Demystifying Functional Medicine: Everything You Need to Know
You know how it goes. You visit your doctor with a concern – maybe you’re experiencing chronic fatigue or have pain in your joints. Your doctor assesses your condition, comes up with a diagnosis, and prescribes you medication.
You take the medication, and it works. Your symptoms lessen, and you’re able to go above your normal, day-to-day activities. But your well-being is directly reliant on the medication – if you decide to stop taking it, you’re back to square one.
Sound familiar? This conventional treatment process can leave you feeling frustrated and helpless. It’s not the best for doctors, either. Health professionals that genuinely care about their patients’ quality of life want real, concrete solutions that target the root cause, not just the symptom.
That’s where functional medicine comes into play.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it before. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, functional medicine offers a radically different approach to health and healing. In this article, we’ll demystify functional medicine and reveal its many applications and benefits.
Let’s get started.
What is functional medicine?
According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), functional medicine is a systematic, science-based methodology that directs efforts toward identifying and treating the root cause of disease.
When taking a functional medicine approach, diagnoses can be linked to more than one cause. For example, a diagnosis of depression may stem from several contributing factors, such as inflammation. Similarly, something like inflammation can lead to several distinct diagnoses.
How each cause manifests is dependent on an individual’s environment, lifestyle, and genes. Treatments that address and treat the root cause are the only solutions that deliver lasting benefit.
What can functional medicine treat?
A functional medicine practice can assist with the treatment of several illnesses and conditions. When the root cause is identified, practitioners can help patients reset the trajectory of their health and regain their quality of life.
Functional medicine can be used in the treatment of the following, among others:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic migraines
- Gut health
- Hormone imbalances
- Memory loss
- Motor neuron disease
- Movement issues
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Sleep issues
- Vision issues
This list is by no means comprehensive. Speak to your trusted functional medicine practitioner in Springfield MO for a personalized recommendation.
Core elements of functional medicine
The practice of functional medicine is founded on six core elements. And it’s these that set functional medicine apart from more conventional approaches, ensuring patients reap as much benefit as possible.
Element 1: Interaction between genes and environment
Functional medicine uses an understanding of each individual patient at a cellular level to determine how that person’s genes interact with their environment. From there, practitioners can target personalized interventions that target specific, individualized problems – such as inflammation – that are known to cause illness.
Element 2: An upstream approach
Instead of utilizing drugs that block the damaging impact of end products, functional medicine uses an upstream approach to prevent the production of end products altogether.
Think of it this way: Imagine a running tap. Instead of putting in the plug to block water from flowing down the drain, functional medicine turns the tap off.
Element 3: Dynamic treatment plans
Functional medicine is holistic and leverages a variety of interventions to help patients achieve optimal health. This includes everything from nutrition and exercise to stress management and sleep health.
All interventions are tailored to address both the triggers and the disease.
Element 4: Recognizing the patient’s context
People don’t exist in a vacuum. We are all products of our past, our environment, and our lifestyle. Functional medicine takes a structured approach to gathering insight into an individual’s unique circumstances – who they are and what their life is really like.
Element 5: Championing systems biology
A functional medicine practitioner aims to identify how imbalances in biological systems impact other areas of the body. This is in contrast to an organ systems-based approach.
Element 6: The patient is at the center of it all
Critically, functional medicine is patient-centered and patient-directed. In many ways, it’s common sense – the only way to find a balanced, beneficial, and sustainable treatment plan is to align all efforts to the patient’s goals and limitations.
Typically, functional medicine begins with an extensive exploration of the patient, their medical history, their story, and any potential causes of their health conditions. Practitioners work closely with patients to design realistic treatment plans that yield real, concrete results.
What are the benefits of functional medicine?
Functional medicine offers several compelling benefits. Let’s take a look at a few.
Functional medicine treats you as an individual
Functional medicine isn’t about box-checking and band-aid solutions. It’s a journey that recognizes your genetic and biochemical quirks. In other words, functional medicine treats the individual, not the disease. The outcome is a long-term recovery that doesn’t just alleviate symptoms – it eliminates the cause.
Functional medicine targets the root cause
For those looking to overcome their illness – rather than put a band-aid on it – functional medicine may be just the solution. Functional medicine works to overcome the root cause. Instead of treating the symptoms, the goal is to identify and address underlying issues for lasting alleviation, health, and happiness.
Functional medicine is backed by science
Doctors that practice functional medicine use evidence-based research that draws connections between the body’s various systems.
Is functional medicine right for me?
When it comes to health, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We are all individuals with quirks and characters unique to each of us. We lead different lifestyles, have different histories, and have different genes.
So, if you are sick and tired of ineffective narrow-minded, short-term solutions and are ready to shift the trajectory of your health, functional medicine could be for you.
Get in touch today to schedule an appointment with Dr Sharlin at our functional medicine practice in Springfield MO. We’d be more than happy to listen to your concerns, answer any questions, and help you decide whether or not functional medicine is right for you.