What is functional medicine? While many doctors focus on treating the signs and symptoms of a disease, functional medicine practitioners take a more in-depth look at your symptoms. For example, doctors often treat inflammation by prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs. Functional medicine is different from conventional medicine as it focuses on the root cause of the disease.
What Is Functional Medicine? What You Need To Know
In This Article:
- Overview of Functional Medicine
- How a Visit to a Functional Medicine Doctor Is Different
- Functional Medicine Is for Everyone
Overview of Functional Medicine
Pioneered by Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., functional medicine is a biology-based approach to medicine. Doctors use extensive scientific knowledge of the human body to treat diseases. They identify a problem and treat it by looking at how the body systems function together.
There are 11 major organ systems in the human body with each system performing a different function in the body. The circulatory system circulates blood, for example.
While each of these systems is separate, they do interact. For instance, a problem with your immune system can lead to an infection in your digestive tract. The interaction between body systems can cause widespread imbalances and chronic disease. Nutrition, stress, hormonal imbalance, environmental influences, and genes also play a role in your health.
Interactions between body systems can make it hard to diagnose certain diseases. The interaction between the body and the environment also becomes an obstacle. This is especially true when a doctor looks only at one part of the body.
The Institute for Functionalized Medicine notes that one condition can have many causes. One cause can also result in many conditions. Many things can cause depression, for example. Antibiotics, Omega-3 deficiency, low thyroid, vitamin D deficiency, or pre-diabetes can cause depression. Inflammation may cause heart disease, depression, arthritis, cancer, and diabetes.
Certain conditions can develop differently, too. Your symptoms might be worse than someone else’s symptoms for the same illness. The difference might be because of your genes, environment, or lifestyle.
Functional medicine focuses on the interaction between your environment and your body. It looks at how the environment affects your digestive tract, immune system, and endocrine system.
Your digestive tract interacts with the environment when you eat, which means it can also absorb toxins. In turn, your gastrointestinal tract absorbs nutrients and fluids from food, including possible toxins. Meanwhile, your immune system protects your body from bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders. The environment can also affect your hormones.
How a Visit to a Functional Medicine Doctor Is Different
A doctor who practices functional medicine spends a lot of time with each patient. The physician reviews the patient’s personal health history and family health history, then he can map the patient’s health timeline. Through this, he can start looking for interactions between the genes, environment, body, and lifestyle that may cause the disease.
Functional medicine focuses on the whole person. In conventional medicine, a doctor usually focuses only on the part of the body that shows signs of disease. He might order an ultrasound of the stomach for a patient with digestive problems, for example. On the other hand, a functional medicine doctor might order the same ultrasound but also look at the patient’s immune system.
Functional Medicine Is for Everyone
Aging, lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors affect us all. These factors can affect many body systems to cause chronic diseases. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, cancer, and autoimmune diseases can slow your body systems. When one organ or body system functions poorly, it affects the rest of your body. This can cause imbalances in your body’s functions, which in turn, can lead to chronic disease.
The intent of functional medicine is to restore optimal function and balance to your body systems for your entire body to work well.
Are you still wondering to yourself, "what is functional medicine?" Watch Marie Forleo discuss how to improve life with functional medicine expert Dr. Mark Hyman below:
So what is functional medicine? It is evidence-based. This means doctors use the latest science and research to guide decisions about diagnosis and treatment. It focuses on quality of life and on the whole person – the mind, body, and spirit. This approach to medicine works with any condition. Doctors in this branch of medicine work with all medical specialties to treat patients of any age.
If you have a chronic condition, make an appointment with a functional medicine doctor. It may be right for you if you have a chronic disease or if you are seeking generalized wellness and healthy aging.
What do you think about functional medicine healing chronic conditions? Share your opinions in the comments section below.