The field of functional medicine is becoming increasingly common in general medical care as patients demand a more preventative approach rather than a reactive treatment-based approach. It uses patient-centered nutrition-based therapies to address the underlying causes of a patient’s medical problem, disease or dysfunction.
In contrast, conventional medicine often uses an orthodox model of care that works to diagnose a patient’s symptoms and then combine them with a corresponding standard medication or treatment without necessarily investigating the root cause of the patient’s medical problem. This model may be effective in treating injuries, infections, trauma or acute illnesses, but it is not always the best approach for treating chronic diseases, such as hormonal, metabolic, neurological, digestive or allergic conditions.
That’s where functional medicine really shines.
1. Receive Personalized Wellness and Health Care
Functional medicine realizes that we are all different, so everyone’s treatment must be different. We all have different genetics, we all grew up in different environments, we eat different foods, we have different stress levels, different nationalities, etc. As functional medicine providers, we want to get to know the patient, get to know their life story from as far back as birth, and create a plan that is unique to that person. You might say that conversation would take a long time…and you’re right.
2. There are more treatment options available with functional medicine
Treatment options can be considered endless in a functional medicine practice. When a patient comes in with complaints of depression, we don’t just look at what prescription medications to provide. We look at omega-3 levels, vitamin D levels, hormones, thyroid imbalances, gut issues and inflammatory markers. We are looking at the root cause of what is causing the depression. We want to know WHY. Why is this happening in your body?
3. Educational care that empowers the patient
The goal of functional medicine is to educate and empower the patient to help improve their health and quality of life. You can only see the doctor so often, so we want the healing process to occur every day for you, according to the recommendations provided by your functional medicine provider. The education provided will be on topics such as diet, lifestyle, exercise, stress management, natural herbs and supplements, lab test results, potential diagnosis and medication management.
4. Get to the root cause of your health and wellness problem
Many people struggle to find answers to their medical conditions because they go from doctors to specialists. We see this all the time. Many patients reported to us that they were told “it’s all in their head” and “their labs look normal”, but the patients still had severe symptoms as if something was wrong. There are so many reasons for this that this page is not long enough to explain. When you see a functional medicine provider, you will get someone who is a detective.
5. Systems-based approach
Functional medicine believes in treating the person…not just the disease or symptoms. Most conventional medicine has prescription drugs that match specific symptoms. In our opinion, that is a short-sighted view of medicine. The title of this section is “systems-based approach” for a reason…every system in your body communicates with each other. You may have heard of the gut-brain connection? Some call the gut your second brain.
6. Cost-effective health and wellness
Functional medicine has many names. Integrative, Holistic, Personalized and Preventive (or Preventive). Preventive medicine is the most cost-effective medicine there is. When you can slow down or prevent the onset of disease, you will save future health care dollars that you would have to spend if you had not taken a preventive approach.
For example: Type II diabetes. Patients who see a functional medicine provider are very proactive and begin to address blood sugar concerns MUCH earlier than conventional medicine. Functional medicine providers test blood sugars even before conventional pre-diabetes levels.
When you inform patients and educate them about diet and lifestyle prior to disease, we find much better results in disease prevention.
Dr. Mansi Shah
Functional Wellness Network