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Functional Medicine

Functional Medicine is a Different Way of Thinking About Healthcare. 

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a comprehensive approach to prevention, health, and well-being. Instead of treating the symptoms of disease, the goal of functional medicine is to find and treat the root cause of disease and to restore health. Understanding that each person is unique, including their genetics, environment, and personal preferences is an important factor in treatment. Functional medicine practitioners are partners with their patients and work with conventional medicine to optimize health. It has been referred to as “the science of creating health,” and is best suited to treating chronic disease. Practioners use laboratory testing and evaluation and often integrate treatment with alternative medicine to promote health through changes in lifestyle.

A History of Functional Medicine

Ideas about functional medicine have been around since the 1870s. A lecture published in the Lancet by Willouhgby Wade, a physician at the General Hospital in Birmingham, England, stated “Here, then, I say, is the highest justification for all treatment being based upon the principle of restoring disordered functions to order, and this is what I have ventured to term Functional Medicine.”

The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), the most well-established training program for clinicians in Functional Medicine was co-founded Dr.Jeffrey Bland in 1991. Dr. Bland is a biochemist and certified nutrition specialist who worked with Nobel laureate Linus Pauling and was the director of nutritional research at the Linus Pauling Institute. Clinicians who were interested in developing these ideas gathered and created methods to evaluate patients based on systems biology, an approach that seeks to understand the larger picture of health by understanding systems and functions of the body in creating health.

Functional medicine has grown significantly since that time. New ideas and changes in science, such as advances in knowledge of the gut microbiome, genetics, and epigenetics have been incorporated into the treatment. Many well-known physicians such as Dr. Mark Hyman have contributed to and promoted the development of this new way of treating patients and diseases. The goal is to understand how the body works and to use the latest science and technology in combination with traditional medicines and change in diet and lifestyle to restore health.

Different types of practioners practice functional medicine from their distinct viewpoints. This includes medical doctors (MDs), doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs), Naturopaths (NDs), chiropracters (DCs) and other health professionals can practice functional medicine from their unique areas of expertise.

Qualties of Functional Medicine

Whole Person Care

Functional medicine embraces the whole person. The conventional approach to care often focuses on the treatment of specific diseases and treats them as separate entities. Functional medicine recognizes that the body is a network and systems function together.

Individualized

Everyone is unique. We have different genes, are in different environments, and have different goals, desires, and abilities to make changes depending on where we are in our lives and what we want to accomplish.

Lifestyle Focused

The foundation of health is in lifestyle. Many of the diseases we face today are a result of our diet, lifestyle, and environment. Restoring a state of health requires that we change the way we view health and emphasize doing the things that give us the best function.

Systems Based

Systems biology is an approach that seeks to understand the larger picture by understanding how the smaller pieces work together. Understanding and treating disease involves multiple systems. For example, your mood can be related to sleep, hormones, anxiety, nutrition and other factors.

Integrated

Functional medicine practitioners integrate treatment with alternative medicine and providers such as acupuncturists, naturopaths, psychologists, counselors and other providers and often incorporate supplemetation with vitamins or herbal medications.

What to Expect When Working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner

Functional medicine doctors work to develop a personalized and comprehensive approach to your healthcare. The approach focuses on treating the root causes of health problems and seeks to optimize function. During your visit, there will be time to review your medical history, and lifestyle including your diet, levels of activity, sleep, relationships, and any life stressors.

A thorough physical examination and discussion of your areas of concern and any goals that you want to achieve will be addressed. Additional laboratory testing to gather a complete picture of your health will be ordered if needed. Initial laboratory evaluations are typically convered by your insurance. 

Based on this information, the doctor will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that may include lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, nutritional supplementation, stress management techniques, and other holistic approaches. The goal is to empower you to take an active role in your health and address the underlying imbalances to promote well-being.

Functional medicine doctors work with you to optimize your health and to maximize your health through lifestyle changes.

Expanded Laboratory Testing

Functional lab testing involves analyzing various biomarkers, hormones, nutritional status, and other indicators to assess your overall health and identify potential imbalances or deficiencies. These tests may go beyond what is typically covered in conventional medical screenings, allowing for a more in-depth understanding of your body's functioning. While initial lab testing is often covered by insurance, functional lab testing, which delves into more specific and detailed assessments, may be considered optional and might provide additional insights into your health. The functional medicine doctor will discuss the benefits and cost of any optional testing with you, helping you make informed decisions about your healthcare. The personalized insights gained from functional lab testing can contribute to the development of a tailored treatment plan, addressing any underlying issues to support your journey toward optimal health and wellness.

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