Functional Medicine - treating the cause not the symptom
What is Functional Medicine?
1) Functional Medicine views us all as being different; genetically and biochemically unique. This personalized health care treats the individual, not the disease. It supports the normal healing mechanisms of the body, naturally, rather than attacking disease directly.
2) Functional Medicine is deeply science based. The latest research shows us that what happens within us is connected in a complicated network or web of relationships. Understanding those relationships allows us to see deep into the functioning of the body.
3) Your body is intelligent and has the capacity for self-regulation, which expresses itself through a dynamic balance of all your body systems.
4) Your body has the ability to heal and prevent nearly all the diseases of aging.
5) Health is not just the absence of disease, but a state of immense vitality.
Here lies the clear distinction and definition of Functional Medicine. Instead of asking, “What drug matches up with this disease?” Functional Medicine asks the vital questions that very few conventional doctors ask: “Why do you have this problem in the first place?” and “Why has function been lost?” and “What can we do to restore function?” In other words, Functional Medicine looks to find the root cause or mechanism involved with any loss of function, which ultimately reveals why a set of symptoms is there in the first place, or why the patient has a particular disease label.
Your Medical Detective - finding the cause of your problem
Each disease has a cause and a treatment, or so we are taught in medical school. Identify the disease then prescribe the drug or perform the surgery. This approach works well for many things, such as an acute infection or appendicitis, and indeed Western medicine has done wonders in the areas of infectious disease, surgery and trauma. But for the rest of it, the bulk of it, we’re merely putting on “bandages” to slow the disease process or simply treat the symptoms. The emerging field of “functional medicine” is changing that paradigm.
What about eliminating or reversing heart disease, cancer, stroke or diabetes? What about getting to the root cause of an endless list of symptoms such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, or pain? We have pill for everything, but those pills rarely if ever stop or reverse the course of disease, or really address the underlying cause of symptoms that we doctors hear patients complain of oh-so frequently.
Functional medicine analyzes the core systems that allow the body to function properly. This means looking closely at the foundation blocks for good health including hormones, digestive health, immune function, nutrient status and genetics. We may check for allergies, chronic infections or biotoxins, build up of environmental toxins or heavy metals, clogged detoxification or cellular energy pathways.
Practicing functional medicine is more difficult that prescribing a pill, both for the doctor and the patient. And at least initially, it often involves advanced laboratory testing, which is sometimes expensive or not covered by insurance. Getting to the “root cause” of disease is not for the faint of heart. It is a process that sometimes takes time and money, but I know from experience that the time and money spent to get to the bottom of a problem leads to less costs in the long run, and most importantly a healthier, happier patient.
Why do we need Functional Medictine?
Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care, the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom.
Unfortunately, the acute-care approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases it does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society.
There’s a huge gap between research and the way doctors practice. The gap between emerging research in basic sciences and integration into medical practice is enormous—as long as 50 years—particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness.
Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.
How is Functional Medicine different than traditional medicine
Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. Hallmarks of a functional medicine approach include:
Patient-centered care. The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care, promoting health as a positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the practitioner brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.
An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. Functional medicine practitioners look “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is considered, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.
Integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with what is sometimes considered “alternative” or “integrative” medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.