Simplified: More Sioux Falls women are looking for a holistic approach to medicine and wellness, and with that, functional medicine providers are seeing an increasing demand for their services.

Why it matters

  • "Functional medicine" casts a pretty broad net, but at its core, it's about a patient-centered approach to healthcare, said Sanford acupuncturist Blake Blowers.
  • For Melissa Bunkers, a certified nurse practitioner and owner of Revive Functional Medicine, it's also about digging in to a patient's lifestyle and looking at physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual wellbeing.
  • Providers say they're seeing an increase in demand – specifically among women – who are looking to better understand their hormones, nutrition and lifestyle and how they interact with their overall wellness.
"I think women really want to understand what's going on and know what they can do about it instead of just taking a pill," Bunkers said.

How does functional medicine work?

In practice, it's really about a higher degree of collaboration between the provider and the patient.

  • Christen Duke, a certified nurse practitioner at Sanford, said she works with patients to focus on hormone management, gut health and thyroid management – things that she said are all interrelated in a person's overall health.
"You have to think of the person as a system of systems," Duke said.

Jessica Morrell, a certified nurse practitioner and owner of Radiant Health and Hormone Therapy, said she likes to start by getting to know an in-depth history of her patients so she can know how best to serve them.

"It's really trying to get to the root cause of dis-ease before it gets to disease," Morrell said.
  • She'll ask patients about their history all the way back to childhood, including any emotional trauma, current stressors, family history, what's in their environment and more.

Often, hormone therapy can be part of the solution in functional medicine.

  • Duke said, for example, women who reach menopause can avoid some of the worst symptoms and side effects by doing hormone replacement therapy.

For Bunkers, it's also about looking at nutrition and offering health coaching to help women ensure they're getting the nutrients their body needs. She also offers IV therapy as a way to supplement nutrients.

What's the best place to start?

First, it's important to make sure you've got a provider who knows what they're doing, Morrell said.

  • Because functional medicine is such a broad area, there are providers who will have training that range from a weekend bootcamp to being a certified nurse practitioner. Morrell encouraged prospective patients to ask providers about their credentials.

Beyond that, functional medicine doesn't require that you're sick before you book a visit. In fact, it's really about treating those symptoms that might be seen as "too small" of an issue to see a doctor, Morrell continued.

"It's kind of those little red flags that you should pay attention to that something's off in the body," she said. "Come in as soon as you start to have more of those annoying little symptoms – maybe (gastrointestinal) issue, your period's off, you're fatigued, gaining or losing weight without trying to, getting more headaches."