Great Falls physician’s functional medicine practice gets to the root of symptoms

Jodi Knable had not been feeling well for some time when she received an autoimmune disorder diagnosis. Knable, a Great Falls physical therapist, didn’t want pills to cover the symptoms. Instead, she wanted to know the source because there wasn’t a history of autoimmune problems in her family.


She had heard of the Thriven Functional Medicine Clinic in Great Falls and made an appointment with Dr. Loy Anderson MD, owner of the clinic, to see if she could find answers.

Dr. Loy Anderson is a familiar name in local healthcare. She has been practicing for 22 years and was at the Great Falls Clinic for 14 years, providing all aspects of family medicine.



Anderson loved being a doctor but, as the years went by, she found herself getting burned out. She said doctor burn out and even doctor suicide is more of a problem than many people realize. Some estimate that at least 50 percent of doctors are burned out.
When her feelings of burnout started affecting her family and her marriage, Anderson endeavored to take better care of herself and improve her health. In her research, she heard of a conference called, “Heal Thy Practice” and decided to go. The conference addressed alternative medicine, something Anderson hadn’t studied.

“I thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll see what it’s like,’” she said.
“Heal Thy Practice” was different from other medical conferences Anderson had attended and, during that time, she was introduced to the concept of Functional Medicine.



She describes functional medicine this way: “Function means that something is working. If your heater functions, you don’t have to worry about it. It’s doing what it needs to do.”

The body is the same way. When it’s functioning as it’s supposed to, when everything is in balance, we can accomplish our goals and enjoy our lives. Functional medicine seeks to get the body working as it is supposed to work, Anderson said.
After that conference, Anderson began learning more about functional medicine and incorporating some of it into her practice at the clinic. She said the administration was supportive, but she soon realized that what she really wanted to do, she couldn’t do in traditional medicine. She was too constrained by insurance demands.

Anderson decided to open a part-time functional medicine practice and she worked two days a week at that practice and the rest of the time at the clinic. Then, last October, she took a risk, left traditional medicine and opened Thriven Functional Medicine Clinic in the Columbus Center.




“I believe so strongly it’s the right approach to help people get well, that I took the leap.”
Anderson said it wasn’t easy to leave co-workers and to face some of the skepticism of moving to functional medicine. But she is happy she did.
“Once you go in this direction, you can’t go back,” she said.

Functional Medicine starts where traditional medicine ends, with the diagnosis.
Traditional medicine finds the diagnosis and treats it, functional medicine takes the diagnosis and asks, why. Why do you have diabetes? Why can’t you lose weight? Why are you having memory problems?

For Jodi Knable, it was a matter of asking why she was feeling tired and unwell. She’d been asking those questions on her own but seeking guidance from Dr. Anderson was a big help. “The methodical way she approaches things was such a relief. You are so tired, that to have someone tell you, ‘Do these steps,’ was a relief.”

Functional medicine tries to find the root cause of symptoms and Anderson said this isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work on both the doctor and the patient’s part. She tries to determine if the patient is missing something such as a key or critical nutrient or if the patient has something he or she doesn’t need such as a toxin or virus.

Knable said that for the first two months of working with functional medicine, she was frustrated because there was no fast answer. “But once I started really getting into the program, getting nutrients back into my body, I went from miserable and frustrated to joyful and energetic.”
Dr. Anderson has come to believe in the tenets of Functional Medicine and hopes it will become the standard of care someday.

“Creating wellness saves everyone a lot of money,” she said. The amount of money patients spend on this type of care is a drop in the bucket compared to what is spent on disease management or traumatic events such as heart attacks.
Still, functional medicine is not covered by insurance, so patients do have to cover their own costs and, as a result, they have to believe in what they are doing. It isn’t for everyone, Anderson said, and she works hard to make sure it is a good fit before someone starts treatment at her clinic.
Dr. Anderson offers free dinner talks once a month. Interested people can sign up and come to the talk where she and her health coaches, Michelle Schunzel and Quincie Jones, serve a healthy meal and talk about what functional medicine means. “We have the dinner talks so people can see the value of what they are getting,” she said.

Each patient is given a health coach and has a weekly followup. Thriven Functional Medicine also offers a lot of workshops and educational opportunities on everything from mindfulness to nutrition.

“We want to make it really hands-on, practical and personalized,” Anderson said.

“People who come to me are at the end of their rope. They’ve tried everything and aren’t getting better.” For this reason, Dr. Anderson has found that many people are willing to do the work and make the changes.

“It’s not for everyone. It’s not a quick fix. It’s about lifestyle, which takes a lot of time and support.”