Healthcare is an ever evolving machine that is always moving towards continued advancement in order to deliver the best medical options to promote patient care. One branch of medicine that is quickly progressing is functional medicine. This approach takes a more in-depth look behind what causes an illness or disease, versus reacting to and treating symptoms.

What is functional medicine?

Functional medicine, as defined by the Institute for Functional Medicine (or IFM), is “an individualized, patient centered, science-based approach which empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying root causes of disease and promote optimal wellness.”

This method of treatment requires a complete and detailed understanding of a patient’s history and lifestyle factors that can all influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. The comprehensive data gathered on a patient during evaluation is used to craft personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes.

Root cause treatment, versus reacting to symptoms, allow practitioners to become more oriented to the complexities of disease. While addressing a patient’s infirmity one condition may point to different causes, and likewise, one cause may be the source behind different conditions. Due to these facts, functional medicine targets the specific manifestation of disease in each individual.

Why functional medicine matters

Finding the underlying cause rather than suppressing symptoms is a better approach to long term health management. Functional Medicine practitioners may agree to the statement that Functional Medicine is a remedy to the problems of chronic dependency on the healthcare system and the inflation of healthcare cost.

  • Our population is growing, and along and with it, society is also experiencing a sharp increase in the number of patients suffering from complex chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, digestive issues and autoimmune disorders.
  • The acute care approach in traditional medicine is not adequately equipped with the right methodology and tools for treating and preventing complex and chronic disease. It does not follow standards that consider the unique genetic makeup of each individual, environmental exposures to toxins and other aspects of modern lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease.
  •  The main contributing factor to the sharply raising healthcare costs is the problem faced by patients who are frequently treated using costly disease management strategies, before exploring the potential of disease reversal. Costly and lifelong regimens are encouraged rather than looking beneath the assortment of diagnosis to discover the underlying cause to their health problems.

By digging deeper to find and address the underlying causes of the common conditions that affect a growing number of people, Functional medicine offers an alternative from being dependent on costly medications not designed to address the root causes of your disease. In this way, functional medicine offers the potential for achieving higher levels of health restoration and financial savings.

What makes functional medicine different?

With Functional Medicine, the individual is treated rather than the disease. A patient’s treatment plan will often include research to obtain individual genetic and environmental research for a deeper knowledge of the patient’s health status. This approach helps in understanding the origins, prevention and treatment of complex, chronic disease. Additional identifiers of a functional medicine approach include:

Patient-centered care – The focus of functional medicine is on the promotion of health as positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease By adhering to patient-centered care evaluation, which involves listening and learning the patients story, the practitioner can tailor treatments to address an individual’s unique need.

Integrative, science-based approach – Here practitioners consider numerous elements that can lead to illness. Physicians look upstream in consideration of the complex interactions within a patient’s history, physiology, lifestyle and genetic makeup. An individuals mind, body and spirit (internal), in considered along with physical and social environmental factors (external).

Integrating best medical practices – Functional medicine is an integration of effective traditional Western Medical practices with “Alternative” or “Integrative” medicine. It creates a focus on prevention through proper nutrition, diet and exercise; utilizing data gathered from lab testing and other diagnostic techniques; along with combinations of drugs and botanical medicine, supplements, detoxification programs, stress management techniques.

The main take away of this approach   

Functional medicine is as much healing as it is preventative. The human body is a complex system that requires an approach that considers all the possible factors that could affect its biological mechanics. The integrative construct of Functional medicine, and its patient-centered approach, offers an effective alternative to traditional, less effective, methods of health care. This will help patients in realizing better health outcomes.

Additionally, the increasing population and rapidly increasing cases of chronic diseases requires a proactive approach that focuses on preventative measures in the treatment of patients, and promotion of long-term health. Functional medicine does this by addressing the root causes of illnesses. The resulting macro goal and effect is lowering the number of individuals with chronic conditions. This will help in lowering healthcare costs for patients and help to fight the giant $3 trillion dollar healthcare cost that burdens the economy.

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