Our life changing introduction to Functional Medicine

minute read. Posted on February 16, 2024 in Wellness

Two weeks ago, I sat hopelessly in yet another hospital room trying to console my wife who was in the most agonizing pain to date. Katie’s medical records are thousands of pages long, with diagnoses like fibromyalgia, endometriosis, Lyme disease, non-epileptic seizures, functional neurological disorder, lupus, and more. We’ve been together for 15 years and not one of them has been free from chronic pain for her. We never wanted to, but we started to come to accept that she just “wasn’t normal” and never would be. It seemed like our only option.

We’ve been fighting for so long. Not only the pain and inability to live a normal life, but the gaslighting from doctors telling her nothing’s wrong, the band-aid medications that have side effects that are treated with more pills from big pharma, the smile she had to fake to keep somewhat of a social life, the bills, the mental agony of all of this. As her husband, I feel responsible to fight for her when she just can’t. Two weeks ago she couldn’t fight anymore. Her body had seemingly lost the will to survive and went into the scariest episode we’ve experienced in all these years. I’ve gotten pretty familiar with her symptoms so I generally know when a 911 call is necessitated versus when she’ll ride an episode out.

Even though her eyes were rolled back in her head, her body wouldn’t stop seizing, her pain was unimaginable, it took us a while to finally make the call to send an ambulance. That might seem crazy, but we both knew what was going to happen. We’d get to the ER, they’d run all the emergency tests and make sure she can breath and her heart is still beating, and hit us with the “there’s nothing wrong with you” and send us home.

This time, we both refused to leave until they admitted her and tried something to figure out what was causing these episodes and the exhausting life she was living. We begged them to run Lyme tests, admit her to the Mayo clinic, something! They ran through the checklist based on her acute symptoms, and that simply lead us to a recommendation to the pysch ward and another hefy bill refused by our insurance.

Her pain was still excruciating, she was constantly flopping like a fish, and now she could not walk.

The medical system was leading us nowhere

When you get a beatdown after a beatdown and have countless doctors telling you that your symptoms are simply in your head, you start to believe it. There is no denying that a psychological factor was at play here, but it wasn’t the thing that had gotten her down in the first place. Something was wrong with her body and nobody could figure it out. With Katie set on going home and crawling in a hole in the ground to wither away, I was overwhelmed with determination to get her the help we’ve desperately been looking for. I was ready to go bankrupt and travel anywhere in the world if it meant I’d get my wife and my boys’ mom back.

As we sat there feeling helpless in the hospital, I started making calls to “Lyme literate” doctors that I found on lymedisease.org. We had an inkling that post-treatment Lyme disease was a factor here, after her normal chronic issues got increasingly worse after she got bit by a tick and was treated for Lyme accutely a couple years back. I started down the familiar path with specialists of making a call, waiting for a nurse to call you back, then two days later booking an appointment for 2-6 months down the road”. How are you supposed to tell an extremely ill person to “hang in there, babe, this place looks promising, just wait another 4 months”? We didn’t have time to wait anymore.

Our intro to functional medicine doc, Dr. Meyer

Every day we were in the hospital, I was on the phone with my brother brainstorming what to do for Katie. At one point he remarked, seemingly randomly, that there was “a guy” in northern Iowa where his wife is from that has been healing people through this hyperbaric-something-or-another thing. His father in law recently started seeing him and had great things to say about this doctor’s alternative medicine care. I had nothing to lose, and this guy was closer in location than any of the other Lyme docs I had found online, so I made a call to his office.

I realize now that his office probably hears hundreds of pleas like mine when I first called. I was pretty emotional and made it known everything we had tried and every type of doctor we had seen. Their response - “we understand, we’ve seen this before, and we think we can heal her”. That’s all I needed to hear and, amazingly, they got us a virtual appointment the next day with Dr. Bradley Meyer.

Right before Dr. Meyer hopped on, Katie found out that we were paying out of pocket for this virtual visit, since insurance companies don’t touch functional medicine clinics. I could see her finger move to the big red end button on her iPhone. She’s riddled with guilt about the financial impact her chronic illness has caused, but I grabbed the phone and told her all that mattered was getting her healthy.

That first visit with Dr. Meyer completely opened our eyes and gave us so much hope that we both decided right then and there we were going to go see him and try his treatments with a completely open minded view. The reassurance that he gave Katie on the phone that she wasn’t “crazy” gave her enough hope to fuel her enough for a few more days to at least try this doctor out.

Three days later, we packed our bags, loaded up the kids, and headed four hours north for a weeklong stay at an Airbnb so Katie could spend eight hours a day in Dr. Meyer’s Okoboji Wellness Clinic.

