Functional Medicine

Functional/Alternative Medicine

While traditional modern medicine works ideally for certain situations, like emergencies and first aid, functional medicine, also known as alternative medicine, does something far more important. It represents an evolution of how medicine works in the age of vast knowledge and advanced tools, which come together to provide a more systemic approach to medicine that focuses on the entire patient, and not a simple set of symptoms catered to a specific condition.

This type of healthcare is more comprehensive, and it is far more in line with the current lifestyles of most people. Doctors who practice functional medicine spend time understanding their patients on a large scale, discerning how their lifestyle impacts their health, as well as their environment and family history. The result is a stylized approach to medicine that is tailored to each individual, rendering the overall effect of medical treatment to be far more efficient by targeting the root issues causing any disease you might experience. This approach is essentially preventative in nature, since the idea isn't to cure an illness, but to create a body in which illness can not exist to begin with.

At its heart, there are six principles that guide the practitioners of functional medicine, which are listed below:

  • Individuality
  • Practitioners treat every patient as the unique individual they are, which includes taking genetic and environmental factors into account.
  • Patient Centric
  • Traditional modern medicine focuses on eliminating diseases, while functional medicine focuses on creating health.
  • Balance
  • All aspects of the patient must come into balance in order for optimal health to be achieved. Mind, body, and spirit must come into harmony in a dynamic way.
  • Connections
  • Functional medicine training includes the understanding that internal factors of health are all interconnected.
  • Health Focused
  • Functional doctors will work to create a level of health in your body that goes beyond the absence of disease. They understand how to work with your body to promote maximum vitality.
  • Preservation
  • By achieving optimal health at as young an age as possible, you increase your life span while simultaneously increasing the amount of healthy time you have left. Forcing your body to work harder at a young age only makes it harder to perform those same functions later in life.

One of the hallmarks of this integrative medicine style is that it allows the patient to have much more input. Doctor and patient work together to find an approach that suits the preferences of the patient, and the patient uses those preferences to guide therapeutic decisions. This creates a sort of partnership between the practitioner and the patient, which is thought to instill a sense of responsibility in the patient for their own health, in a more direct way than through most forms of modern medicine.

Functional vs Standard Medicine

The primary difference between these two forms of medicine is their final goal. The goal of standard western medicine is to diagnosis a disease based on symptoms presented in the patient, then treat the symptoms with a set of predetermined therapies, usually based on pharmaceutical drugs. However, the very definition of functional medicine is different from the standard form. The goal of functional medicine is to generate well-being through optimal health and a nourishing life.

You might notice that these two methods are so fundamentally different because functional medicine takes an approach that is so much wider in scale than standard medicine. Where standard medicine might treat symptoms, functional medicine treats the cause of the symptoms.

BBC Production on the Study of Herbal Medicine
(59 Minutes)