How do you plan for your health? At present, do you plan? Is your plan proactive or reactive? A big concern with people who live with chronic illnesses is how to plan for the unexpected. More so, how to plan for the expected. I am sure you have noticed how busy I have been lately. This busy-ness has come about due to a few reasons. One of the main ones has been my involvement in building a Functional Health Plan. Here I want to talk you through this thing that I call a Functional Health Plan. Firstly, I guess I will need to explain to you a few things: what I call functional health, who functional health providers are, what a functional health plan is and why you need it.
If you have a body, and it is alive on this earth, there is a high chance you have functional health needs. Functional health is the everyday health…areas…that you know you need or want to stay on top of. You may have these regularly attended to by professionals regardless of whether or not they show symptoms of not functioning at their optimum. Your teeth, vision and eyes, hearing and feet are some of the more common ones I could mention but the list does not end here. Functional Health thus brings into it categories such as dental, optometry, posture, podiatry and mental health.
How is Mental Health a Part of Functional Health?
Anything that affects the way our body is designed to function is what I classify as Functional Health. Mental health has only recently fallen into this category for me. I have noticed the conversation surrounding this health concern is growing as more people start to speak about their own troubles. We, as everyday people, may not have realised that our doctors have been noting this all along in appointments. I know I was oblivious to this very thing. Now, not only medical professionals but also family, friends and colleagues are watching out for our mental health and how it affects our ability to function.
Functional Health Providers
Let’s look at this in terms of how functional health providers differ from specialised doctors and medical professionals. A doctor that has trained in medicine and then chosen a specialist path is a trained Medical Doctor. Some Functional Health Providers may be Doctors, others have certainly trained in an anatomical, chemical and medical career that equates to the level of a doctor. I am under the impression that those who are certified with medical, chemical or anatomical knowledge and capacity to work in or alongside the health industry are known as ‘Allied Health Professionals’. Dentists, Optometrists, Physiotherapists, Psychologists and Chiropractors are some examples. But my definition of Functional Health sprawls even larger than this field. You see, I am of the opinion that we personally need to ensure we are comfortably healthy. This comfort comes from being able to function well, without stress and tension. Ultimately my idea of function health, and thus functional health providers, ranges out to practices such as homeopathy, acupuncture, diet, meditation, massage, Bowen Therapy…do you see where I’m going? A Functional Health practitioner is someone you may go to to ease muscle tension, update a glasses prescription, restore good gut bacteria and have lymph nodes drained. These people are valuable to us, and they carry so many collective years of knowledge and wisdom. So why not use them?
Functional Health Plan
Did, I get a bit ranty just now? It would be because I am so appreciative of the need for this in our society. Functional Health Providers are people we establish a wellness relationship with to ensure ongoing support of our capacity to function healthily. In my terms, a Functional Health Plan (FHP) need not be a formal step-by-step program. In part it should be very flexible and readily available, because, you guessed it, our bodies are not predictable. Nor are our lifestyles or illnesses and injuries predictable. We have no real way of knowing what is coming and what will work to manage it. I have two variations of a FHP. One is the Flexi FHP and one is the Progression Map. Does it sound boring, or like you’ve just scrolled into a brochure for insurance? It’s not, I swear.
A Flexi FHP:
You most likely have this already and haven’t been aware of it. This is a list, or really roughly sketched out calendar of people you have in your arsenal to help with Functional Health Stuff. In list form, it is just…well…a list of professionals you have who you go to in order to sort stuff out. My list includes: a naturopath/ biochemist, a nutritionist, a remedial masseuse for general neck tension, a physio for spine and back pain, a Bowen therapist for that once-a year whole body treat, a pedicurist (because mine gives a full reflexology massage first!). There are more, but there you go. They are Flexi FHP Providers.
A FHP Progressive Map:
The only real difference here is that these are FHP Providers with some expectation attached. My FHP Progressive Map is a loose plan I have for the future and an awareness that I will need to call on Functional Health Providers. I know that I should see the Optometrist and Dentist every six to twelve months (I always forget which). This knowledge helps me loosely map out my intention of seeing these Providers in the future. Also on this map are my preferred providers, such as dentist and optometrist. Not to mention my preferred Dermatologist, Psychologist, Psychiatrist and Physiotherapist. I like to continue to see the same practitioner to ensure continuity. In this way my illness can develop a history with them and they can more easily identify trends and changes over time. In other words, by seeing them on a somewhat regular basis they can map my progress.
Why do you Need a Functional Health Plan?
Good question Jess. Or you could even ask: do you need one? I think so. Even if you are a person with good sight, knowing a local optometrist, and seeing them once a year cannot hurt. The worst-case scenario is you have to pay them so they can tell you your sight is okay. Seeing a dentist once a year at the least leads to a great tooth cleaning. If you go to the same one, they keep you records and compare them. In my experience little changes can make a big difference. When you hurt your back/ shoulder/ leg while helping a friend move/ doing some gardening/ fall of your bike, telling your doctor the name of your local physiotherapist means they may even book your appointment for you (yay for avoiding adult responsibilities!). At the moment I am making a plan to see my Bowen Therapist once a month. I see my Nutrition Coach every six weeks and have a specialised low cardio, low impact personal training session every four month. And of course, the optometrist and dentist every six or twelve months (I really should get that sussed). I know a Functional Health Plan may not seem all that exciting or serious but I want to talk to you about why they are important.
My #1 Very Most Important And Very Really Serious Actual Functional Health Plan
I was first diagnosed with and began my Lupus treatment in…sometime between 2006 and 2009. I think. From that first day I was prescribed Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) 200mg daily. I have taken every day since, except for 54 days in 2012 due to a mix-up on my part. In those 54 days I learned that life without Plaquenil means my skin starts to rot, everywhere, quickly and with visible implications. Since the day I began that treatment I have been repeatedly reminded that the year I turn 30 is the year that my consumption of this drug reaches and exceeds 1kg. Once the human body has passed this threshold there is the potential for the drug to become toxic. I am not sure of the exact process but the macular and flesh at the back of the eye becomes thin and eventually the individual goes blind. I just turned 30, so I need to have plans in place. I need to know the signs, symptoms and start having regular optical tests to monitor my eye health. On top of this I need to have a plan in place for the potential for my skin-rot-thing to develop if I stop taking Plaquenil. Together with my medical team we will then need to map out a plan for changing off my very effective and highly favoured Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment and on to something else.
Add onto this a job search, volunteer work and life and you’ve got me in a nut shell!