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Learning to Fly

Today’s story will show you what a few months of functional medicine can do!

Root Cause Magic

Ever heard that Tom Petty song“I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings. Coming down is the hardest thing.”

Let me tell you something: I’m a practical Midwest gal.  But I tend to jump and grow wings on my way down.  Yes, I’m an enthusiastic, incontinent word vomitor and don’t even try to hold back when it comes to diving headfirst into my next creative project, but I am one of the most down to earth, pragmatic people you could ever meet.  One of my best gifts is holding people’s hands while they grow their own wings and learn to fly on their own.

It is of the utmost importance to me to be reasonable when setting up treatment plans for my patients. I am not the type of Functional Medicine Doctor who is going to tell you to stop living your life and devote all your spare time creating extravagant 100% organic meals grown from your personal garden (Monroe is the home of CHEESE DAYS, after all!).   But I will work with you to find the root cause of your ailments (even ones that have been plaguing you for years!) and customize a plan for you to live your most healthy and vibrant life on your terms.

I want to share with you an example of the typical root cause magic that I witness when I work with patients.  Today’s story will show you what a few months of functional medicine can do! 

*The name and minor details have been changed to protect patient identity. *

Patient Success Story

Patient Name: Carlie. Female. 50 years old.

Complaints:  “I have had depression/anxiety for decades, although stabilized with therapy and medications.  I’m also a proud breast cancer survivor. But the side effects of my medications have caused weight gain, fatigue, and brain fog.  I want to reduce my prescription medications as much as possible.” Even though she was told all her routine testing was “normal” at her routine doctor visit, she continued to be plagued by:

      • Weight gain
      • Brain fog
      • Fatigue
      • Headaches
      • Sleep disruption
      • Hot flashes
      • Bloating, diarrhea, constipation
      • Heartburn
      • Abdominal Pain 
      • Joint aches
      • Arthritis
      • Loss of memory
      • Inability to focus and make decisions 

Baseline MSQ : 121. Normal is LESS than 20! Severe imbalance is anything over 75. 

MSQ = Medical Symptoms Questionnaire. This is a validated tool used in functional medicine to provide a subjective measurement of health status. It is used to measure trends before and after treatment and is a reliable tool of comparison.

First Visit

Before I met her for the first appointment, I spent 45 minutes combing through her history and mapping out her triggers that caused leaky gut.  Next, we spent an hour in the office together, as I looked for functional clues on her exam that showed nutrient deficiencies (like an abnormal tongue exam).   I immediately started Carlie on the 5R’s of Functional Medicine Gut Healing Protocol:  Remove (inflammatory food triggers), Replace (with digestive enzymes), Repopulate (with potent probiotic bacteria), Repair (GI lining with immunoglobulin support), Rebalance (with lifestyle skill coaching).

She left her first visit feeling empowered with her personal binder, packed with educational information and step-by-step action plans.

We scheduled weekly phone chats together for the next 11 weeks.

2 Weeks Later

Weight: down 11 pounds

MSQ: 52!  “I can’t believe how much better I feel already!  My husband says I’m ‘like a different person.’

Our Plan: Carlie and I discussed different functional testing as her symptoms changed. Oftentimes people come to me and say, “I think I need my hormones or GI tested.” I encourage my patients to WAIT (because, you know, practical Midwest doctor) and have them start by healing and balancing their gut FIRST so we can see what symptoms settle out  and we know exactly how they should spend their testing money. At this point, it made most sense to evaluate as much as we could, so I decided on having her do an organic acids test, which tests over 74 different biochemical markers to assess mitochondria, gut, neurotransmitter, vitamin status, and oxidative stress.

3 Weeks Later

During our phone evaluation Carlie was feeling a bit deflated. Even though she was initially feeling better and in general her symptoms were still improving she started to notice symptoms of something called the Herxheimer Reaction this is a NORMAL reaction from being on an elimination diet. Her cells were detoxing, releasing stored debris, and she was experiencing temporary chemical storm.

