Conventional medicine has been viewed for some time now as limiting, impersonal, and too focused on symptoms rather than the root cause. Patients are often prescribed synthetic medicine, and most procedures are invasive and surgical.
Some conventional doctors have expanded their practice to include a more holistic approach in treating their patients. Known as functional medicine doctors, they are Western-trained, but they dive deeper into the personal life of the patient, including their environment and lifestyle. In the case of chronic diseases, functional medicine doctors examine factors like nutrition, along with intangible factors like personal relationships, stressors, lifestyles, sleep quality, and emotional well-being.
A Canadian doctor, Sir William Osler, and one of the four founding professors of John Hopkins Hospital, once said, “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.” This is what functional medicine doctors aim to do. Here are a few reasons you may want to see this type of physician:
Chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, ADD/ADHD, and depression do not just materialize overnight. They manifest after several years or decades of unrecognized physical, emotional, psychological and environmental issues, and they cannot be adequately addressed through pills or invasive procedures. The root causes are usually deeply ingrained in the past, and functional medicine seeks to draw these out.
Expect your doctor to examine your personal history. They could prescribe certain diagnostic tests, and your health plan could include personalized vitamin supplementation, changes in diet, gut health work-up, detoxification, psychological sessions, and even other modalities like meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and herbal remedies. While your doctor’s approach may include prescription drugs, these are usually prescribed only when absolutely necessary.
In a conventional scenario, patients are expected to follow what the doctor tells them to do. With functional medicine, you become part of your own health solution. It is very empowering and it makes you accountable for the outcome as well.
A functional medicine doctor’s job is to examine your life, triggers, lifestyle, habits, and interpersonal relationships to form a better understanding of how your chronic illness developed. Expect them to spend more time with you than regular conventional doctors do. Some functional medicine doctors spend hours with their patients, and even do home visits. Trust is an important component of your doctor-patient relationship as they aim to gain a holistic perspective of your medical issues.
Functional medicine believes in the connection between the mind and body, so seeing them early on gives you the advantage of identifying bad habits and environmental factors that could already be causing harm to your body.
With functional medicine, you can begin your road to wellness at any point of your life. If you are open to the idea that there is more than one path to wellness aside from what we know as conventional medicine, it is time to take a serious look at functional medicine.