What Is Functional Medicine?
Through a systems-oriented outlook, functional medicine strives to address the underlying causes of diseases and disorders. Most medical practices tackle health issues through a disease-focused outlook; functional medicine follows a patient-centered approach that addresses the patient as a individual – not just the symptoms. In general, you’ll find that functional medicine practitioners spend an increased amount of time with patients, focusing on a patient’s history and genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that impact their current and long-term health. Diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and autoimmune disorders are on the rise. Most physicians practice a type of medicine that focuses on the care of these conditions, as well as other traumas or illnesses that are of short duration and need to be urgently addressed – such as a broken arm or severe stomach pains. Drugs and surgery are often recommended as immediate fixes for these problems.While urgent and immediate care of such acute conditions certainly has it’s time and place, functional medicine fills an important gap in health care by seeking to manage complex, chronic diseases. The acute-care approach to medicine does not usually account for an individual’s unique genetic makeup, exposure to environmental toxins, and other lifestyle influences that may play a heavy hand in the rise of such acute and chronic diseases.
How Functional Medicine Differs from Conventional Medicine
There is a surprising and serious gap between research and integration into medical practice – sometimes as long as 50 years – and many physicians make medical decisions based on how their colleagues practice, not the latest information. Furthermore, many physicians are not adequately trained to assess underlying causes of the acute and chronic diseases we see so often today; as a result, patients are not schooled in the importance of nutrition, diet, and exercise as a means to manage their illnesses. On the other hand, functional medicine involves a thorough understanding on the origins of chronic disease based on the latest research. Through patient-centered care and an integrative, science-based outlook on treatment options, physicians who practice functional medicine can put together more comprehensive medical plans for their patients. Functional medicine often includes both traditional Western medical practices with ‘integrative’; or ‘alternative’ treatments, including a focus on nutrition, diet, and exercise, genetics etc; the use of prescribed drugs and botanical medicines, supplements, detoxification programs, and stress-management techniques such as yoga or therapy.