What is Functional Medicine? An Ultimate Guide

what is functional medicine

According to the World Happiness Report, there’s a direct correlation between health and happiness — and the bad news is that they both seem to be on the decline in the United States.

The good news is that there are alternative therapeutic medicinal systems that can improve your overall health, lifestyle, and general happiness. One of those systems is functional medicine.

So what is functional medicine? In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about it, including how it works, its benefits, and how to get started.

Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine refers to the practice of helping people manage their chronic diseases by finding their root causes. This system is centred around individual patients, so each is customized to meet their unique needs.

A doctor of functional medicine uses their expertise to find the “why” behind a person’s chronic illness. By using holistic medical strategies, they gather data from many different sources to find the root cause of the disease.

For example, think of a patient that is overweight, but can’t find any way to lose weight, no matter how hard they try. Instead of looking at surface-level symptoms, a functional medicine doctor would take a closer look at alternative reasons for the disease.

They might look at lesser-known causes of obesity like Cushing’s syndrome

Benefits of Functional Medicine

The main benefit of functional medicine is that patients can receive unique, personalized treatment plans for their specific problems.

In typical treatments, patients have to abide by preset plans that might not take other factors into account. This can lead them to feel “forced” into a kind of treatment.

Functional medicine gives patients more attention. It digs deep into a patient’s history and background. This includes factors like their:

  • Unique history
  • Environment
  • Lifestyle
  • Genetics

The treatment plan will focus on the underlying causes of diseases, rather than surface-level causes. Most modern approaches focus on making a diagnosis, while functional medicine treats the “why.”

The idea is that by removing the root cause, the smaller issues will subside and give patients a longer-lasting solution. 

Although functional medicine is a relatively new practice, it is already showing amazing results when it comes to chronic illness management. Because of the unique approach, it also creates a much stronger relationship between the patient and the doctor.

In standard medical practices, patients often feel rushed through their appointments. They might find that certain aspects might be overlooked and are treated as just another subject in a category. With functional medicine, doctors work closely with patients and build strong relationships.

It has proven to be very effective for mental health patients and sensitive patients that need more attention.

How Does Functional Medicine Work?

As mentioned earlier, functional medicine follows a more holistic approach when diagnosing a patient. It follows a few important principles.

The first principle is to realize that all patients are different. They have different genetics, environments, and variables that affect their illnesses. This helps focus more on “patient treatment” rather than simply “disease treatment.”

Although it might seem like an alternative medicine treatment, it is still completely science-based. Doctors will focus on how different networks in the body relate to each other to help the patient. 

Another principle that it follows is the understanding that bodies tend to self-regulate. They look for outside factors that could be knocking the body off balance.

Functional medicine promotes positive vitality. This allows bodies to have better health, lifespan, happiness, and satisfaction.

Functional Medicine vs. Conventional Medicine

There are some key differences between functional and conventional medicine.

Conventional medicine is high-tech. They use the latest equipment, practices, and gear. On the other hand, functional medicine is both high-tech and high-touch. 

Going off our previous example, let’s say a patient wants to lose weight. A doctor of traditional medicine might focus on managing specific symptoms.

A functional medical doctor would look at several different areas. They might recommend treatments for their mental health to aid their weight loss. 

Conventional medicine is based on specialities. For example, if you have an issue and see a bladder specialist, they might find that you have an issue with your kidney. They will then refer you to a different specialist. 

In functional medicine, doctors follow a holistic approach. They’ll have everything you need in one place. 

So What Does This Mean in Simple Terms?

Standard medicine is straightforward.

If you have a symptom, you go to a doctor. The doctor either gives you medicine or refers you to a specialist. If you break a bone, you get an X-ray and get medicine. 

This straightforward process is fine for most simple issues. However, it doesn’t work well for more complex issues. Chronic illnesses like allergies, acid reflux, obesity, and more are much more complicated.

In functional medicine, the doctor will give you a more complete diagnosis that has more all-encompassing treatment.

Let’s look at another example. If you’re sick, they’ll give you a nutrient-rich diet that is customized to your genetic needs. This can boost your body’s natural healing ability and treat symptoms at the root.

Compare this to simply prescribing antibiotics. Instead of using man-made pills to treat the symptoms, you’re making use of your body’s ability to heal itself.

Treat Your Illnesses at the Root of the Problem

That’s the answer to the question: what is functional medicine? By giving patients more attention and looking at their problems from a holistic perspective, doctors can treat their problems at its root. 

There are several benefits to functional medicine, including a stronger doctor-patient relationship and more natural remedies. 

If you’re ready to get compassionate care and professionalism with a holistic approach, look no further. Reach out to Fairbanks Family Wellness today!