The term Functional Medicine can seem quite ambiguous. Although this field is becoming more common due to voices from US physicians hailing it as the future of health care, functional medicine is still generally unknown to the public.
Differences between traditional medicine and functional medicine
The term and the field of functional medicine refers to something completely different from what we now know as conventional medicine or the standard model of care. To fully understand what functional medicine is, it is important to contrast it with conventional medicine.
Traditionally, a doctor uses drugs or hormones as therapeutic tools to treat dysfunction or disease. For various conditions, such as low thyroid, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., the standard of care is generally the same.
Your general practitioner may decide to treat you, or may choose to refer you to a specialist. A GP and a specialist have access to the same basic tool: medications.
Training in the standard of care model consists of diagnosing a disease and relating that disease to the corresponding medication. The standard model of care works well for acute illnesses, trauma, infections, and emergencies.
Sadly, it fails miserably to care for the chronic diseases that affect more than 125 million people in the US alone. A number that is rising not just in the US, but in most Western countries.
Chronic conditions, such as allergic, digestive, hormonal, metabolic and neurological problems, that many people today suffer from on a daily basis, are finding solutions in the field of functional medicine.
So what exactly is functional medicine and how can it help the millions of people with chronic diseases?
5 basic principles that define functional medicine
1. Functional medicine views us all as different, genetically and biochemically unique. This personalized medical care treats the individual, not the disease. It supports the body's normal healing mechanisms naturally rather than attacking disease directly.
2. Functional medicine is deeply based on science. The latest research shows us that what happens within us is connected in a web of relationships. Understanding these relationships allows us to see deeply the workings of the body.
3. Your body is intelligent and has the capacity for self-regulation, which is expressed through a dynamic balance of all the systems of your body.
4. Your body has the ability to heal and prevent almost all the diseases of aging.
5. Health is not only the absence of disease, but a state of immense vitality.
Herein lies the clear distinction and definition of Functional Medicine. Instead of asking, "Which drug matches this disease?" Functional medicine asks the vital questions that very few mainstream physicians ask: "Why do you have this problem in the first place?" "Why has the function been lost?" "What can we do to restore function?"
In other words, functional medicine seeks to find the root cause or mechanism involved with any loss of function, ultimately revealing why a set of symptoms exists in the first place, or why the patient has a particular disease label.
Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs. Together they help the body fight infections and other diseases. When germs such as bacteria or viruses invade your body, they attack and multiply. This is called an infection. The infection causes the disease that makes you sick. Your immune system protects you from the disease by fighting off the germs.