What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is an evolving practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare of individuals suffering from complex and chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
There’s a huge gap between research and the way most doctors practice. 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. Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease, integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine integrates traditional western medical practices with what are 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.
Hallmarks of a functional medicine approach include:
- Patient-centered care.
- An integrative, science-based healthcare approach.
Through assessment of underlying causes and triggers of dysfunction, the functional medicine practitioner is able to understand how key processes are affected. These are the body’s processes that keep you alive. Some occur at the cellular level and involve how cells function, repair, and maintain themselves. These processes are related to larger biological functions, such as: digestion and absorption of nutrients and the health of the digestive tract ;how your body rids itself of toxins; regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters; immune system function and inflammatory responses
All of these processes are influenced by both environmental factors and your genetic make-up; when they are disturbed or imbalanced, they lead to symptoms, which can lead to disease if effective interventions are not applied.