Collaborative, holistic, healing-focused—this is the Functional Medicine approach to healthcare. If it sounds different than what you’ve experienced in the conventional setting as a patient or practitioner, that’s because it is. Purposely. Our current medical model can’t stop the chronic disease epidemic, the biggest health threat we face today; it was never designed to. But Functional Medicine can, precisely because its methodology addresses the root cause of chronic illness to foster real wellness in its patients, as well as its clinicians.
What Is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine is true healthcare. Conventional medicine is really disease management: its doctors focus on controlling illness once it has already occurred, usually by suppressing symptoms with prescription drugs.
Functional Medicine practitioners approach wellness from the other way around, implementing the very highest level of care. They work closely with patients to help them prevent disease from happening in the first place; if it does, they act as “health detectives,” investigating the whole body, then treating the underlying cause to reverse the diagnosis as completely as possible, often without surgery or medication. Ultimately, patients not only get well, but stay well.
The Problem with the Conventional Approach to Care
Six in 10 U.S. adults have a chronic disease; four in 10 suffer from two or more. Why? Because conventional medicine itself is outdated and completely ineffective against today’s chronic illness epidemic.
It’s the wrong paradigm and the wrong delivery model. Conventional medicine evolved during a time when acute diseases—like infections that were relatively simple to cure—brought people to the doctor. Now, most patients visit the doctor with a full-blown chronic problem that’s difficult to treat. The strategies for reversing these conditions, and not just masking their symptoms? Diet and other lifestyle shifts. Yet the conventional system, with its 10-minute appointments, makes supporting patients through behavior change nearly impossible. Fortunately, the Functional Medicine approach prioritizes such support, for prevention and healing.
The Functional Approach
In Functional Medicine, practitioners search for the source of disease—the root cause—whether that disease is anxiety or Alzheimer’s.
Perhaps surprisingly, more often than not the underlying explanation isn’t genetic. Rather, it has to do with the exposome: the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, even our social connections and the environment we live in.
For example, a Functional Medicine practitioner might uncover a nutritional deficiency as the cause of your condition, which can be corrected with vitamins and dietary changes, or find that it’s due to stress and recommend mindfulness. Although clinicians don’t rule out medications or surgery when necessary, the Functional Medicine approach prescribes nutritional, lifestyle, and behavior modifications first.