What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine is a branch of medicine that evolved out of the healthcare needs of the 21st century. Current conventional medicine is disease-focused, and diagnosis and treatment are formulated around the standard sets of symptoms that are associated with that particular disease. Functional Medicine is patient-focused, addressing the whole person rather than an isolated set of symptoms. This approach is seen to be more compatible with the ailments and chronic conditions that are becoming increasingly prevalent today. This is due to the fact that most conditions that drive patients to seek healthcare these days result from multiple factors deriving from lifestyle factors, environment, and genetic predispositions. These conditions are characteristically chronic, having been developing over a long-term period. Unfortunately, standard medical practices are not personalized enough to address all these factors as medications are aimed to tackle a specific agent of disease.
Functional Medicine practitioners spend extensive time with their patients, looking into their histories, lifestyle, and environment. FM practitioners have a full understanding of genetic science, systems biology, and how environmental and lifestyle factors influence the emergence and progression of disease. They recognize and address the biochemical individuality of each patient. The patient and physician relationship is a therapeutic partnership.
Conventional medicine is focused more towards early detection of disease, rather than preventative care. Treatment for such acute diseases typically involve medication or other invasive medical practices that are not customized to the patient but rather the symptoms. These medications are often taken over an indefinite period of time, incurring high costs all the while not addressing the underlying cause of the problem. It is not uncommon that long-term use of such drugs have actually contributed to the development or aggravation of the patient’s condition. Functional Medicine is categorized as holistic and integrative, providing a more sustainable course of treatment that is solely geared toward addressing the root issue all the while promoting lifestyle changes that are necessary for the patient’s overall health. FM practitioners will discover precursors, triggers, and mediators to the signs, symptoms, and behaviors exhibited.
What does Functional Medicine course of treatment entail?
After the extensive initial intake of the patient where the lifestyle factors, habits, environmental exposures, and a multitude of other information is collected; the patient may be asked to complete further questionnaires on additional topics. These questionnaires enable the clinician to gather comprehensive and in-depth health information.
Discovering which biological processes are functioning properly and, especially, which are not are cornerstone to the Functional Medicine. As a result, laboratory tests are often recommended, and the clinician will determine which are necessary. Lab tests can include bloodwork, urine analysis, and even stool analysis. Such labs are essential to determining heavy metal toxicity, allergies, hormonal imbalances, adrenal depletions, and a myriad of other underlying biochemical status.
Treatments may include detoxification programs, nutritional supplements, therapeutic diets, and counseling on lifestyle management. Due to its integrative approach, Functional Medicine practitioners may elect to include certain drugs, although less common.