Functional medicine represents an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the needs of the modern world we all live in. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, a functional medicine physician seeks to address the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms.
Functional medicine physicians spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
Why do we need functional medicine? Some reasons are listed below:
- Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
- The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented towards acute care, which can be defined as the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis, strep throat or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom.
- The acute care approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases, it does not take into account such factors as individual genetic makeup, environmental exposure to toxins, and the aspects of lifestyles in our 21st-century world that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern societies.
How does functional medicine seek to re-imagine the acute-care paradigm detailed above? Some important hallmarks of the functional medicine approach include:
- Patient-centered care. The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care, promoting health as a positive and vital state, rather than just the absence of disease. Treatments are tailored to a patient’s very unique and individual needs.
- An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. Functional medicine physicians examine the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history and genetics with such factors as their psychological and spiritual states, and their physical and social environments.
- Integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine combines traditional Western medical practice with a strong emphasis on prevention of illness, utilizing such modalities as nutrition, diet and exercise; cutting-edge laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; conventional drugs and/or botanical medicines and supplements; detoxification programs; and stress-management techniques, among others
Courtesy of The Institute for Functional Medicine