Dr. Fatima Vilich Uses Functional Medicine to Ease Chronic Conditions
Dr. Fatima Vilich
Dr. Fatima Vilich has been seeing patients since graduating from the Medical School University of Sarajevo in 1982. She has years of experience as an anesthesiologist and was one of the most sought-after specialists for pediatric cardiac anesthesia in Chicago. Working long, stressful hours started to take a toll on her physically and emotionally, and Vilich decided to make her health a priority. Today she is the owner of Vibrant Health, in Glenview, and uses functional medicine to help her patients do the same.
“I was spending a lot of time working in hospitals and getting very tired,” says Vilich. “I developed chronic back pain that became debilitating.” She was searching for solutions and came upon the practice of functional medicine, which addresses the underlying cause of diseases, instead of just treating the symptoms. “I discovered that I had a lot of food and environmental allergies and was spending too much time around toxins,” says Vilich. By making a few simple lifestyle changes she was able to get rid of her back pain for good.
“Seventy-five percent of all diseases are chronic, meaning they don’t fully go away,” says Vilich. “They are only partially controlled, and are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. My goal is to identify a person’s unique biochemical and physiological imbalances and their genetics, as well as the relationship with their environment, including allergens, toxins, nutrition, microorganisms and stress.” As one of only 200 certified functional medicine practitioners in the world, Vilich says most of her patients have been in treatments for a while. “I see individuals who, after seeing various specialists, have not gotten better, in spite of receiving multiple medications, are often suffering from the side effects of those medications.”
Vilich starts with a comprehensive background of her patient’s lifestyle and medical history. “I ask about the level of stress they have, their nutritional intake, where they live, how they’re sleeping and how much they’re exercising,” Vilich says. “Chronic conditions take a long time to put the pieces together. I view the body as an integrated system, where organs are interconnected and communicate in a sophisticated network.”
Vilich also does blood tests to check for deficiencies, which can cause a lot of common problems. “Somebody might come in feeling down, and it turns out they are eating a lot of tuna and have mercury poising, which can lead to depression. Or maybe they have a vitamin D deficiency,” she says. Instead of prescribing antidepressants, which also have a number of side effects, Vilich recommends lifestyle changes that have a permanent effect.
Functional medicine can be helpful for a wide variety of ailments, and the doctor sees people with many different types of problems, including autoimmune diseases, food sensitivities, hypertension, hypothyroidism, insomnia and fibromyalgia. She says that many conditions are due to our environment. “We live in a very toxic world,” says Vilich. “Our food is over-processed and there are chemicals everywhere. I suggest that people use natural cosmetics, natural cleaners, and avoid pesticides as much as possible.”
Sometimes people come in and they don’t know exactly what is wrong, but they’re ready for a change. “People complain of fatigue, poor digestion, headaches, poor sleep and difficulty concentrating,” says Vilich. “I usually ask them when the last time they felt good was, and what happened to change that.” A new job, relationship, or living situation can all lead to stress, and people might not be able to put the pieces together.
Vilich will often refer her patients to other practitioners for follow-up work. “I have nutritionists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, holistic dentists and other specialists who I have good relationships with,” she says. “Functional medicine is also preventive medicine, and can lead to better overall health down the line.” Vilich recommends that her patients try to eat organic, whole food as much as possible, get regular exercise, get out of toxic relationships and make sleep a priority.
Vilich says that helping people regain their quality of life is incredibly rewarding, and that by helping others heal, she is fully living her life’s purpose. “When people lose their health, nothing else matters,” she says. “My patients are like my extended family. I am always thinking about how I can help them more.”
Vibrant Health, Inc., is located at 2700 Patriot Blvd., Ste. 250, in Glenview. For more information, call 847-919-8651 or visit Vibrant-Health.info.
Carrie Jackson can be reached at CarrieJacksonWrites.com.