Relearning what we knew about medicine and our bodies

When we arrived at the clinic that first morning, we were greeted by Dr. Meyer himself, holding the door open for us. His staff and his wife were the nicest, most caring group of individuals I’d ever encountered in a “doctor’s office”. They were all familiar with Katie’s story by then and it was all hands on deck getting her out of the wheelchair she went in on.

Dr. Meyer explained right off the bat that his approach to healing would look a bit different than what we were probably used to. In traditional medicine, patients are passed around like a hot potato from one specialist to another. If your set of symptoms and surface level bloodwork doesn’t definitively check the box of whatever disease that doctor specializes in, they send you down the road to the next guy (repeated for years, in our case). This isn’t wrong, per se, it’s just how the traditional allopathic medical system works.

Allopathic care (what I always thought of when I thought of “doctors”) is proven for lots of conditions, but functional medicine takes a whole body approach from the ground up that seems to work much better for the type of chronic conditions my wife has experienced. They are not there to slap a label on your symptoms and prescribe you a pharmaceutical drug, but rather to assess your entire mind, body, and soul and figure out where it isn’t functioning as it should, what it’s lacking, and what to do to get it functioning as God intended.

Given Katie’s medical history (which was definitely important - I don’t want to say that traditional medicine gave us NOTHING), Dr. Meyer initially concluded that, regardless of what disease or label we wanted to call it, her immune system was extremely deflated and her body was riddled with inflammation. He spent almost an hour with us teaching us how the body works and explaining how different environmental, nutritional, psychiological, vaccine, and childhood sickness factors all play a part in how her body responds to inflammation in the present day. He would do more tests and different methods of getting feedback from her body throughout the week to identifies toxins and triggers, but his initial approach was to hit her body hard with treatments to help itself repair from within.

That first day she did a “biostack” consisting of two 90 minute hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments, red light therapy, PEMF therapy, and frequency therapy.

The importance of nutrition

I think both Katie and I have tended to pushed nutrition to the side in favor of a more grandious treatment to get her better quick. We always knew it was important and have tried to eat “healthy”, but it wasn’t until we met functional nutritionist Dr. Molly Avery on that Monday that we truly realized the magnitude of how what we eat affects every part of our bodies and how key it was going to be for her healing.

Katie’s system was much too inflamed to just fix it through nutrition, but we were taught by Dr. Avery that it would be impossible for her to ever live a pain-free life if we didn’t take her nutrition as serious as we were about getting her healthy that week.

Function medicine is all about education

When I say that Dr. Avery taught us, I mean she really taught us. I almost felt as if I were in college again, except the knowledge shared with us was so catered to our current situation that it seemed to click so much better than any other time we had researched nutrition. I can’t overemphasize enough the teachings and knowledge we gained from our week there were. Coming to an understanding of how Katie’s body was working, why it was compromised, and what we could do to heal it was one of the most empowering things for us and something that gave us immense hope right off the bat. I wish more doctors would educate their patients the way that the providers at Okoboji Wellness Clinic did for us.

Dr. Avery urged Katie to cut out gluten, dairy, and refined sugar completely. This seemed really hard, but her explanations of how each of these affected Katie in a negative way made it totally worth pursuing. We still felt we had nothing to lose here, so we’d follow her recommendations to a T.

Gluten, dairy, and mollecular mimicry

At a high level, the way I understood the reasoning for cutting out gluten is that human bodies are no longer able to break down gluten protein molecules properly due to years of genetic modifications which have caused the gluten we consume to be so “compacted” that our bodies can’t break them down fully which leads to excess gluten entering our blood stream and other organs. In Katie’s fragile state, her immune system was responding particularly negatively to gluten and formed antibodies that attacked anything that even mimicked gluten. Which meant her body was attacking otherwise healthy cells because they looked like a threat.

This molecular mimicry was apparently also induced from dairy and sugar. Regardless of our opinions on no longer eating cheese, we said okay and trusted her. Dr. Avery’s scientific explanation made a lot more sense to us than the standard “don’t eat sugar because it’s bad for you” that we’ve all heard. There really is a reason for it!

Bio feedback and frequency therapy

Each of the five days in the clinic consisted of hyperbaric oxygen chamber “dives”, PEMF therapy, red light therapy, and frequency therapy. The frequency therapy is where my “what is this black magic voodoo” alarm bells started going off.

One of the ways in which Dr. Meyer recommended to “test” Katie’s body to uncover potential toxins and triggers was through a bio feedback machine. She spent nearly two hours with a quantum (I think that’s what they called it?) bio feedback expert they brought in. He hooked her up to this machine with bands around her head, wrists, and ankles. I have very little knowledge of how it works (I’m determined to learn more!), but some how through electric frequencies he was able to receive information from Katie’s body. Apparently he could infer the vitality of her cells, how stressed certain parts of her body were, and the presence of bacteria, parasites, molds, toxins, and viruses. They then used the findings from that (coupled with lab draws and physical assesments) to confirm that her body was in this NF-kB (NF kappa beta is how they pronounced it) loop of cosntant inflammation.

