What Is Functional Medicine and How Can It Benefit You
Have you ever walked into a doctor’s office and wondered if they were really focused on treating you or just wanted to send you a bill? Unfortunately, this is the way a lot of patients feel about going to the doctor.
The good news is that there is an alternative option called functional medicine. Here we’ll describe the basics of this healthcare philosophy, explain how it differs from traditional treatments, and offer examples of different conditions these types of practitioners treat.
What is Functional Medicine?
In simple terms, functional medicine is a healthcare approach that seeks to understand the root cause of medical conditions versus simply managing symptoms. It is also highly personalized, meaning the practitioner takes extra time to get to know the patient, discuss their needs, and make adjustments to their treatment protocol as necessary.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the functional medicine process is that it places a high emphasis on not just ensuring the patient feels better, but also that they are able to carry on a vibrant and healthy lifestyle long after the symptoms of the medical condition subside.
In fact, functional medicine is often referred to as patient-centered care. Why? The main goal is to really give that individual the customized treatment they need while ensuring they don’t just feel better, but truly feel their best after treatment.
What’s the Difference?
That said, it is important to realize the difference between functional medicine and traditional healthcare. In a normal hospital or doctor’s office, the medical practitioner is usually trained to treat all diseases and health conditions in the same way. This is not true with functional medicine, which treats each patient as an individual.
Additionally, diagnosis in traditional medicine is based on specific symptoms—not the underlying cause of the symptoms. Treatments typically involve standard methods and pharmaceutical drugs, with few options for holistic or natural care.
Likewise, traditional medicine is generally much more expensive than functional medicine in the long run. And early detection of disease is more important than overall prevention of the same condition. With functional medicine, the process of preventing a specific illness or disease carries a greater impact.
Principles of Functional Medicine
Functional medicine is based on these solid principles relating to patient care. They include:
Patient-Centered Care: The needs and desires of the patient are primary in the healing process. Additionally, providers work in conjunction with the patient to find the right course of treatment as a team.
Systems Biology Consideration: With functional medicine, the idea of how certain systems work within the body and how they become imbalanced is a key focus. For example, physiological processes involving nutrient absorption and cellular repair from an anatomical standpoint.
Therapy Interventions: Functional medicine doesn’t just rely on pharmaceutical treatments, but pairs certain therapies like sleep intervention, nutritional changes, and even mental health services to help address triggers for disease and illness.
Biochemical Evaluation of Gene-Environment Interaction: Each person has a different genetic makeup that reacts differently to the outside world and daily life. By looking at the needs of the individual, functional medicine practitioners work to give patients the right treatment protocols for their exact needs.
How Patients Benefit from Functional Medicine
So, how do patients benefit from functional medicine? To start, the process involves preventing disease, discomfort, and illness instead of just treating the symptoms associated with it.
As an example, this means that a functional medicine practitioner working with a patient who suffers from chronic migraines might work to find the trigger of the migraines instead of just treating the headaches themselves.
In some cases, patients seek out functional medicine to help prevent diseases common in their families before symptoms begin. For example, someone with a family history of diabetes might work with a practitioner to help adjust diet and improve overall wellness before experiencing any symptoms.
Since the main goal of functional medicine is to change the focus of care directly to the patient, this process is a lot more personalized and tailored to the needs of the individual.
Conditions Treated by Functional Medicine
The good news is that there are a large number of conditions that can be treated by functional medicine. From mental health conditions to even life-threatening diseases, this method of care is often preferred by patients.
A few examples of common conditions often treated by functional medicine practitioners include:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Food allergies and intolerance's
Male hormonal issues
Other chronic conditions
It is important to realize that this is only a short list of the different conditions that functional medicine can treat. Essentially, any health concern has a functional medicine practitioner who is ready and willing to work with the patient to find a root cause.
In fact, some functional medicine treatments work to prevent the process of symptom development altogether. As an example, consider someone in a high-stress job working with a practitioner to make lifestyle changes before developing a condition associated with high levels of anxiety.
A good way to think of functional medicine? It’s like working with an expert to get the tools necessary to make changes before it becomes a lifelong condition with debilitating symptoms.
Understanding the Functional Medicine Process
Many people believe the traditional healthcare system is broken. Functional medicine works to help patients in a different way, by looking at underlying conditions, genetic factors, and the needs of the patient first.