I tell all of my patients that they might feel worse before they feel amazing. At this point, we decided to start a temporary binder to help bind those toxins and help her body to feel better.

4 Weeks Later

MSQ: 33 (“I can’t remember the last time I used a Tylenol #3 for a headache…because I haven’t had ANY!”)

Carlie felt immediately better after taking the binder. She was thrilled to have lost 11 pounds already, but terrified that she was going on vacation soon.  She didn’t want to lose her progress. Functional medicine is about making SUSTAINABLE changes, and we discussed preparations for her upcoming vacation. I gave her PRACTICAL advice on how to:

      • Swap out snacks
      • Continue taking supplements
      • Implement healthy lifestyle skills

6 Weeks Later

Weight: down 16 pounds 

MSQ: 21 (almost normal!!) “I’m so interested to see my OAT results, because I’m not sure how much more I could improve at this point!”

Results: The results of Carlie’s organic acids test showed that she had:

      • an overgrowth of yeast in her bowel
      • inefficient mitochondria with evidence of significant elevation of mitochondrial markers
      • imbalance of key vitamins
      • low serotonin production
      • oxidative stress

Our plan: I adjusted her protocol to add supplementation that boosted her mitochondrial inefficiency, increased production of serotonin, and helped balance her sleep. 

7 Weeks Later

MSQ: 37

Carlie started feeling a bit frustrated again because her stress levels at home were going up. She had several large projects she was working on and was having a difficult time managing the stress of it all. Sleep was not restful and she had forgotten to take her supplements consistently.

Our Plan: The most important thing I could do at this visit: reassurance.  No one is perfect. We are all human. We will forget our supplements, fall off track, backslide.  I anticipate this and I welcome it when it happens. This is the art of medicine: encouragement that matches the personality of the patient.  I coached her on circadian rhythms and stress management. We collaborated on a few short-term goals.  She knew she could message me any time and I’d be there to support her.

8 Weeks Later

MSQ:  23

Weight Loss: down 25 pounds

Our Plan: With her short term goals achieved, she felt better about trying to set goals of medication management.  We picked two prescriptions she’d like to remove from her list. As a veteran family physician for 15+ years, I understood the complexity of side effects from benzodiazepines and other sleep medications.   I started her on an anti-anxiety supplement, inositol, to help give her an immediate feeling of calm.  I also sent a letter to her physician to make sure all team members were on the same page.  Seamless care is my goal.

10 Weeks Later

MSQ: 19  “Wow.  You were right, this is a hilly journey with some set backs and HUGE gains.  I feel so much better than last time.”

To date, she has lost 22 pounds and determined to keep going.  Her main symptoms of fatigue and brain fog continue to diminish.  It was time to further help her with essential fatty acids and increased mitochondrial support.

11 Weeks Later

MSQ: 23 

Weight Loss: down a total of 28 pounds!!! 

Final Summary: Carlie said she was feeling “FANTASTIC with GREAT energy and a WONDERFUL mood.” We were able to successfully remove three prescription medications from her protocol and are in the works of discontinuing two other medications. She is ready to graduate from my Active Membership program.


After all this hard work, Carlie was nervous about taking the training wheels off and riding on her own.  She was worried she would lose ground. We talked about options after graduation, and she decided to ‘keep her foot in the door’ and sign up for Basic Access with me.  This is a low cost ($59/month) subscription allows her ability to message with questions, enroll in online courses and workshops for free, and retain her discounts with affiliates and vitamins. 

Carlie’s story of success is exactly why it is my privilege to be Monroe Wisconsin’s first Functional Medicine Physician!  

If you’d like a phone Strategy Session to see what we can do for your goals, please schedule and we will chat for 15 minutes and see if a functional approach is right for you!

Dr Lara Salyer Blog Author Photo

Dr. Lara Salyer

I am a Functional Medicine Physician, Speaker, Author and Mentor located in Monroe, WI.


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