Getting to the Root Functional What? Functional Medicine
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Perhaps you have heard this term from the voices of Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Frank Lipman, or Dr. Mark Hyman, each praising functional medicine as the future of health care.
However for most of us, functional medicine is generally unknown and often misunderstood by the general public.
Functional medicine is a new way of thinking about health care, which gets to the root cause of disease. It doesn’t focus so much on symptoms as on the question of why you have specific symptoms and health conditions in the first place.
As defined by the Institute for Functional Medicine
Functional Medicine determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.
The Functional Medicine model is an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. It requires a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors and leverages that data to direct personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes.
One forward looking institution, the Cleveland Clinic, developed a department of Functional Medicine. Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine is a collaboration between Cleveland Clinic and the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), led by Mark Hyman, MD, IFM Board President of Clinical Affairs, Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and New York Times bestselling author.
In this video IFM Board President of Clinical Affairs, Mark Hyman, MD explains what functional medicine is all about:
Another concept to think about is this. There can be many different causes for the same symptom. Migraines, headaches, sinus pain, anxiety, depression, ear pain, and fibromyalgia can have hundreds of potential causes that are rarely investigated. By using sophisticated diagnostics, functional medicine examines, identifies and treats the underlying causes of these conditions.
Here, Mark Hyman, MD explains why one condition like depression, can have many different causes and how one cause can lead to many different conditions.
The Functional Medicine Approach
The Medicine of Why
Focuses on identifying the root cause of disease with the goal of eliminating the underlying problems versus masking symptoms with drugs or resorting to surgery
Looks at the many different causes behind the same condition
Science-Based Health Care
Is deeply science-based, backed by the latest research and best medical practice
Uses cutting-edge diagnostics and interpretations
Seeks out the best personalized-specific treatments, including drug therapies, alternative and holistic treatments.
Designed to reverse, stop or prevent the disease and its related symptoms.
The functional medicine doctor uses both herbal and drug therapies, as well as
bio-identical hormone replacement
supplemental vitamins and minerals
Health-Oriented, not Disease-Oriented
Strives to enhance the body’s innate healing ability
Optimizes wellness through preventative and restorative lifestyle strategies, rather than taking conventional medicine’s disease management approach
Holistic and Integrated
Treats the whole person; views the body as an interconnected system
Addresses the mind, body, spirit connection
Examines the physical and emotional aspects of illness – such as stress, which is a potent disruptor of many enzymes, hormones, and the nervous system
Encourages patients to partner with their doctors and healthcare providers to improve patients’ health and well-being
Relies on two-way patient-physician communication as an integral part of the functional medicine practice. This model allows for more quality face-time with the doctor – an average office visit lasts between 30-60 minutes.
Emphasizes education and health coaching to improve compliance, leading to better patient health outcomes
Provides an additional layer of care and more support between appointments
Personalized, and Patient-Focused
Recognizes each person is unique: genetically and biochemically
Delivers personalized health care, treating the individual, not the disease
Supports normal healing mechanisms of the body
Accepts the fact that cookie-cutter solutions may not work
Factors such as genetics, exposure to infections and toxins, intestinal flora (gut health), immune system and detox functions, overall attitude, and physical environment for example, can all affect one’s current and future health. Additionally, lifestyle factors like sleep, exercise, relationships and nutrition may also be explored.
Functional Medicine, Option for Chronic Conditions
The standard model of care works extremely well for acute diseases, trauma, infection, and medical emergencies. Conventional medicine saves lives. This is indisputable.
Sadly, conventional medicine falls short in the care the chronic diseases that affect millions of Americans. The facts are arresting:
In 2005, 133 million Americans—almost 1 out of every 2 adults—had at least one chronic illness.
As a nation, more than 75% of our health care spending is on people with chronic conditions.
Chronic disease is the public health challenge of the 21st Century.
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, (2009 report)
Tackling chronic disease requires a closer and more in-depth look. The functional medicine model may be better equipped to make a thorough investigation into the progression of symptoms, and the underlying triggers contributing to these chronic conditions in the first place.