coming out for many of the interventions that I’m recommending. So what do I do as a scientist? What do I do as a physician? How do I how do I, you know, make my recommendations, I think we have to fall back to A, of course, first do no harm, what is what is a safe recommendation for my patients? So I do see in the natural medicine world, things that I don’t think are very safe, and that we do see harm from from time to time. So I don’t make those kinds of recommendations. Be does it make sense to me, you know, I have a Western trained scientific brain. And so the things that I recommend personally make fit into that world. And I can kind of understand how they’re going to work on a scientific or molecular basis. So there are things that I won’t, won’t understand, or none of us really understand properly. So maybe they work, maybe they don’t, but I’m not gonna recommend them personally. See, are they cost effective, I never want to bankrupt a patient over getting better. So all of the things that I recommend, I think are going to be cost effective therapies and are not going to cost an arm and a leg, you have to refinance your house to do with my recommendations, which I see people doing sometimes when they go off to these clinics, you know, abroad or you know, or even the United States and spend 10s and 10s of 1000s of dollars, I don’t want to practice that style of medicine. So, you know, those are some of the criteria that I personally try to apply to my medical practice. When it comes to what I’m going to recommend for patient. Sometimes insurance covers for that stuff. I do a lot of intravenous therapies in my office, whether it’s high dose, vitamin therapies, chelation therapy, hydration therapy, and insurance will often pay for those IV therapies, if we use the right codes that are understood by the insurance companies, people nowadays can have a health savings account, or a What’s the other one? There’s another the term flexible spending accounts and a flex spending account FSA, and they those will pay for nutraceuticals, herbal supplements, as long as there’s a letter of medical necessity written by the healthcare provider. So again, people are getting more and more options nowadays. And even looking at acupuncture, right? So acupuncture was this kind of like, weird pariah redheaded child back in the 70s. And nobody really heard of it. And then in the 80s, and 90s, it became more popular in the US it began to now be covered by insurance. So I think we are seeing some incremental changes in the right direction when it comes to integrative health care options. There’s a famous functional medicine guru, Dr. Mark Hyman, who partnered up with the Cleveland Clinic, which is a very conservative traditional medical institution, and he convinced them to do a trial of opening up an integrative medicine or functional medicine clinic, and within a year, they had to double the size of the clinic because a it was working to reverse chronic illness, and b It was proving to be cost effective, even through an insurance based model. And so you know, I think we’re beginning to see the US healthcare industry realize how cost effective it is to keep people out of the hospital to keep people off of these expensive pharmaceutical medications that aren’t getting cheaper these days, and to and to beat healthy individuals and really roll back this juggernaut of chronic disease that we’re seeing taking over this nation. You know, we know now that pharmaceutical interventions is not doing a good job of dealing with chronic disease. And it really is about an integrative functional medicine model.

Katie Wrigley  35:23  

I love so much of what you said there, the you know, the caring about the person, giving them options, making sure it’s cost effective. Like I’ve, I’ve personally felt guilted into buying supplements that like, I can’t sit there for 20 minutes and take supplement after supplement after supplement after supplement. Like that’s too much to do at once I can understand my body may need it. But you know, it’s I’ve been in that situation being bankrupted I have so much appreciation for the fact that you keep people’s budgets in mind as well, like that’s, you know, that’s really important, especially with the cost of everything going up right now, we really need to be able to preserve cost for ourselves and for wellness, you know, and it’s not just the financial costs, like, think about the psychological and, and the mental, I guess the same thing, the emotional and mental toll that it takes to go through surgery to, you know, our or any of these, you know, not not that we’re just talking directly about surgery, but that’s immediately one of the other costs that I go to is, you know, we think that we are going to have to have a procedure to go through something. And oftentimes we do, as someone who’s been told three times, I needed surgery, and I’ve had none of those surgeries. And I’m actually functioning better than I was before I was told that it makes me pause on the surgery button whenever I hear it now, but and it really got me thinking about, I really had a hard time when I’ve had surgeries in the past. And I’ve had six of them. And my body has a really, really hard time coming back from it. And I hear this from so many other people too, like one of my neighbors had a minor procedure for something and surgery was the only way to resolve it. And one of her comments was like, Oh, I’m just so tired. Like, yeah, you were sedated, heavily, so much so that they could cut you open, you didn’t feel it. Like yeah, you’re gonna be tired for a while for doing that it shut down your entire body, and people are regulating your vitals to keep you with us while they’re doing that.

Dr McCloy  37:31  

It’s a great example. You know, I think that kind of shows where that functional medicine mindset can come into play too. Because when it comes to surgery, and general anesthesia, or conscious sedation, you know, most of us do, okay, right 98% of us are fine, and we recover. And we feel the low GI for you know a few hours afterward or takes a day or two to recover. But there’s that two or whatever percentage of people out there that perhaps have a genetic single nucleotide polymorphism, which is a minor mutation, that is going to code for the enzymes, the little machines in your body that break down these anesthesia medications into harmless byproducts. And if those enzymes aren’t working, if the machine is all gummed up, because of your genetics, or nutritional factors or whatever else is going on, then we’re going to have an unexpected effect of that medication. And people are going to really feel bad for a long time afterward. Because the medicine is lingering in their system. So that’s that’s one small example of of, you know, how a one size fits all approach is not the way to go sometimes.

