You may have heard of Functional Medicine and not been quite sure what it means or understand what a doctor of Functional Medicine does. After all, surely all medicine is functional? That’s true, up to a point. But Functional Medicine practitioners pick up where conventional medicine can often let us down. As a Nurse who is frustrated with our modern medical model, Functional Medicine really appeals to me and because of this, our main practitioner is a Functional Medicine doc.
Conventional medicine is great for acute care, accidents, trauma, infection, and emergencies. But it’s sometimes not so good with every day or chronic illnesses, especially those that reflect systemic problems such as allergies, digestive, metabolic and hormonal conditions. And with chronic illness accounting for 86% of healthcare costs in 2015 and growing, we may want a different approach.
Enter Functional Medicine, which emphasizes the whole person. A Functional Medicine practitioner will look at you not just as a bundle of symptoms, a disease, or a puzzle to be solved. They will examine you as a unique individual with a unique set of circumstances and work out an appropriate individualized treatment plan for you. You can learn more about their methodology in some really great books.
5 Principles of Functional Medicine
Functional Medicine rests on five basic principles:
- Looks at the individual and provides personalized health care focused on your own unique genetic and biochemical profile.
- Is grounded in science and acknowledges the latest scientific research that human functional and biological changes are interconnected and affected by all sorts of internal and external relationships and systems. Understanding health and ill-health depend upon a sophisticated understanding of these relationships.
- Functional medicine recognizes the body’s innate intelligence and capacity to regulate itself with minimal external interference.
- Functional medicine is guided by respect for the body’s capacity to heal itself and return to a state of balance and health.
- Functional medicine celebrates health as a state of vitality and energy, not just an absence of disease.
Advocates of Functional Medicine sometimes add a sixth principle: promotion of organ reserve. This simply means building the body’s ability to support health and be able to bounce back from injury, illness or inflammation. It means making sure your body is in the best possible to state to stay healthy as long as possible.
How Does Functional Medicine Relate to Alternative Medicine?
Functional Medicine advocates argue that Functional Medicine combines the best of conventional science and complementary therapies. The key is that Functional Medicine takes an integrative, not an add-on approach. So, it’s not conventional medicine plus naturopathy or acupuncture or homeopathy, something that has been developing on an ad hoc basis around the world. Functional Medicine is deliberative and holistic.
Are Functional Medicine Practitioners Qualified?
Functional Medicine is a post-graduate certification, so you can only qualify as a practitioner if you are already certified health professional. Many physicians, nurses, chiropractors, naturopaths, nutritionists, and other health providers are qualified in Functional Medicine as part of their ongoing educational program.
The Institute for Functional Medicine is a global organization that provides training and resources and is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.
What’s So Good About It?
Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of Functional medicine is that it is completely patient-centered. Practitioners look at the whole person and want their clients to be active participants in their own health care.
Western medicine has often been criticized for its depersonalized cookie-cutter approach to health care, with the sector dominated by corporation’s intent on making a profit. Patients are usually seen as a passive collection of symptoms with little or no agency in their own well-being. Dispensing health care has been increasingly industrialized, with doctors dealing with huge caseloads and little time to engage with their patients, so it can feel like you’re on an assembly line and no one is looking at you as a person.
Functional Medicine takes the opposite approach and has even been described as ‘artisanal medicine.’ Practitioners treat the person, not the disease and look at all the variables affecting health, from genetics to environmental and lifestyle patterns.
Functional Medicine wants to empower clients to take responsibility for their health and to understand what their body needs to function at its optimal level.
A Truly Holistic Approach
Functional Medicine can provide a best-of-both-worlds approach by providing a framework and method to combine cutting-edge science with the caring, whole-person lifestyle focus of alternative therapies.
Functional Medicine focuses on the how and why of illness, not just the what. So when you see a Functional Medicine practitioner, likely they will run some tests on you just as a conventional doctor would. But these test results will be telling your practitioner about imbalances or dysfunctions in your body’s systems, not necessarily pointing towards a diagnosis.
By looking at what is going on in your whole body, not just the site of the illness, and in your whole life, a Functional Medicine consultant will work with you to find out just what’s going on and work out the best approach to get you back to wellness. And that means not just a prescription drug, but changing your diet, checking for hormonal imbalances or inflammation, and working out the best therapies for you.
If you want to take back control of your health and work in a therapeutic partnership to enhance your health span, not just your lifespan, take a look at Functional Medicine. Our practitioner has been such an integral part of our health journey, we will always see him. If you are interested in my personal practitioner, here is his website.
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-  https://www.ifm.org/functional-medicine/ citing US health department data.