Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, Functional Medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional Medicine practitioners 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.
Functional Medicine is often confused with terms like holistic, integrative and natural medicine. While thought on occasion to be interchangeable terms, they are in fact quite different.
The term Functional Medicine is a relatively new term in medicine, but reflects the cultural knowledge of millennia, and the scientific knowledge of the 21st century. Its premise is in returning a human body, whose health is a function of its genetics and the environmental “soup” in which these genetics have been bathed, to a state of optimal function. Current science is showing us that a number of modifiable factors are contributing to our health risks daily, and I just don’t mean cigarettes. We are learning that when biologic systems are out of balance, lacking essential fats, minerals, nutrients or chemical, the body falls out of function, and disease ensues.
This approach to medicine differs from other approaches to health which are common in today’s lexicon. Holistic, Natural and Integrated approaches to medicine similarly diverge from a conventional , allopathic approach of using pharmaceutical drugs to counter a patient’s symptoms. In fact this is why so many patients trend toward some of the more “alternative” approaches to health. But each of these terms has its own identity, emphasis and value. And in no case do these identities overlap with the medical approach to health taken by Functional Medicine. Let’s look at each separately.