Meet the Doctor
Dr. Sunjya Schweig, California Center for Functional Medicine
1. What inspired you to get into this work?
I have always been a creative thinker and learned the value of being curious, persistent, and pursuing the truth early in my life. As a child, I was raised on holistic healing modalities and a healthy lifestyle combined with an abiding love of science and technology. I even spent six years of my childhood living in India. These forces have all shaped my vision and passion. Soon after I completed my medical residency at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), Santa Rosa Family Practice Residency Program, my wife was diagnosed with Lyme disease following a decade of mysterious symptoms. Together we learned the complexities of tickborne illness, and my mission to help people with invisible illnesses recover their health and live their best lives became increasingly clear.
2. It’s so easy for patients to get overwhelmed. If you could only choose 2 things for patients to focus on for healing, what would they be?
At the California Center for Functional Medicine (CCFM) we take patients through a very deep and investigative exploration of all the factors contributing to their health imbalances. We have learned by experience that this can be overwhelming, so we try to break things down and provide robust support from our team of clinicians, nutritionists, health coaches, and patient support specialists. It is very important to make sure that you are working with the right team and completing the right tests, and I believe that the two most important starting places are healing your gut and balancing your nervous system. These are key to healing from most, if not all, illnesses. These are where we start with almost all patients. Importantly, these two areas of focus are things that anyone can work on at any time. We have many resources on our website, including handouts for key nutrition interventions like Paleo, Autoimmune Paleo, Anti-Inflammatory Diet, and more. Also, if anyone is interested, they can enroll in our Breathwork Course for free using the code: ccfmbrthwrk.
3. What do you wish all doctors knew about treating chronic illness?
I deeply wish that doctors could understand that there is much more to the body and its interactions with the environment than we learn in medical school or at our mainstream conferences. The complexity (and beauty) of our inner workings is staggering, and if doctors can dwell in a place of curiosity and empathy with the person in front of them, and not dismiss their experience, I think that people with chronic illness would have a much smoother path toward recovery. As doctors, if we strive to learn from each person and take the time to investigate, the answers are there to be found.
4. Do you have something (words of encouragement or otherwise) you tell your patients that my community could benefit from?
Believe in yourself and don’t give up. No matter how bad it gets, there is a path forward. Don’t take it personally if doctors, or even family or friends, do not understand, dismiss you, or even tell you it’s all in your head. Those dismissals are only an indication that they do not have the knowledge, motivation, capacity, or time to truly understand or investigate. Trust your intuition and keep searching for answers. Help is out there. Struggling with chronic illness can be scary, traumatic, and make you feel hopeless. Nurture strength of spirit and look at each challenge as an opportunity to learn. Cultivate gratitude for the good things, and take it one step at a time.
5. Finally, what are you reading and/or watching right now?
I have three books that I keep going back to right now:
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, by Jim Dethmer. This is a crystal clear manifesto on living consciously, as a partner, leader, or person. I keep this on my bedside table and read a little at a time to soak it in.
The Wild Edge of Sorrow, by Frances Weller. This is an incredible and poetic book that opens the door to our soul’s need and desire to process grief. Grief is a sacred portal to a vital part of our nature, and we live in a society devoid of ways to process our grief. We have so much learning to do in this area, and this book has become my how-to manual.
The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness, by Sarah Ramey. Ramey does an incredible job at capturing the experience of the person struggling with invisible illness in a quick-witted, and even at times funny, way that feels very validating.
6. Are you taking new patients and if yes, how do you work with them?
At the California Center for Functional Medicine, we are happy to take new patients from all over the country. We work virtually and have a robust telemedicine care team approach. We have an amazing team of clinicians, nutritionists, health coaches, and patient support specialists and we are constantly working to optimize the care that we offer. We combine this robust care team approach with detailed testing, as well as technology and wearable devices, to help people gain visibility and data to best recover their health.
People have the option of signing up as a patient/member, and we are excited to launch a new low cost, easily accessible opportunity that we are calling the Functional Medicine Checkup so more people can work with us to learn about their health and the foundations of how functional medicine can help them heal.