Functional medicine is a practice that addresses the underlying cause of disease. It uses a system oriented approach that involves both the patient and the practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It has been an evolving approach to medicine that addresses 21st century health care needs. It differs from traditional medicine’s disease-centered focus. The focus is shifted to a more patient-centered approach to healing. The goal is to take the whole person into account.
Many of us feel as though we know ourselves and our bodies best. The approach of functional medicine incorporates the patient’s input as a part of their treatment. Attributing an underlying cause of a physical ailment to certain stressful conditions in our lives is something we’ve all done. Situations like these are part of the analysis of a patient; however, functional medicine goes much further than just examining environmental stress. It uses a multilevel approach to diagnosis and treatment.
Functional medicine practitioners take the time to listen to their patients and their histories. Many factors are considered during an analysis. Environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and chronic disease are examined. All of these factors are important in assessing present and future health. For instance, studies have shown that environmental factors have a great deal to do with the onset of chronic illness. This is why listening to the patient is important. What may be going on in their environment could be the deciding factor for current or potential disease. Doctors practicing functional medicine also examine many complicated biological, chemical and microbiological imbalances. Below are some examples of what may be examined in the diagnosis or treatment of disease.
- Oxidation-reduction Imbalances
These types of imbalances can cause toxic effects that correlate with coronary artery disease, cellular degeneration, tissue aging and cancer.
This is a group of neurological diseases and syndromes that can result in damage to the muscles and the central nervous system.
- Detoxification and Bio-transformational ImbalancesThese imbalances may indicate the presence of toxic substances. The patient’s diet may be changed if the doctor believes the toxicity is caused by the ingestion of certain food or liquids. Sometimes the toxic condition is caused by the environment of the patient. An example would be the exposure to air that is unclean.
- Immune Imbalances
Checking for immune imbalances will possibly explain or prevent a host of infectious diseases.
- Digestive/absorptive Imbalances and Microbiological Imbalances
This involves the examination of intestinal function and balance. Imbalances in the digestive tract can lead to a host of intestinal diseases.
- Cellular and Structural Imbalances
An examination of cell structure imbalances involves checking everything from cellular membrane functioning to the musculature and skeletal systems.
Managing Complex and Chronic Disease
All of the aforementioned imbalances help functional medicine to identify core problems that can underlie various diseases. Our bodies are complex, interconnected webs. Functional medicine partners with patients to discover whether the various systems of their bodies are working well as a whole. This helps to manage illness from many levels. By focusing on all the parts and the individual, chronic disease can be well-managed.
Functional Medicine: Is it a Better Alternative?
Because traditional methods are combined with alternative methods, many on either side could make the argument that their method is best. However, there are studies that have concluded that good communication with a patient is at the heart of healing. In functional medicine, the communication between the practitioner and the patient is always established. This creates the best possible outcome. However, the same cannot always be said for traditional medicine.
Is it Right For You?
Everyone has been to doctors that they have not liked. When patients are unsatisfied with the communication between themselves and their doctors, they usually find another doctor. When communication is a big part of choosing a physician, functional medicine is a better choice. Of course, there are some of us that feel that doctors should use a strictly scientific approach to healing and managing illness. If you don’t like to communicate very much during the diagnosis and treatment of your illness, then perhaps functional medicine is not for you. Functional medicine allows for a level of control that traditional methods often do not allow. The very basis for functional medicine came out of the desire for more communication between doctor and patient. It is an idea that has grown in both popularity and practice.
A Game Changing Idea
In the past, functional medicine was just an idea. Currently, it’s a movement that is a game changing idea in health care. This patient-centered approach seems to be on the rise because it is working. Whether or not this approach is right for you depends on your preferred communication style with medical practitioners; however, it seems to be the best way to uncover the cause of disease by taking into account all the ways that our health can be impacted. The systematic approach to functional medicine is extremely thorough.
Alternative methods have been explored for quite some time. Fourteen years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a trend toward less conventional approaches to healing. The majority of people they studied preferred a different approach because they found it more suitable to them. They liked the alternative approach because it was congruent with their own beliefs, values and philosophical orientation toward wellness and life. Functional medicine is no longer considered the wave of medicine’s future. It has reached fruition, and many people are finding it to be the best approach to health care management.