Katie Wrigley  38:35  

Right? Yeah. And I definitely have that in my genetic pool as much as I want to utilize epigenetics and pull away from it. My mom really struggles with Anna said, anesthesia always has, and in her later years now, you know, we’re still pulling her out of anesthesia fog from almost a year ago, we’re still getting out of her system. She’s 77, you know, and her doctors are saying this is normal, it’s going to take time to get out of your system. You’re just someone who struggles with anesthetic, and you’ve had it later in life. So it’s going to take longer than it used to. But yeah, it’s it’s definitely, and she was a traditional PA to so she’s very much a fan of the traditional medicine system. And she was also part of it, as it transitioned into HMOs. And she shifted her own practice around that so that she was still able to provide care, the ways that she wanted to, to so much to the point you have made earlier about wanting to do that and spend more time with people.

Dr McCloy  39:31  

I think another important point to make around that is that, you know, your genes are what they are, we’re not gonna be able to change your DNA or change your genes. But what we can change is and you mentioned that word epigenetics, it’s how do we turn on or turn off those genes, and that’s where nutrition plays a role. That’s where stress levels play a role. That’s for taking supplements can play a role as well. So in that example, I gave of that little enzyme not working very well for anesthesia. Sometimes those enzymes have what are called cofactors, which is Have the fuel for the engine. And if you’re born with an enzyme that isn’t working quite as well as it needs to, sometimes you can flood that engine with a lot of oil or gasoline, you could say. So in other words, folic acid, or B 12, or folate or other cofactors. And all of a sudden the engine begins to work again. And so you might be taking, you know, many, many 1000s of times the recommended daily allowance, but that’s the dose that that specific human being needs for that little enzyme to work well again, and then you can see, okay, now we’re getting back to health, now the symptom is going away. So that’s the cool thing about functional medicine is it is very science based, it kind of gets back to the basic biochemistry that I thought was now I was never going to use again in my first year of medical school. And it all circles back to this kind of basic stuff here. Again, taking out the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff.

Katie Wrigley  40:49  

Yeah, I love that. And I could talk to you all day, this has been so informative, and just hearing all of these complexities more down at the cellular level, and the cofactors, and the genes and the enabling disabling all those pieces. Like no wonder chronic pain is such a complex thing to deal with, like, look how much goes into just being human, and how much our bodies are all trying to just handle on a day to day just to have all your organs functioning and everything else. And then if something goes wonky, well, now we got to figure out what and where and how.

Dr McCloy  41:24  

Absolutely, yeah, well, thanks to practitioners like you for helping to figure their patients that out every day and helping people get better and dealing with those chronic diseases and not being stuck. So you’re you’re a good person for getting people unstuck.

Katie Wrigley  41:38  

And much like you, I love that what I do is back to a science and we like to refer to it as an art backed by science, because every session is a little different. I do want before we start though, I was wondering if you would be willing to give people advice for you know, when do they want to choose to go to a traditional you already touched on this, but I want to expand and just kind of clarify the point a little bit. But when would they want to go to a traditional medicine doctor? Versus when is it is there a signal in their body that a functional medicine doctor may be a better fit for them?

Dr McCloy  42:11  

Hmm, good question. Good question. Well, as I alluded to earlier, I do think it’s important to have a primary care provider, you know, probably in the traditional medical system, who knows you and who you have a relationship with, just in case, right just in case, something happens either acutely. And you can use your insurance to you know, go and get a chest X ray for pneumonia or something like that. So it’s good to have have that happen. You know, I think annual GYN exams, for instance, good to have a practitioner who knows what they’re doing with that. But again, there are limitations to that pharmaceutical driven allopathic medical model. And my biased brain is saying everybody should be working with an integrative practitioner or a functional medicine practitioner, you know, a little tongue in cheek there, but but really, the whole point is to be a healthy person. That’s why we’re here, right? We want to live the happiest, healthiest, longest lives that we can, and enjoy as many years as we can. And so I think it’s important to figure out how to do that. So if you don’t feel healthy, then there’s a way of getting back to health and even if you are a healthy individual, you know, really functional medicine is great at maximizing that health and really helping you feel vital and alive and wonderful, most all of the time. So I think Functional Medicine and integrative medicine really serve everybody.

Katie Wrigley  43:37  

I couldn’t agree more. That’s a That’s a great thought. And before we conclude for the day, we’re going to include this in the show notes so that people know where they can find Dr. McCloy. But can you please tell people as well where they can find you, Dr. McCoy.

Dr McCloy  43:51  

Sure. So my name is Dr. Sean McCloy. I’m the medical director of Integrative Health Center of Maine and Cumberland, Maine. And we can be found at www.maineintegrative.com, Or you can call us at 207-699-3830.

Katie Wrigley  44:12  

Great, thank you so much. Dr. McCloy.

Dr McCloy  44:15  

Katie, thank you. It was an utmost pleasure to be here. So keep up the good work.

Katie Wrigley  44:19  

Thank you. And I’d love to have you come back again and chat with the audience. And maybe we’ll dive deeper into this or maybe we’ll talk about something else next time. But this has been awesome and really informative. And I’m hoping the audience got just as much out of it as I did today.

Dr McCloy  44:33  

Well, thank you once again, and be well,

Katie Wrigley  44:35  

thank you so much. Coming up next week on the pain changer podcast. Have you ever wondered what the difference is between pharmaceuticals and natural remedies? Are you curious about plant medicine? My guest next week is a former nurse turned spiritual master who’s an expert in pain management and plant medicine. You aren’t going to want to miss that episode.

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