Functional Medicine: Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom
Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-biology approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. Functional medicine addresses the whole person, their story and experiences and 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, diet, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. At the core of the practice of functional medicine, is the understanding that each patient is unique and requires a personalized approach to reach their peak expression of health and vitality.
Functional Medicine: Core Principles:
- An understanding of the biochemical individuality of each human being, based on the concepts of genetic and environmental uniqueness;
- Awareness of the evidence that supports a patient-centered rather than a disease-centered approach to treatment;
- Search for a dynamic balance among the internal and external body, mind, and spirit;
- Familiarity with the web-like interconnections of internal physiological factors;
- Identification of health as a positive vitality not merely the absence of disease emphasizing those factors that encourage the enhancement of a vigorous physiology;
- Promotion of organ reserve as the means to enhance the health span, not just the life span, of each patient.
A patient-centered approach refers to health care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and that ensures that patient values guide all clinical decisions.
The power of the therapeutic partnership comes from the idea that patients who are active participants in the development of their therapeutic plan feel more in control of their own well-being and are more likely to make sustained lifestyle changes to Plainly put, your body naturally wants to be healthy. But things needed by the body to function at its best might be missing, or something might be standing in the way of its best functioning. Functional Medicine first identifies the factors responsible for the malfunctioning. Then it deals with those factors in a way appropriate to the patient’s particular situation.
Very often Functional Medicine practitioners use advanced laboratory testing to identify the root cause or causes of the patient’s health problem. Old-fashioned medical diagnosis helps too, in the form of listening carefully to the patient’s history of symptoms and asking questions about his or her activities and lifestyle.
For treatment, Functional Medicine practitioners use a combination of nutrition and lifestyle first as the foundation then add natural agents (supplements, herbs, nutraceuticals and homeopathics), health coaching, spiritual/emotional counseling, and pharmaceuticals, if necessary to prod a patient’s physiology back to an optimal state. In addition, educating the patient about their condition empowers them to take charge of their own health, ultimately leading to greater success in treatment.
Functional Medicine: Treating Symptoms Versus Treating the Person
In the dominant health care model today, medication is used to get rid of people’s symptoms. If the patient stops taking the medication, symptoms generally return.
Functional Medicine approaches health problems differently. Instead of masking the problem, it aims at restoring the body’s natural functioning. Although some Functional Medicine practitioners may prescribe pharmaceuticals, they are used to gently nudge the patient’s physiology in a positive direction so the patient will no longer need them.
It’s also important to note that in Functional Medicine, the health plan for similar symptoms might vary tremendously for different patients, according to their medical history and results of laboratory tests. Factors that can come into play in producing the same symptoms include toxic chemicals, pathogenic bacteria, parasites, chronic viral pathogens, emotional poisons like anger, greed or envy, and structural factors such as tumors or cysts.
Functional Medicine: What to Expect
When you consult a Functional Medicine practitioner, the first step is always your history. Practitioners are trained on how to unravel and make sense of a complicated story. Often clues in the story lead to the identification of key imbalances.
The next set of clues comes from advanced laboratory testing. Innovative, cutting-edge lab tests help the practitioner look deeply into a patient’s physiology to identify how it has been compromised and how physiological balance can be restored.