They mentioned being able to infer from the bio feedback that a virus Katie had as a baby, cytomeglia virus, was still causing chaos inside her body. I have a hard time believing they inferred that through this weird device , but she did have cytomeglia virus as a baby and that was something we never even considered being part of her current issues. Unfortunately, the bio feedback appointment was the only appointment of the week that I missed, as I stayed back to work at the Airbnb with the boys. Otherwise, I know I would have either geeked out with this guy about his machine or told him to kick rocks because he’s full of it. Either way, Katie thought it was the coolest thing she’s ever done in a medical setting and was astonished by all the details this guy picked up from the scan that were exactly how she felt.

WellnessPro Plus

The clinic had several of these WellnessPro Plus machines that “trigger the body’s natural wellness properties”. Basically, they hooked Katie up via sticky electrodes and she held what looked like jump rope handles in each hand. The WellnessPro then sent electric signals or frequencies through her body, targeted at certain cells by whatever set of frequences they programmed it to. This machine (which can be bought for about $4k) has hundreds of different frequency settings that can target specific ailments. Anything from a cough to AIDs 🤣. They ran several protocols on Katie targeted at Lyme, inflammation, and pain.

Again, this seemed really quacky and BS’y to me. But it freaking worked. Every time she did a WellnessPro session she felt better afterwards.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

The treatment that we believe improved her symptoms the most during our stay was hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). Katie entered a HBOT chamber for 90 minutes at a time, twice a day. The chamber increased in pressure to 1.3 atmospheres absolute, simulating the amount of pressure of being 10 feet under water. The science behind HBOT is that the increase in atmospheric pressure increases the oxygen level in the blood and ultimately in the body tissues. It’s like a supercharger for your cells and allows your body to heal from the inside out.

I’ve since done a lot of reading and research HBOT and it now comes as no surprise that this treatment likely caused the most healing of all the protocols she started in such a short time. On one of the days, I decided to try out a chamber for myself to see what it was like. I’ve suffered from intense anxiety quite a bit in the past and had some anxiety the day I went for my “dive”. Once I got out, I had never felt better in my life. No joke. My anxiety was gone and I had all the energy and focus in the world. I was totally convinced of HBOT’s healing properties.

Supplement Protocol

With Katie’s system being so out of whack, Dr. Meyer recommended a supplement protocol to replenish some of the missing links that would help get her body back to normal faster than it could on its own. The protocol includes things like Nitric Balance, Resvero, EnteroVite, Ultra-D (my favorite, hehe), and about 5 other things.

We were both already taking AG1 for our daily multivitamin that Jessica, our primary physcian recommended, so that’s still on her list of supplements.

The unbelievable effects from functional medicine two weeks later

To be honest, I was hoping and expecting to walk away from our weeklong visit with a definitive diagnosis of the exact disease that Katie has. I thought to be able to say definitively that she has chronic lyme or lupus, for instance, would help us find the perfect treatment for her. But I learned that the label isn’t so important anymore when approaching healing holistically. Sure, she might have lyme or lupus or fibromyalgia (which I think is a catch-all label when docs don’t know what else is going on), but the way that functional medicine approaches healing is much deeper than the diagnosis. If she does have lyme, that probably means her body is not appropriately fighting off the inflammation it causes. Functional medicine asks “why isn’t her body fighting the inflammation correctly?” and tries to heal the part of the body that’s allowing the lyme to wreak havoc in the first place.

Regardless, I can say with absolute certainty that the treatments and education we received at the Okoboji Wellness Clinic two weeks ago have drastically improved Katie’s life. We went there pleading for help with her in a wheelchair because her brain couldn’t tell her legs to move to leaving with her walking on her own and feeling the best she has in years.

We’ve been eating clean and gluten/dairy/sugar free for two weeks now as a family, she’s taking her supplements, and doing hyperbaric oxygen treatments and each day continues to get better for her. I think she’s been living at about 30% of her potential for the past 15 years, 5% when she has “episodes”, and right now is at about 70%. She is so excited to continue to feel better and, for the first time in years, has HUGE hope. We will forever be grateful to Dr. Bradley Meyer and the whole staff at Okoboji Wellness Clinic and are continuing to work with him through Katie’s healing.

For me, I am particularly becoming a hyperbaric hype man and want to tell everyone I meet about this HBOT technology. We’re picking up our own in-home chamber in two days!