A lot of people are asking questions about functional medicine and it’s no wonder why when 6 in 10 U.S. adults have a chronic disease. The biggest threat to your health is no longer an infection that can be cured quickly. It’s a full-blown chronic condition that can’t be treated with a single prescription. That’s why people are turning to the functional medicine approach.

Functional medicine is a systems biology-based, scientific approach to healthcare. It assumes that disease is an endpoint and function is a process that can move both forward and backward. Function changes over time due to the unique interaction of an individual’s genome with their environment, diet, and lifestyle. The functional medicine approach is less concerned with disease and more about the multi-faceted process which resulted in an individual’s disease.

What is Functional Medicine?

Oftentimes, functional medicine is defined as root cause medicine. This approach seeks to uncover the root cause of your disease or dysfunction. The important thing to recognize is that one condition or disease can have multiple root causes. Similarly, one cause may result in several different conditions.

Functional Medicine

Here is a great example of functional medicine. One of the biggest contributors to chronic disease is inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be caused by several different root factors. Examples include excessive drinking, smoking, obesity, chronic stress, exposure to toxins, and autoimmunity. On the other hand, chronic inflammation causes a myriad of conditions like stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disorders, and cancer.

This example demonstrates how one cause, chronic inflammation, can have many conditions, and how chronic inflammation can also have many different causes.

The precise manifestation of each cause depends on your individual genes, environment, and lifestyle. Only treatments that address the right cause will have lasting benefits beyond symptom suppression.

What is the Difference Between a Functional Doctor and a Regular Doctor?

Functional medicine is an effective approach that delivers personalized healthcare. Conversely, conventional medicine typically tends to look at the endpoints of disease when a set treatment like surgery is needed. It also tends to seek symptom suppression with pharmaceuticals rather than symptom treatment.

For example, functional medicine is…

  • Patient-centered
  • Health-oriented
  • Holistic
  • Treats chronic illness
  • Seeks the root cause
  • Individualized
  • Cost-effective in the long term
  • Disease prevention

Meanwhile, conventional medicine is…

  • Disease-oriented
  • Doctor-centered
  • Cookie-cutter treatment
  • Best with acute illness’
  • Expensive in the long term ‘
  • Diagnosis based on symptoms
  • Early detection of disease

Is Functional Medicine Better Than Conventional Medicine?

It’s hard to say that functional medicine is better than conventional medicine. There are times when conventional medicine is very necessary and can save lives. However, there is a unique perspective to the functional medicine approach that is lacking in conventional medicine. For instance, conventional medicine tends to become a form of disease management rather than disease treatment. The conventional model looks at factors like your previous conditions, your symptoms, and what is likely to make those symptoms worse or better. On the other hand, the functional medicine approach looks at the individual through a much broader range of parameters. It includes looking at diet and digestive health, environmental factors you are exposed to, your level of exercise, and even what is happening in your personal and social life. This is in addition to your previous conditions, symptoms, and family history.

Functional medicine focuses on treating the underlying cause of your disease to reverse the diagnosis as completely as possible.

Is a Functional Doctor a Real Doctor?

A functional doctor is very much a real doctor. Physicians who practice functional medicine may be trained in a wide range of medical specialties. Integrative and Functional Medicine

Just like a conventional medicine doctor, a functional medicine doctor receives an MD or DO degree from an accredited medical school. It is helpful for the doctors to do a certification with the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) or a complete fellowship or residency at an institution accredited by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

After completing their education, an MD or DO may choose to be a practicing functional medicine doctor by basing their care on uncovering the underlying cause of illness and disease and developing close relationships with patients.

Doctors who practice functional medicine techniques promote healthy lifestyles, proper diet, and an exercise regimen, in addition to maintaining a good state of mental, emotional, and social health. Functional doctors who practice traditional “Western” medical practices may also integrate additional forms of “alternative” or “integrative” medical techniques like acupuncture.

What Does Functional Medicine Consist of?

While functional medicine is a personalized, scientific approach to medicine there are a few principles that don’t change across the board. According to the Institute for Functional Medicine, there are seven defining characteristics of functional medicine. Functional Medicine

  • Patient-centered versus disease-centered
  • Systems biology approach
  • Dynamic balance of gene-environment interactions
  • Personalized based on biochemical individuality
  • Promotion of a sustained health span
  • Health as a positive vitality – not merely the absence of disease
  • Function versus pathology focused

This means that your functional medicine doctor will seek to find the source of your problem. This usually consists of a comprehensive medical history and lifestyle assessment to see a complete picture of your health. Intensive lab work will help aid the doctor in determining the root cause of your disease, too.

Symptoms can be misleading which is why understanding the history of the individual and deeper aspects such as their lifestyle is so important. Additionally, your doctor will spend a lot more time with you than a conventional doctor. In functional medicine, a lot more investigation and collaboration are needed to develop the personalized healthcare approach that works for you.

What Conditions Are Treated With Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine can be used to treat a variety of conditions, especially chronic illness. Here is a short list of some of the conditions that can be treatedusing this approach:

What is The Functional Medicine Approach to Treatment?

Functional medicine places an emphasis on disease prevention. However, once the disease has developed, a determination is made as to which core clinical function is imbalanced and what is responsible for causing it. Most imbalances can be addressed, some substantially improved, and others completely returned to optimal function. Depending on the root cause an individualized treatment plan is created.

This approach to medicine expands the set of tools beyond pharmaceuticals and surgery. It includes botanicals, supplements, therapeutic diets, exercise plans, functional neuro-rehabilitation, detoxification programs, stress management techniques, and more. With the functional medicine approach, the physician and patient become active partners. This partnership allows the patient to truly be in control of improving their health and achieving optimal wellness. If you are ready to try out this new treatment approach, meet our team of functional medicine clinicians.