Editor’s Note: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating chronic and unexplained illnesses through proper nutrition, lifestyle changes, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing.

Dr. Lewis (left) and friends at high school graduation (1991 – Bayside High School, NY)

A Tampa, Fla.-based medical practitioner, Dr. Lewis began his career in medicine after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va.; his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University in Marietta, Ga.; his CFMP® from Functional Medicine University in Greer, SC; and a certificate as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute in Madison, Wi.

We asked Dr. Lewis to fill us in on his career in healthcare thus far and to relate a little about his personal life.

Here’s what he had to say:

What was it that sparked your passion for resolving health issues and promoting wellness?

Dr. Lewis: My immediate family has a history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and my own lab tests demonstrated a genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid). With much study, I learned how to restore my own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses. Today I live an incredibly active life and have acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which I offer my patients in Tampa.

When did you decide the traditional route for treating patients was not how you wanted to practice medicine?

Dr. Lewis: After graduating from Shenandoah University where I studied pre-med and biology, I spent the next two years working as an advanced behavioral therapist in NYC with children on the autism spectrum. During that time, I gained a good deal of insight into how the environment, diet, heavy metals, and overuse of childhood vaccinations were influencing the rise in autism spectrum disorders. This was one of the main reasons I chose a holistic route, even though I did not continue to treat autistic children for very long.

At what point did you acquire an interest in pursuing functional medicine as a specialty?

Dr. Lewis: As a Certified Digestive Health Specialist (CFMP®), I practiced enzyme nutrition — a detailed study of digestive disorders, food allergies, and dietary modifications. After about five years, I began to notice its limitations. I helped many people with basic digestive problems, but some continued to struggle with low energy, weight loss, hair loss, or metabolic issues (such as hypothyroid, diabetes, chronic fatigue, arthritis, or autoimmunity). I wasn’t seeing the success rate I had hoped for. Then I got sick, and the enzymes were not enough to help. I needed more information, so I started to take functional medicine courses on infection, endocrinology, mastering blood chemistry, and other subjects.

What was it about functional medicine that sold you on the approach?

Dr. Lewis: I found it intriguing that a system existed to help clinicians take complex cases and boil them down into simple concepts that address root causes, and that the science existed and continues to emerge to validate many of the natural treatments. This was at a time when conventional medicine was neglecting the role of nutrition in digestive disorders, such as IBS, Crohn’s, and colitis and failing to connect the dots between certain conditions such as digestive problems and thyroid dysfunction. Eventually, I earned my certification as a Functional Medicine Practitioner and became a Diplomate in Clinical Nutrition.

Dr. Lewis with his wife and daughters

And how has functional medicine affected your own ‘inherited’ health issues?

Dr. Lewis: I refused to let genetics determine my fate. I couldn’t accept the thought of wasting away in hospice in my 70s. Instead, I immersed myself in the latest research. Every study I read led me to the same conclusion — the best way to avoid illness is to achieve and maintain optimal health. If I were to avoid a lifetime of suffering, I needed to learn how to manage my own health, and that’s exactly what I did. By adjusting my lifestyle, I now feel strong, alert, and energized. I no longer have elevated blood sugar, and although I have an increased susceptibility to autoimmune thyroid, I am symptom-free.

Have these personal experiences enabled you to ‘pay it forward’ to your own patients?

Dr. Lewis: Most definitely. Over the last 15 years in practice I have had the pleasure of working with people who are seeking better outcomes than what the current healthcare system offers them. I find it especially rewarding to help those with chronic conditions — such as hypothyroid, chronic digestive complaints, diabetes, pain, and chronic fatigue — to feel better than they were led to believe they ever would, and to regain their youth and vigor.