What Is Functional Medicine?
You’ve probably heard the buzz around ‘functional medicine’ and ‘holistic approaches’ but how does functional medicine differ from regular conventional medicine? Why bother going ‘unconventional’?
What’s Functional Medicine All About?
Functional medicine is the science of creating long-lasting health. It’s all about looking at the body as a whole rather than looking at individual symptoms, focusing on the whole person, not just the organs. Functional medicine can be preventative care, or it can be focused around improving or eliminating existing health issues.
It’s about looking at each patient as the individual that they are and treating them as such. We all have unique genetics and lifestyles to contend with when it comes to our health, and functional medicine recognizes and honors that.
Functional Medicine practitioners look at more advanced lab results and look for solutions to the problems. We take into account your immediate health concerns, your health goals, and your timeline of health. Based on that combined with the lab results, we construct a completely personalized plan for you. If the symptoms are still present after implementing the plan, the root cause hasn’t been resolved and more work is required.
Functional Medicine is the medicine of ‘why’, not the ‘what’. We don’t simply play a game of “match the pill to the ill”, but rather, we are able to take a much broader approach to maximize progress. We feel very strongly that this is the future of healthcare. Functional Medicine is about personalizing our health plans to fit our unique bodies and lives for optimal health and longevity!
How Does Functional Medicine Differ From Conventional Medicine?
Conventional medicine is often heavily disease-focused, whereas functional medicine has a more patient-centered approach.
Conventional Medicine: The Band-Aid Solution
You just got a new kitten. She’s a rascal. You got scratched and are bleeding so you grab a bandaid, which is great! It keeps the wound protected and clean. But the next day your new kitten scratches you again. So you get another bandaid. She scratches again, so it’s another bandaid, and another, and another, until you’re covered head to toe in bandaids…
But the thing is, your new kitten isn’t malicious or violent. She just needs some training! Before long, you train up your beautiful kitten and she grows up to be a non-scratching adorable, respectful cat.
No need for those bandaids anymore!
Our bandaid solution story can be compared to conventional medicine. It holds a very important place within the medical industry, providing life-saving treatment and care for patients with emergency needs and sickness.
However, conventional medicine often only offers band-aid solutions to patients. Someone with high cholesterol might be put on Statins (medication to lower cholesterol) with a brief slap on the wrist and warning by the doc for their dietary choices. The medication is a bandaid solution while the root cause, the diet, remains the same.
Until the root cause is identified and resolved, the problem remains when the medication stops. Until she’s trained out of it, the cat keeps scratching you when the bandaids are gone.
Functional Medicine practitioners take the time to understand the patients’ health history, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle factors that can influence our long-term health and chronic complex disease.
Functional Medicine practitioners will often focus heavily on nutrition when it comes to managing symptoms and resolving health issues. This is because food is medicine (when we consume the right foods!)
Nutritionists are part of our functional medicine approach and they help to provide a comprehensive understanding of how food can be consumed as medicine and exactly what their diet is doing for their health. Conventional medicine does not have the same attention to diet and nutrition as functional medicine does, relying more on pharmaceutical medicines (which often bring with them their own side effects) to reduce symptoms.
The main treatment you might see a functional medicine practitioner use is diet changes, adding foods that help prevent and reverse disease, eliminating foods from the diet that create disease and inflammation in the body, considering certain lifestyle decisions, and perhaps using targeted supplementation.
Is Functional Medicine Naturopathy?
Short answer, nope!
Naturopathy focuses solely on offering natural remedies to illness, which similarly to functional medicine, may include diet changes.
While Functional Medicine looks towards changes in diet and nutrition to reverse disease, practitioners are just as happy to offer conventional medicine and surgery to treat the root cause of the health issue when necessary.
Functional Medicine’s goal is simple: Identify and resolve the root cause of the symptom/s, reversing, and preventing disease. If it takes conventional medicines or surgeries to achieve this, so be it! The best, most effective option for the patient is exactly what will be offered, natural or not, exploring options until the optimal treatment plan is established.
Is Functional Medicine Legit?
Functional Medicine is absolutely a legitimate practice when it is offered by qualified medical professionals who perform their functional medicine correctly and safely, which is exactly our bread and butter (or gluten-free bread and grass-fed butter)!
If you’re in search of answers to your symptoms, get in touch with a member of the Index Clinic medical staff. We’d love to help you better understand your health.