Functional Medicine

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine arose out of the desire to get to the root of illness, driven by the frustration of patients who felt that their symptoms were simply being managed and not truly understood by conventional medicine. Functional medicine has evolved rapidly in the last three decades as an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to not just address the underlying causes of disease, but also to bring the patient as close to wellness as possible. Functional medicine has been embraced by a variety of health practitioners, including MDs, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors, who use it to fill in the missing gap between the treatment of acute and chronic illness.

Individually Based

Whereas conventional medicine seems to be a quick-fix, one-size-fits-all approach, functional medicine is entirely individually based. While two people may show up with symptoms of menopause, for example, in depth questioning and testing may reveal different causes for the underlying hormone imbalance. One patient may have sluggish and “overloaded” liver function preventing proper elimination of hormones, and the other may be suffering from years of stress and adrenal exhaustion causing premature and exaggerated hormone depletion. Both of these would be treated differently.

Health Detectives

Functional medicine practitioners are a bit like health detectives. They will spend considerable time with a patient and ask many questions to figure out what is causing the patient’s symptoms. They look closely at genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, and they use extensive questionnaires that help them to target clusters of symptoms that point to a source. Functional medicine practitioners spend time creating personalized care plans for each patient. These may include: botanical medicines or nutritional supplements; diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes; stress management recommendations; detoxification programs; and acupuncture, chiropractic, or other professional modality.

Functional medicine often includes targeted lab testing. Blood, urine, stool, saliva, and sometimes even hair samples may be taken so that nutritional status, toxin levels, hormone levels, state of gut health, and genetic susceptibilities may be identified for treatment. Functional medicine practitioners also may interpret conventional lab markers through a completely different lens; while conventional medicine has identified the ranges that are “normal versus diseased” for a marker, functional medicine has identified and targeted the optimal range for that marker.

Functional medicine practitioners believe in the body’s innate ability to heal. They endeavor to introduce the minimum number of interventions in order to encourage the maximum amount of change.

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