Functional medicine is a systems biology-based method that aims at identifying and treating the root cause of a disease. Functional medicine doctors employ a holistic strategy to understand the patient knowing that every individual is unique and should have a treatment plan custom-fit for their specific needs.
By making a shift from the traditional disease-centred care to a more patient-oriented approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just their isolated group of symptoms. For that reason, functional medicine practitioners devote a lot of time to listening to their patients and their histories while focusing on discovering the correlation among lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors in their lives that can affect their health and the development of complex, chronic diseases. Instead of focusing on band aiding the symptoms of the disease, functional medicine doctors aim at pinpointing the root cause itself and restoring that which is no longer functioning properly. This is what sets them apart from traditional physicians who often treat the symptoms of disease and not the patient and while this approach works well for acute illnesses, infections and trauma, it fails in the aspect of chronic diseases. And this is where functional medicine can walk you to your health better.
Principles of functional medicine
Starting with the premise that every individual is biochemically and genetically unique, functional medicine practitioners take a very personalized approach in treating a patient. Instead of focusing on the disease, they look for ways in which the body heals itself to resolve the issues.
This approach is science-based and comprises of a complex network of interconnected links within human bodies. By getting to know and understand these links, functional medicine achieves a better and deeper understanding of the body that functions on the principles of maintaining its delicate balance. When that balance is knocked off, certain health issues arise and as much as human bodies are capable of self-regulation and healing, sometimes they need outside help.
Intervention often comes in the form of functional medicine supplements that can help the body maintain its balance and vitality, whether it’s boosting the overall immunity, suppressing allergies, relieving pain and inflammation, offering hormonal support, aiding digestion and circulation, or boosting mood and sleep.
A different approach
Functional medicine aims at understanding the origins of a disease, preventing it and treating the complex, chronic disease while taking into account the patient’s emotional health, environment and other factors that may cause stress or illness. The distinctive characteristics of a functional medicine approach typically include patient-oriented care that promotes health as vitality and not just the absence of illness, an integrative, science-based approach that focuses on the inner workings of the body and surrounding factors in the patient’s life that may lead to a disease, a strategy that focuses on prevention through diet, nutrition and exercise, and the use of prescribed drugs, botanical medicines and supplements in treatment.
Functional medicine assumes that each symptom or differential diagnosis can be a contributing factor to an individual’s condition so by focusing on treating the root cause of a disease, it has greater chances of treating the patient successfully. It uses integrated scientific principles, advanced diagnostic testing and a variety of treatments to reinstate balance in a patient’s physiological processes.
Dealing with chronic health conditions
In traditional medical treatments, the aim is too often to find the best drug possible, a surgical solution or other acute care treatments. As mentioned before, this works well in cases of acute illnesses but chronic conditions call for something different that typically involves a two-step solution: introducing whatever the body lacks in order to restore its balance and removing whatever hinders the body from getting to its optimal state of physiology.
The treatment starts by determining the reasons why the body isn’t functioning properly. This is done by using the patient’s specific history and lifestyle as a guide and by doing advanced lab testing. The treatment typically includes lifestyle and nutrition changes, various forms of counselling, a combination of natural remedies, supplements and medications, if necessary.
Another thing that functional medicine doctors encourage is for their patients to take an active role in their own treatment by educating them about their body processes as this increases their chance of being treated successfully and living a healthier life.
The need for functional medicine
With traditional medicine practised by most physicians oriented at acute care, there’s a greater need for a functional medicine approach in preventing and treating more complex issues such as chronic diseases.
There is a noticeable gap between research and the doctors’ practice, especially between new, emerging research in basic sciences and their integration into medical practice. This is particularly true in the field of chronic illnesses and most physicians aren’t adequately trained to determine and assess the underlying causes and then apply adequate treatment and strategies to prevent and cure the conditions.
Hopefully, the future will bring visible advance and development in this area helping patients around the globe in treatment of their chronic conditions.