functional medicine, N of One medicine, personalized medicine, epigenetics

We’re Special: No One-Size-Fits-All Solutions

Dear Ones,

Are we just outsiders? Outliers? Losers?

Or are we unique?

We failed those treatments that came straight out of our physicians’ “practice guidelines” or that we read about on-line. Even those popular “miraculous” food and lifestyle protocols that worked so well for the authors, or our friends, did nothing for us.

What’s the problem?

Guess what? We’re not all the same.

Part of my work every day is to dismantle the one-size-fits-all approaches (and thinking) my clients have been taught but don’t work for them.

If only it were true—if there were one way that worked for all of us. It would be so much simpler! (And therein lies the real problem—why they think their solution is the only solution.)

Here’s the truth: Protocols are guidelines only. They’re templates meant to be tweaked or turned on their heads to truly benefit us—to fit our unique genetics, our exceptional needs, and our distinctive preferences.

We’re not flawed—we’re special.

What’s good and right for others, or for the “statistically average” person may not be right for us at all.

What we need is a new paradigm: Different solutions for different people.

In science we call this an “N of One” approach. “N” is the number of individuals observed in a controlled scientific study. The results of the study are whittled down using statistical methods to describe the average person within the study population. What we observe in that statistically average person can provide us with useful information, telling us about treatments that are wildly successful or unsuccessful, safe or harmful. But it doesn’t tell us what any one unique individual actually needs today, in this moment, or at all.

The client in front of me—or you—may be the outlier within the study who was not at all like the imaginary statistically average person it described.

Out in the world, the idea of different solutions for different people is just plain old common sense. We’re not all the same—duh!

So, my dear enlightened Ones, don’t attach yourselves too tightly to the protocols and treatment guidelines that you learned from the “experts,” or worked for someone else.

You’re unique. You’re special. You’ll blaze your own trail.

Have a Beautiful day!


p.s. My dear self-care warriors! I’d love to have you join me in a forum I designed just for us. It’s called Grit and Grace—sacred space for us to come together and share our stories—the hard work, the struggles—and the gifts—of the self-care journey. See you there!

And from my Archives:

In the spirit of the individualized approach to health and healing:

Nutritional Testing: How to Guide Wise Food and Supplement Choices. 2017.

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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