7 min readDec 7, 2020

Welcome to Field Notes, an exploration of functional medicine. I’m Rob Downey, a family practice MD and an Institute for Functional Medicine certified practitioner. I’m coming to you from Seaworthy Functional Medicine in Homer, Alaska.

Seaworthy exists to help people overcome their health challenges and be fully vital. — Tweet this!

We are fortunate enough today to have with us Margie Bissinger, MS, PT, CHC She is a physical therapist and integrative health coach and has helped women with their bone density for many years. She does this with functional medicine and integrative principles, including happiness as a vitality tool, food, and exercise.

She has been working with osteoporosis and osteopenia for over 25 years as a physical therapist and health coach. She has also been teaching happiness to patients for over 35 years. I think both are really important.

While reviewing Margie’ credentials and work I realized there are two big things happening. There’s bone density support, and there is this huge domain of happiness. I set what is perhaps an ambitious agenda for us today that will try to summarize these two big domains for our listeners. I acknowledge that there are a lot of people who are suffering and are afraid.

Women develop 85% to 90% of their adult skeleton by the age of 18, and by the age of 20 for men. Peak bone mass for bones is around age 25–30, so what we do when we’re younger matters. Nobody wants to get older and have a hip fracture, especially when 24% of people with a hip fracture will die within a year of injury. The good news is that you could increase your bone density by figuring out the root cause, the right exercise, nutrition, and how to reduce stress and increase happiness.

Bone Density and Happiness

One thing that really struck me big time recently when I was reviewing bone density is how the gut and gut microbiome ties in with happiness and stress.

Exercise and nutrition are key to prevent osteoporosis or regain lost bone density. Walking alone is not enough — you also need resistance exercise.

I am happy to tie happiness in with bones. A lot of people say, “What do you mean happiness and bones?” Margie explains…

The happiness set point is 50% genetics, so there is a genetic component. Only 10% is based on your circumstances, so you are not happy because your circumstances are good. The other 40% is based on your habits which can easily be improved.

Margie’s interview is based on the premise of functional medicine is that we are the result of our genes bathed by our environment, food, perceptions, attitudes, and practices. Humans are epigenetic superheroes in our capacity to turn genes off and on. To reduce your risk of osteoporosis or regain bone mass make sure that you are exercising and eating well, and also implement a practice to reduce stress and increase your level of happiness.

To increase happiness, Margie offers: “One of the best relationship things that I’ve used myself, too, is the appreciation game.”

Margie has two free gifts for our listeners and readers. There’s a seven-day journal with happiness habits that can help you and there’s also a seven-minute morning meditation to get you on a path to practicing happiness meditation. At least it starts getting you wired for more positivity before you start your day. You can also learn more by listening to her podcast. Her next 6 week online class for ‘Happy Me-Happy Life’ starts on January 5, 2021 and people can sign up here.

I also happened to be a guest on Margie’s podcast: Happy Bones, Happy Life recently, so check out any further discussions of bones, happiness, and how functional medicine ties into everything, here!

Happy Bones, Happy Life!

I hope for anybody who is feeling overwhelmed now or just wants this sense of connection, that you would take advantage of those gifts. Know there’s a relief in taking action. Just taking a step, it could be a journal or a meditation. I think if we feel frozen, once we get moving we get a sense of ease. We’re built to move. We’re dynamic creatures, so when we’re moving in a direction maybe it is a 50-mile journey, but even if we go a half a mile or a hundred feet that gives us a sense of peace and ease.

-Dr. Rob Downey

PS: Margie has two free gifts for our listeners and readers. There’s a seven-day journal with happiness habits that can help you and there’s also a seven-minute morning meditation to get you on a path to practicing happiness meditation.


Dr. Rob Downey

Dr. Rob Downey is a family practice MD and IFM Certified Practitioner. He grew up in Montana and has practiced medicine in Montana and Alaska for 20+ years.