3X4’s new State of Functional Medicine series features interviews with a diverse range of active practitioners and established thought leaders to learn more about why they chose the field of functional medicine, what excites them most about their work, the most common misconceptions they hear from patients, and most importantly — how they see the field evolving in the years ahead as healthcare shifts to be more personalized, proactive, and preventative.
Functional medicine practitioners play a key role in helping patients understand who they are so they can improve their quality of life which is what we’re all about here at 3X4. Our goal with this new series is to celebrate the work these practitioners are doing and inspire others to explore the exciting field of functional medicine.
The following is an interview we have recently had with Todd Di Leo, D.C, B.Sc., B.S., CSCS, CGP, CHHT, US Triathlon Coach, Intrinsic Wellness Clinic.
Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?
TD: I have always been focused on prevention through lifestyle decisions and optimizing health for our patients. The functional medicine approach gets to the root cause of the patient’s health challenges vs. just working towards the diagnosis of the symptoms that leads to, typically, a pharmaceutical treatment which only decreases the signs & symptoms. Also, one fundamental key to functional medicine is it is personalized. The more we can personalize our approach the better outcomes we can achieve.
Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey?
TD: I have been a big fan using mentors in all my achievements and in the functional medicine arena my key mentors that I follow and/or work with include: Dr Jeffrey Bland, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Datis Kharrazian, James Maskell and Sachin Patel.
What excites you most about your day to day work?
TD: Knowing that I am truly partnering with our patients and making a difference in their lives. Not a week goes by where a patient does not tell us what a big difference we made in their well-being, their family and their lives. I have had C-suite executives tell me we saved their job and other professionals tell us how if it was not for us working with them they could not have continued with their career paths etc. I just love to make differences like this and it gives me such satisfaction.
What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work?
TD: Patient education! Walking patients through the process that they are ultimately responsible for their health. Not the doctor, not the insurance company but them. This is just the nature of current traditional medical approaches and once our patients make that paradigm switch, their compliance to our lifestyle recommendations improves and the positive outcomes are significant.
What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine?
TD: As mentioned above, the reliance on pharmaceuticals over lifestyle changes is the key challenge for many patients.
What’s holding the field of functional medicine back?
TD: Mainstream education and understanding of functional medicine vs. the current mainstream medical approach. Especially when it comes to chronic illness like auto-immune diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease. In functional medicine we have an approach to most traditional medicine treatments, stress reduction techniques vs meds for insomnia, food choices and supplements vs meds for blood sugar regulations. The list goes on.
What has your experience been with genetic testing?
TD: Excellent! We use genetic testing as much as possible and I wish there was more. Functional medicine is personalized care and what better way to really personalize a program than genetic testing? Knowing the exact genetic make-up of a patient provides practitioners with an incredible insight on what that specific patient needs, how their cells process nutrients etc. This is where I expect to see more and more advancements.
How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead?
TD: I don’t have a crystal ball, but I expect there will be a ‘hockey stick’ growth. That is, we will see modest growth and acceptance of functional medicine with a sudden exponential growth. What is required to get us to that tipping point for the rapid growth are well designed studies on the positive outcomes functional medicine provides with the use of functional/genetic testing, lifestyle recommendations and smart movement/exercises. As these studies are published, eventually 3rd party payers, employers, government agencies etc. are going to make a change and leverage functional medicine to improve today’s very expensive medical approach.
About Dr. Todd Di Leo
After graduating as a Chiropractic Physician from the National College of Chiropractic in Chicago Illinois, Dr. Di Leo opened his practice in the Tampa area in 1992. As the founder and CEO of Intrinsic Wellness Clinic, his approach is based on Lifestyle and Functional Medicine which centers around a personalized, body systems-oriented model that empowers patients and practitioners to collaborate on overall health. Dr. Di Leo’s philosophy is that each patient can achieve the highest expression of health by identifying the underlying cause of disease specific to their symptoms and their lifestyle choices.
Todd Di Leo has completed several hundred hours in preventative medicine, sports performance, sports rehab and clinical nutrition. Dr. Di Leo is trained by the Institute of Functional Medicine and helps individuals get to the root cause of their chronic illness so they can return to optimum health. He provides patients with programs to improve diet, lifestyle, environment and overall well being.
In addition, Dr. Di Leo has also completed training in the Bredesen Protocol. The protocol is based on Dr. Dale Bredesen’s book “The End of Alzheimer’s” which advances the understanding and application of programs to reverse cognitive decline.