Functional medicine is a personalized and integrative approach to healthcare which involves understanding the prevention, management, and root causes of complex chronic disease. Functional medicine has evolved integrative, holistic, conventional and naturopathic models to offer the most comprehensive and effective approach to healthcare in the 21st century.
The term “functional medicine” is a relatively new term. Current research is showing us that a number of modifiable factors are contributing to our health risks daily. The health community is learning that when biologic systems are out of balance and lack essential fats, minerals, nutrients, or chemicals, the body will fall out of function resulting in disease issues.
The allopathic approach of using pharmaceutical drugs to treat or suppress symptoms in every patient is failing. This is why the patient trend is moving towards more alternative approaches to health. The added dimension of functional medicine allows us to dive deeper into the body’s multiple complexities within our natural world. It is necessary to take into account the mind, body and spirit connection to fully assess a patient’s health no matter what form of care you are utilizing. Functional medicine is often confused with terms like holistic, integrative, and natural medicine. Many use these terms interchangeably, but they are quite different.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine focuses on the most current scientific research regarding how your genetics, environment and lifestyle interact in order to diagnose and treat conditions. It is an evolution of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. The goal is a shift in thinking, where we go from treating the disease (disease-centered) to treating the person who has the disease (patient-centered). Functional medicine addresses the whole person and not just an isolated list of symptoms. Symptom suppression is only used as a temporary fix while seeking the root cause of the symptoms ensures optimal health for the patient. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listen to their health history, and examine the interactions between genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. These contribute to long term health issues and complex, chronic diseases. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
Why Do We Need Functional Medicine?
Our society is experiencing an increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental health issues, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. The acute care most physicians provide is designed to address the patient’s complaint and does not always address the underlying problem. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments like drugs or surgery which target the immediate problem.
Unfortunately, this approach to care lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating disease. In most cases, they do not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual or variances in lifestyle factors. There is a lot of research to be done to show the effectiveness of this approach to care. Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of chronic disease nor strategies to address nutrition, diet, and exercise support to prevent illnesses in their patients.
How is Functional Medicine Different?
Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of chronic diseases. The hallmark of functional medicine is to be patient-centered. The focus of functional medicine is patient-centered care and promoting health beyond just the absence of disease. Functional medicine practitioners look for ways to think “outside the box” by considering the patient’s history, physiology, lifestyle, and genetic makeup while also considering internal (mind, body and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect optimal health.
Functional medicine is a medical approach that addresses the underlying cause of disease. It helps answer the “why” of the patient’s complaint. This often involves deeper investigation and treatments that focus on optimal body and organ function.