What is Functional Medicine?

Hand with latex glove holding blood sample on white background,Close up
Hand with latex glove holding blood sample on white background,Close up

Functional Medicine is an individualized approach to medicine that raises the bar when it comes to the standard of care we have become accustomed to. It is a systems-oriented approach built between patient and practitioner tailored specifically to the needs of the patient. The goal of functional medicine is to address the underlying causes of disease which is achieved by first identifying underlying disease or degenerative mechanisms, correcting and/or replacing what isn’t working and training patients on how to reclaim and maintain their health.  It is a fairly recent development in medicine that seeks to better suit the needs of each individual, as opposed to a generic, blanket treatment.  By focusing on the individual and their needs as a whole, it goes beyond just treating symptoms by seeking to treat the overall body in ways to ensure the source of the problem is corrected.

The initial meeting with a practitioner of functional medicine is quite comprehensive.  They must learn about their patient’s complete history and analyze a combination of their environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors that might have an impact on their long-term health and any potential concerns for disease or injury.  Through this process, functional medicine is customized to treat the individual in a way best suited for their personal health and well-being.

Why the Need for Functional Medicine?

There are a variety of factors in today’s society that has given rise to the need for functional medicine.  Some of the more prominent include:

  1. Acute care is only temporary – The form of medicine practiced by most doctors today takes an approach of diagnosis and treatment of the immediate and present condition the patient is suffering from. They apply a specific, generic treatment, such as a surgery or medication designed to treat that specific condition.  While this may correct the immediate problem, it fails to address the reason the issue occurred and does nothing to ensure preventative care in the future.
  2. Chronic and complex disease is on the rise – Issues that require more long-term and customized care, such as chronic diseases, are on the rise. These include issues such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders.  These health problems require care above and beyond traditional medicine for optimal treatment.
  3. Most doctors are not adequately trained in discovering underlying causes of illness and injury – Doctors are not educated in-depth on nutrition and diet, if at all. They are also not trained in corrective exercise, which can not only ameliorate a health problem, but can prevent future events from occurring as well.
  4. Gap between research and medical practice – Studies have shown that there is as much as a 50-year gap in some fields of medicine and the medical practice itself. Functional medicine bridges this gap.

What Makes Functional Medicine Different?

Functional medicine seeks to understand the original cause of a patient’s current condition.  By finding the cause, the practitioner then seeks to both treat and prevent the body overall, both current symptoms and the problem that led to the symptoms.  The approach includes:

  • Customized patient care – Treatment focuses on a patient’s overall lifestyle, risks, hobbies, etc., to ensure an optimal treatment regimen for their specific needs.
  • Integrative medical treatments – Utilizing a truly integrative medical approach Functional Medicine uses the most advanced diagnostic techniques available along with clinically proven natural therapies. Treatments are aimed at long term health and wellbeing rather than short term gains and therefore creates a treatment plan that includes exercise, diet, and nutrition. This is used in conjunction with the many of the same types of treatments an M.D. may use but only for less time and only when necessary for optimal outcomes.

 

Disclaimer: Results may vary from person to person due to lifestyle, healthy eating, body type and dedication to the program. No individual result should be seen as typical. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.