Certainly an integrated approach is important to a patient’s health, but one of the shortcomings of “modern” medicine is that patients are frequently reduced to a single symptom, organ system or diagnosis. Modern medicine has failed to realize and to incorporate the complexity of life and biology into the diagnostic and therapeutic picture. Many times more than one modality is required to assess a patient’s needs. This is the domain of integrative medicine. An integrated medical environment may offer physicians, physical therapists and psychological counselors. There may be an emphasis on nutrition and wellness, or diet and supplements, but the medical component of an integrative medicine clinic is often within the standard paradigm- using drugs to counter symptoms while dabbling into ancillary therapies. Generally integrated physicians are dipping their toes into the proverbial wellness pool, but failing to delve deeply into the factors that are keeping their patients from realizing a true state of health. This is the domain of Functional Medicine.
A functional approach to the patient utilizes the tenants of both holistic and integrated models of care; yet adds still another dimension. It is impossible to fully realize a patient’s full health without looking at it holistically, considering the influences of body, mind and spirit. Similarly a patient’s health may be best managed in an integrated fashion, with practice and communication shared across a variety of both “alternative” and conventional modalities. The added dimension of a functional medicine practice is that it goes deeper into the body’s multiple complexities and associations with our natural world. It considers how an individual’s genetics are being influenced by our environment; it looks into the ways that the environment, with toxins, chemicals and stressors, dictates the way that our body functions and ages; and most importantly, it stresses the complexity and beauty of the human animal in nature, and its need for natural foods, sunlight, community and nutrition.
So the message to the consumer is to understand that different modalities offer different approaches to your health. Holistic and integrated care plans typically fall short when approaching whole body health, as they do not typically look into the deficient biochemistries, hormonal balances, and nutritional states of the body. A functional practitioner, on the other hand, is versed in the nutritional and biochemical needs of the body, but is typically well versed in, and able to incorporate holistic and integrated care plans as well.