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From ER to Fuctional Medicine: One Doctor's Journey to Embracing a New Practice

Syda Productions

It’s not too often that a physician will completely change specialties.  But local doctor Philip Troiano, or Dr. Flip as he’s known to his patients, did an about face after more than 27 years as an emergency room physician.

"Over my time in the emergency room I found that we were fixing less and less problems and seeing more chronic situations where we weren't changing things," Troiano says.

One of his colleagues had started looking into alternative medicine, so Troiano decided to join him at a conference. He found himself amazed at the science of functional medicine and discovered a new passion.

"We've had science for twenty, thirty years about other better ways to do things. So I began to study and gain the knowledge I needed to do it," he says. "I'm fascinated by the fact that we can actually fix things."

Troiano now practices functional medicine at Great Lakes Vital Health in Glendale. "Functional medicine is a science-based approach to wellness," he explains. "It looks for the root cause of the problems, instead of treating the symptom."

While Troiano still loves the emergency room, treating conditions such as congestive heart failure, kidney problems, fatigue, obesity and chronic inflammatory diseases in the emergency room was not a sustainable practice for him or his patients.

Most diseases and conditions are due to inflammation of some kind, he says, but we have been conditioned to accept our medical fate. With 50% of our population pre-diabetic or diabetic at this point in time, it is crucial to concentrate on wellness versus emphasizing medications, Troiano adds. "It's interesting to see when you tell somebody you might be able to get rid of (this disease), everybody's eyes open up. It's a new thought."

Wellness sits on a base of four prime pillars, according to Troiano: good nutrition, exercise or movement, stress and sleep management and balanced metabolism/balanced chemistry.

While these categories are basic, changing your lifestyle to complement them is often challenging for people. "Learning and changing lifestyles and moving towards health is a complex process, it requires you to think about things differently," notes Troiano. He suggests making small changes in your life, such as gradually increasing how much you walk in a day or finding ways to move that are not considered "work."

"Exercise becomes work, and when it becomes work we put it down at the bottom of our list," says Troiano. Instead, he likes to assign FPAs, or "fun physical activity."

Another basic component of a healthy life, he says, is eating the proper nutrition your body needs - with less carbs and avoiding processed foods. Troiano also notes that sleeping at least seven or more hours a night and creating a proper sleep environment are crucial.

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.