What is functional medicine?


I keep hearing the term functional medicine. How is it different from regular medicine?


Functional medicine’s focus is on correcting physiological function versus manipulating the problem with drugs or removing it with surgery.

Different causes for the same symptom

Let’s say 10 different people visit a functional medicine practitioner with the same complaint, whether it is depression, low thyroid function, or fatigue. Each of those 10 people may have a different cause for the same health issue. For instance chronic stress may cause hypothyroid symptoms in one person and autoimmune disease may cause it for the next. With a variety of science-based lab tests, assessments, and in-office exams, the functional medicine practitioner looks at science-based physiology of the patient and where the dysfunction lies.

The body must be looked at as a whole

Also, recognizing that the body is a highly complex web of interrelated functions, functional medicine practitioners do not specialize in just one area. For instance it’s impossible to consider hormone balance without also considering gut health, or to address brain function without also addressing the immune system. All these systems act in concert with one another.

Reversing trends toward disease

Functional medicine practitioners look for trends toward disease that can be reversed before drugs or surgery may be necessary. This requires an in-depth knowledge of physiology and how the different systems in the body work.

Principles of functional medicine may include:

  • Adjustments to the diet
  • Lifestyle changes (such as eating a hearty breakfast, or proper sleep “hygiene”)
  • Science-based lab tests to spot trends toward disease before they become pathologies that require drugs or surgery
  • The use of botanicals or nutritional compounds to improve physiological function
  • Body-based practices such as chiropractic or acupuncture as an adjunct
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