What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is a new term to many Americans. This approach to care is a patient-centered, individualized and science-based approach that works to address underlying causes of disease. Functional medicine doctors determine how and why illness occurs and addresses the root cause in order to restore optimal health.
Practitioners address the root cause of a problem, rather than simply treating the symptom, which allows them to identify the complexity of the disease. One symptom may be the result of multiple conditions, or one condition could be causing a variety of symptoms. Functional medicine doctors work to identify the specific manifestations of the disease and treat it appropriately.
Is it the Same as Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine and functional medicine are similar. Integrative medicine is a holistic approach that accounts for the lifestyle habits of the patient. They work to treat the whole person and not only the disease. An integrative medicine doctor considers the mind, body and spirit of the patient to promote well-being.
This discipline also employs actions like yoga, acupuncture or massage as part of the treatment. Nutritional and exercise habits may be involved to treat certain diseases like diabetes or obesity.
While there are quite a few similarities between integrative and functional medicine, the main different is that functional medicine looks to determine to root cause of each disease. It is highly personal to each patient and looks deep into each person's history, biochemistry and genetic makeup to determine why they are ill. Chronic diseases like autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes are often a focus of functional medicine doctors.
Who Practices Functional Medicine?
To be eligible to practice as a certified functional medicine physician, practitioners must have a license in a primary specialty and one of the following credentials:
• Medical Doctor
• Doctor of Osteopathy
• Doctor of Chiropractic
• Naturopathic Doctor
• Nurse Practitioner
• Physician Assistant
• Registered Nurse
• Registered Dietitian
A functional medicine doctor focuses on nutrition, diet and exercise. They also use laboratory testing, diagnostic techniques and a variety of technology (glucometers, heart math devices, amber glasses and posture devices). They may also prescribe supplements or botanical medicines as appropriate. Therapeutic diets, detoxification programs and techniques to manage stress are other hallmarks of this discipline.
The National Council on Aging reports that 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease. Almost as many, 77%, have two. Nearly two-thirds of all deaths each year are caused by four chronic diseases: cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease.
Chronic diseases account for 75% of the money we spend on health care. Only 1% is spent on efforts to improve overall health.
With such an onslaught of chronic disease sweeping the nation, and particularly the older population, learning more about functional medicine could be a way to determine why we are suffering from so many diseases.
You can learn more by visiting the Institute for Functional Medicine, which is considered the gold standard for the training and clinical practice of functional medicine.