Functional medicine is a holistic approach to healthcare that focuses on addressing the root causes of illness and disease rather than just treating symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners view the human body as an interconnected system where the health or disease of one organ system can significantly impact the well-being of the others and the system as a whole. By exploring the complex web of factors influencing an individual's health, functional medicine practitioners seek to promote optimal wellness and develop personalized treatment plans tailored to the individual needs of each patient.

Similarities and Differences Between  Conventional and Functional Medicine

Functional and conventional medicine share a common goal of improving patient health, yet they diverge significantly in their core approaches and philosophies. Functional medicine underscores the importance of identifying and addressing the root causes of illness, taking a holistic approach that views the body as a complex, interconnected system. This is reflected in personalized treatment plans that cater to each patient's unique needs, incorporating factors like genetics, lifestyle, and environmental influences.

In contrast, conventional medicine primarily centers on managing symptoms and treating specific diseases or health conditions using pharmaceuticals and medical procedures as primary interventions. It tends to be disease-centric, often relying on standardized treatment protocols that may not fully consider the nuances of individual variations.

The choice between these two approaches depends on individual preferences, health requirements, and the nature of the underlying condition, with some patients finding a combination of both methods most effective for achieving overall well-being.

The Rise of Functional Medicine in Modern Healthcare

One of the primary reasons for functional medicine's surging popularity is its patient-centered approach, which prioritizes uncovering the root causes of health issues over symptom management. This approach resonates well with individuals seeking more preventive, proactive,  personalized care. Additionally, its emphasis on prevention, lifestyle modifications, and natural therapies aligns with the growing public interest in holistic health practices, as people increasingly prioritize overall well-being and proactive healthcare over reactive treatments. This holistic and patient-oriented approach makes functional medicine a compelling choice for those seeking a more individualized and integrative approach to their healthcare.

Understanding High Cholesterol

Elevated cholesterol levels play a central role in the development of chronic diseases, primarily cardiovascular conditions like atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke. Elevated levels of certain types of cholesterol can lead to the deposition of cholesterol in the arteries, forming plaque and causing blood vessels to narrow. Over time, this can result in chronic conditions that increase the risk of heart-related issues and related complications, making cholesterol management an essential aspect of preventing and mitigating chronic diseases in the long term.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a lipid molecule found in all of the cells of the human body, playing a crucial role in various physiological functions. It is a key component of cell membranes, contributing to their structural integrity and fluidity. Cholesterol is also a precursor for the production of hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D, all of which are essential for processes like metabolism, digestion, and immune system function.

Good Cholesterol vs Bad Cholesterol 

“Good cholesterol”, often referred to as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, plays a protective role in cardiovascular health. HDL cholesterol helps remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream, transporting it to the liver for elimination. In contrast, “bad cholesterol”, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL)  and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol, can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis by accumulating in the arteries, leading to plaque buildup and increased risk of heart-related diseases. 

The Effect of High Cholesterol on Health

Elevated cholesterol levels, particularly high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, causing inflammation in blood vessels. This inflammation can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. Elevated inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein, are associated with chronic inflammation in the body and may further exacerbate the risks of heart-related issues, as inflammation is a known contributor to atherosclerosis and other health problems. Controlling both cholesterol levels and inflammatory markers is crucial for reducing these risks and maintaining overall health.

Common Causes of High Cholesterol

Common causes of high cholesterol include a diet high in saturated and trans fats, which can lead to an increase in LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. Genetics can also play a significant role, as some individuals may inherit a predisposition for high cholesterol. Lifestyle factors like physical inactivity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can further contribute to elevated cholesterol levels.

The Functional Medicine Approach to Addressing High Cholesterol

The functional medicine approach to high cholesterol is a holistic and patient-centered strategy that seeks to identify and address the underlying causes of elevated cholesterol levels, rather than merely prescribing medication to lower it. Functional medicine practitioners conduct a comprehensive evaluation of a patient's medical history, lifestyle, genetics, and environmental factors to pinpoint the unique triggers contributing to high cholesterol. They then develop personalized treatment plans, emphasizing lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes, regular physical activity, and stress management, to address root causes of disease. Furthermore, functional medicine recognizes the connection between gut health and cholesterol regulation, and may include interventions to optimize gut microbiota and dietary modifications to support a healthy cholesterol profile. This approach empowers individuals to actively manage their health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases associated with high cholesterol.

Is Functional Medicine Right for You?

When deciding whether to consult a functional medicine doctor to address high cholesterol, there are several key factors to take into account. First and foremost, you should evaluate the severity of your cholesterol issue. Functional medicine is often more suitable for individuals with high cholesterol resulting from lifestyle factors or genetic predispositions, as opposed to those with acute medical conditions requiring immediate conventional medical treatment.

Next, it's crucial to honestly assess your readiness and commitment to making significant lifestyle changes. Functional medicine primarily relies on dietary modifications, exercise, stress management, and other holistic approaches. If you're motivated and prepared to embrace these changes, a functional medicine doctor may be a good fit.

Additionally, the availability of qualified functional medicine practitioners in your area should be considered. It's essential to do some research to find a practitioner with a solid reputation, ideally one who is certified in functional medicine.

Lastly, your personal preferences and values matter. Functional medicine takes a patient-centered, holistic approach, which can be appealing to those seeking individualized and comprehensive healthcare. If this approach aligns with your health philosophy, it may be helpful to explore your options for functional medicine doctors/practices to address medical issues such as high cholesterol.

Choosing functional medicine is a personal journey that requires careful research and reflection. Weigh the pros and cons and do your homework! Chat with functional medicine practitioners and patients, read practice and practitioner reviews, and  make sure the background, philosophy, and values of the provider/practice are a good match for you. After all, health isn't just about living longer—it's about living better.


What exactly does a functional medicine doctor do?

Functional medicine doctors take a holistic and patient-centered approach to healthcare. They aim to identify and address the root causes of health issues rather than merely treating symptoms. These practitioners conduct comprehensive assessments, develop personalized treatment plans that may include lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and nutritional supplements, and work closely with patients to empower them to actively manage and improve their overall health and well-being.

How long does it take to see results with functional medicine?

The time it takes to observe results with functional medicine can differ greatly from person to person and depends on several factors. For some individuals, noticeable improvements can occur in a matter of weeks or months, particularly if they're making substantial lifestyle changes. However, for more complicated or chronic health conditions, achieving significant progress may require several months to a year or even longer, as functional medicine tends to address the root causes of health issues, which can be a gradual process. It's important to remain patient and committed to the personalized treatment plan to reap the long-term benefits of functional medicine.

Does science back functional medicine?

Functional medicine practitioners utilize an evidence based medicine approach to patient care.  Scientific backing for functional medicine continues to expand, with an increasing body of research demonstrating its effectiveness in managing various chronic health conditions. Numerous studies have indicated that functional medicine's emphasis on tailored treatments, lifestyle adjustments, and nutrition interventions can lead to better outcomes in conditions like metabolic syndrome, autoimmune diseases, and gastrointestinal disorders. While ongoing research is required to strengthen its evidence base, the patient-centered and holistic approach of functional medicine aligns well with many patients' search for individualized, comprehensive, and preventive care.

Does insurance cover functional medicine?

The extent of insurance coverage for functional medicine varies, contingent on the specifics of your health insurance plan. Some plans may provide partial coverage for functional medicine consultations, while others might not cover them at all. To gain clarity on your insurance situation regarding functional medicine services, it's essential to get in touch with your insurance provider, thoroughly examine your policy terms, and seek information about any potential costs that you might need to pay out-of-pocket.