In the fast, weird, and wonderful world of wellness, there is now little that surprises people – reishi mushrooms in your tea? Been there, done that. A crystal-infused water bottle? Didn’t hate it.
Then out of the blue, something sparks curiosity – we’re talking about Functional Medicine and the ones who practice. Got your attention? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine is an integrative health care approach based on the newest cutting edge research findings in medicine, biochemistry, genetics, and technology.
It seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease – instead of asking, ‘What drug matches up with this disease?’, Functional Medicine asks the questions, ‘What triggered the development of this condition?’, ‘How can we remove these triggers and restore function?’, and, ‘What can we do to optimize health and wellbeing in the long run?’.
Practitioners focus on the unique interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to chronic illness and/or faster ageing, along with the unique genetic makeup and ‘epigenetic’ factors like hormones, neurotransmitters (‘brain chemicals’ like serotonin), low grade inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, heavy metal toxicities, the social and emotional state. Treatments are then tailored to change and restore how the body’s systems function.
How does Functional Medicine work?
Functional medicine breaks apart the artificial divisions and instead bases its view of health and disease on the reality that the body is really one integrated, whole system.
For years now, researchers have been identifying and studying the underlying fundamental problems – like inflammation, oxidative stress, toxicity, or energy problems in the mitochondria – that are occurring across medical specialties. While these phenomena are well-recognized by researchers and even some conventional physicians, they are not being incorporated into the conventional medical model. Functional medicine is said to be the bridge that connects these and other fundamental imbalances in the body’s systems to chronic symptoms and diseases:
1. Health optimization, predictive biomarker testing, and anti-ageing
Working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner can help you extend your life and optimize your health, wellbeing, and performance by identifying early signs of imbalances before symptoms occur.
You are guided to and given a protocol of targeted diet, neutraceutical and lifestyle adjustments to optimize and reverse less than ideal markers.
2. Support of conventional treatment if symptoms are already present
Functional Medicine seeks to uncover the underlying imbalances contributing to chronic conditions and symptoms through a comprehensive health history, analysis, and functional lab testing.
What can Functional Medicine help with? Types of conditions addressed
• Auto-immune conditions including MS, Crohn’s, Hashimoto’s
• Hormone conditions including Sub/Infertility, PMS, PCOS, Endometriosis, menopausal symptoms
• Musculoskeletal conditions including arthritis, gout
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome, SIBO, Candida
• Mental conditions including anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism
• Cardiovascular and neurodegenerative conditions
• ‘Burnout’ and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
• Inability to achieve and maintain weight loss
Who practices Functional Medicine and how are they trained?
Functional Medicine is not limited to medical doctors but may be studied and practiced by any type of licensed health care provider including nurse practitioners, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and chiropractors.
A Functional Medicine Practitioner or Doctor will typically sit with a patient for about an hour, asking detailed questions about their health and medical history. At the end of the session, patients are often prescribed lifestyle changes instead of medication – a Practitioner will order labs to look for the underlying cause to assess rather than guess.
Should you try Functional Medicine?
Today, we are seeing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like Chronic Fatigue.
Unfortunately, the system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care – the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as a broken leg. This means that most physicians are trained to deal with and prescribe treatments for immediate, short-term use, as opposed to helping to manage long-term chronic disorders.
In most cases, acute care does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society.
If you’re dealing with a chronic condition and don’t feel like visits to your regular doc are helping, giving Functional Medicine a go – it certainly can’t hurt.