What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is an emerging field of medical practice that is heavily grounded in clinical biochemistry and nutrition. It seeks to address the many underlying causes of chronic, complex disease rather than merely eliminating its symptoms. Functional medicine is science-based, and based on the following principles:
Focus on the person as a unique individual
Functional medicine, rather focusing on particular diseases, focuses on the patient as an individual, with a unique set of factors influencing his or her health (genetic, biochemical, environmental, and emotional).
Health as a state of balance; disease as a state of imbalance
Functional medicine sees health as a state of balance. Functional medicine sees disease as a state of imbalance which leads to a gradual and progressive loss of organ reserve. Rather than waiting for a full blown disease process to develop, functional medicine seeks to correct these imbalances early on, thus preventing the full expression of disease.
Web-like interconnection of multiple factors in illness
Functional medicine addresses the web-like interconnections of multiple factors that can influence health and disease. Rather than a limited ‘single problem-single treatment’ approach, the goal is to discover for each individual how multiple organ systems are interacting with environmental, genetic, nutritional, lifestyle and psychological factors to cause disease, and to intervene on multiple levels simultaneously to restore health and well being. The approach of functional medicine to medical problems is like that of systems engineering.
Doctor and patient work together as a team
In a functional medicine practice, the patient and doctor work together as partners in a comprehensive analysis of the various causes of their illness. The goal is learn what these causes are and how they interact to cause the problems (rather like solving a complex jigsaw puzzle).
Success with functional medicine requires motivation
In a functional medicine practice, the patients and doctor work together as partners in solving the puzzle of their illness, and doing this requires motivation on the part of patients. Willingness to make changes is essential, be they changes in diet, environment, habits or perceptions. To do this can be real work, but the rewards are worth it.
Functional medicine takes time
We always seem to find time for the ‘quick fix’, whereas making time for the ‘slow fix’ requires a lot more patience. With a functional medicine approach, improvement in health, though gradual, is usually long-lasting, because the underlying causes of an illness have been addressed, as opposed to the temporary relief that comes from symptomatic treatment.