Functional Medicine: A Whole-Body Approach to Wellness

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What is Functional Medicine?

If you’ve ever seen a medical doctor, taken prescription drugs, or had a surgical procedure you’ve experienced the wonderful world of conventional medicine. This is the traditional go-to approach for treating symptoms of illness or injury, and a great way to have you feeling better as quickly as possible.

But, what if feeling better quickly isn’t your only goal? What if you want to perform at your optimal level every day? To be free from chronic illness, have the most energy, and be in the best mood? Then this goes beyond just healing an acute problem.

Functional medicine is an alternative, whole-body approach to treating disease, chronic illness and injury that focuses on identifying and treating the root cause of an ailment in addition to the symptoms.

This brief overview will help you better understand the basics of how functional medicine works, including a few pros and cons. Then, you can decide if it seems like the right path for you

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How Does Functional Medicine Work?

Functional medicine builds on the foundation of conventional medicine by taking additional steps to understand the body as a whole instead of just the system or part that needs healing. In addition to treating symptoms, functional medicine practitioners seek to identify the cause of a disease or illness, and eliminate it at the source.

Although synthetic drugs and chemicals may provide faster results, a holistic, non-invasive approach often lasts longer with less negative side effects. The ultimate goal is to boost your overall health and quality of life. This is achieved by improving your physical body, emotional health and wellbeing, spiritual life, and environment. 

Functional medicine practitioners strive to develop a deeper relationship with their patients by learning a lot about their family history and genetics. This means you may have to provide a bit more personal information than you’re used to. An initial session with a functional medicine doctor usually takes 1 to 2 hours with follow up sessions taking 30 to 60 mins long. 

This is used to create a personalized integrative treatment plan for each patient by adding the right nutrients, supplements, healthy foods, and practices to their daily regimen. 

What Does It Treat?

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Functional medicine aims to treat you as a whole person more than one specific problem. Usually the first step is to make healthy changes in lifestyle, diet, and overall outlook. Although this is a simple and non-invasive approach, it takes time, commitment and motivation to change habits that often times have been developed over years.

This is certainly more difficult than taking a pill or rubbing an ointment, but the results often last longer with little to no side effects. Unlike synthetic medicine that enters the body and forces a physiological response, lifestyle changes work with the body to gradually achieve balance and better health.

With these differences, it’s apparent that conventional medicine is needed in emergency and acute situations, such as a life-threatening situation like anaphylactic shock, while functional medicine is better suited to reverse a chronic condition.

So why are people with diabetes or high blood pressure treated with life-long medication? The answer lies in the type of medical care they received. Most conventional or allopathic doctors are trained in the conventional western model of medicine; therefore, they utilize medication to reverse the symptoms of chronic disease.

A functional medicine doctor looks at these conditions as an effect of some cause, and would put more emphasis on changing the actions that caused the overall outcome, which could be diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. It should be noted that functional medicine doctors can and sometimes do prescribe prescription medications when needed, but that is not their first-line approach.

Functional Medicine has been used for the following chronic conditions:

  • Chronic Headaches
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Allergies
  • Gluten Intolerance/Celiac
  • Digestive Issues
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Thyroid issues
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • ADHD

Who Is It For?

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Functional medicine should be considered for those who want a more holistic wellness approach to healing. If you’re ready to commit to the lifestyle changes needed to reverse chronic disease, or want to avoid the negative side effects of prescription drugs then functional medicine may just be the approach you’re looking for.

It’s important to keep in mind that some functional medicine services are not covered by insurance, and therefore, may require higher out-of-pocket costs; however, many have found the investment well worth the financial costs, especially when other types of treatments have failed.

If you’re ready to try functional medicine or have questions, it’s important to Holistic medicine experts that you can feel comfortable with, who has the proper training, and who can explain the treatment process including a breakdown of why labs, tests, supplements, etc are needed.