When functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of a patient’s health problems, it can be hugely successful, going beyond complementary and alternative medicine, offering patients a more comprehensive treatment plan that lets them take a proactive role in their own care. It is widely recognized that functional medicine, an applied science of genes, environment, nutrition, and lifestyle for prevention and treatment of chronic disease, offers exciting potential to advance patient-centered care.
One of the best ways functional medicine can address nearly every chronic health issue today is through individualized patient education focused on restoring balance within the core systems of the body. Functional medicine supports an integrative approach to treatment that works with—and not against—your own body, bringing together conventional treatments where appropriate with greater emphasis on lifestyle modifications that better fit your needs.
Achieving Optimal Health
The direction of your own health journey should be determined by a functional medicine practitioner who can take a comprehensive look at your history and current state of well-being before making recommendations on what you need to do to achieve optimal health.
So how can functional medicine practitioners improve your chances for recovery, keeping in mind that functional medicine is all about finding the right treatment. It comes down to incorporating functional medicine’s approach into daily life by changing what you eat and making other lifestyle changes to help your body heal itself.
Instead of simply focusing on treating symptoms, functional medicine addresses their root cause to help you think and feel better for good. As functional medicine practitioners are acutely aware, it is important to understand your body’s strengths and weaknesses if you want to achieve optimal health at every life stage. The functional medicine patient-centered model is all about giving you the power to take control of your own health by becoming an active participant in developing a personalized plan that supports your needs.
Using an individualized approach, functional medicine is able to assess and treat complex conditions such as autoimmune diseases, digestive issues, mood disorders, fatigue, and weight problems. It’s functional because it examines how interconnected systems in the body work together to either maintain health or contribute to illness.
Functional medicine goes beyond other approaches to healthcare by looking for both an underlying cause of a patient’s symptoms as well as their immediate problem. For instance, functional medicine could be used to treat both menstrual cramps and the cause of infertility, rather than simply offering pain relief for menstrual cramps.
Many functional medicine practitioners also practice CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine), offering treatments like nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, acupuncture, exercise physiology (like physical therapy), hydrotherapy (water treatments), manual manipulation (like chiropractic care), and counseling. But unlike conventional healthcare, functional medicine aims to treat conditions earlier in their course, before they become more serious and chronic.
Taking A Deeper Look
In functional medicine, practitioners look at the causes of disease instead of just treating symptoms. In an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman, functional medicine expert Sayer Ji explains how functional diagnoses are provided through lab testing that looks for hormonal imbalances or infections that may be behind the patient’s illness. Functional diagnosis allows clinicians to prescribe specific treatments tailored to the individual. Functional Medicine is about changing the conversation to realize better patient outcomes.
For functional medicine practitioners, the process of functional medicine diagnosis typically begins with a comprehensive functional medicine panel that includes testing for GI pathogens, nutrient levels and deficiencies, functional markers like toxins and hormone metabolites, as well as a full thyroid profile. From there, clinicians can prescribe a functional treatment plan based on the functional diagnoses provided by this functional medicine lab testing.
Currently, functional medicine is the best approach to solving health problems. Functional medicine is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms.