What Is Functional Medicine? An Absolute Beginner’s Guide

What is functional medicine? Here's everything you need to know as a beginner about what it is and how it differs from integrative medicine

October 4, 2018
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If you’ve started exploring non-traditional healthcare options, you may find yourself asking: “What is functional medicine?” Here’s everything you need to know. Although it’s expensive, Americans spend over $30 billion dollars a year on healthcare.

With the rise of disease and large quantities of money spent on medicine, functional medicine is proving beyond trendy. But what is functional medicine? How does it work, and why is it becoming an option for so many? Read on as we explore the all the angles of functional medicine.

What is Functional Medicine?

At its core, functional medicine aims to identify the root cause of disease. It recognizes the unique structure of our bodies and treats the disease, not the symptoms.

Traditional or conventional medicine seeks to treat the symptoms of an illness or disease. Doctors will prescribe a treatment plan or medication to take away the symptoms but not necessarily work to uncover the reason the patient is experiencing symptoms. When certain diseases are treated conventionally, like heart disease and high blood pressure, typically each patient will receive the same treatment.

This is where functional medicine differs. Functional medicine works to pinpoint why the individual is sick. This means the care will vary from patient to patient. A functional medicine doctor will ask you questions about all aspects of your lifestyle, run lab tests, and produce treatment designed for you.

It’s important to remember that functional medicine does not ignore medications but asks what the best course of treatment is for the individual. Some will focus on prevention also.

Why People Would Seek out Functional Medicine

Most people with chronic diseases will look to functional medicine when other methods have failed. Some forms of chronic disease that are treated with functional medicine are:

  • Some allergies
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Pain
  • High-Blood Pressure
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Arthritis
  • ADD/ADHD

The medical care you choose is a personal decision. Some people believe in a more natural methodology for treating ailments and diseases. They choose functional medicine approach over conventional.

A perfect example of this would be to look at the many health benefits associated with CBD. As we mentioned chronic pain and IBS in the data points above, CBD has also been noted to help with inflammation and sleeping as well.

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This is just another example of how non-prescription medications can work wonders when individuals are willing to put in the time and effort to understand the different options out there.

Where Do You Find a Functional Medicine Doctor?

Because of the difficulty of deciphering which doctor has been trained in functional medicine, it can be tricky to find one. Most doctors with traditional titles (MD, DO, DC, NP, and ND), can practice functional medicine, like the ones at Bliss Medicines.

A simple Google search in your area will bring up some prospects. Add in your condition, and you may find specialists.

However, don’t click the first doctor you see. Here are some key characteristics of a good functional medicine doctor:

  • They are your partner in maintaining your health.
  • They recommend natural method treatments such as dietary changes.
  • They make sure you are comfortable.
  • They keep you informed on treatments.

Read reviews, make notes, and ask several questions at your appointment.

Can You Trust It?

Functional medicine is a science-based method for healing the body. It shows how connected the body is to each part and how they’re in sync with each other.

Doctors who use natural cures do so from scientific-method based research. They believe in the body’s ability to heal itself using natural methods and have the clinical studies to back up their treatment methods. A good physician is always educating themselves.

The Difference Between Functional Medicine and Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine often can get entangled with functional medicine.

The main takeaway from integrative medicine is that while it’s also holistic, focusing on many of the same remedies as functional medicine, it lacks the systems-based approach that makes functional medicine stand out.

Integrative medicine aims to heal the person as a whole and incorporates aspects of modern healthcare, mingled with changes in lifestyle and diet.

How Do Functional Medicine Doctors Diagnose and Treat Disease?

Functional medicine doctors take into account your lifestyle, environment, and genetics when diagnosing or treating a disease.

It aligns with the philosophy of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. He believed food was medicine, and this is the path functional medicine follows.

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Most functional medicine doctors will run lab tests on your blood, urine, salvia, and more to uncover your body’s troubles. They’re looking for deficiencies, infections, or imbalances. They will ask you plenty of questions and work alongside you to form your treatment.

Functional medicine uses a biology-based method for discovering the root cause of each condition.

Each symptom may be from numerous conditions. For example, inflammation is a symptom that can result in different conditions such as depression, arthritis, or heart disease. By using this model, physicians have plenty to work with to find the cause of your symptoms.

Typical treatment would not include dropping off a prescription at your local pharmacy. Instead, they may suggest dietary changes, vitamins, hormone therapy, or other natural ways to fight your disease.

Should I Switch Physicians?

That’s up to you! If you’re unhappy with the care you’re receiving from your primary care physician, consider looking into a functional medicine doctor.

Who knows? It could be a life-changing decision.

What’s The Future of Functional Medicine?

America is only getting sicker, especially millennials. And as the research continues to show that food can heal, people will probably begin turning to functional medicine for help.

One large reason for the growth of functional medicine is its customized health approach. They do not hand you a prescription. Rather, they link arms with you, run extensive tests, and try to nail down the ‘why’ of your symptoms.

The one-on-one time you receive from them is valuable. This kind of customized patient care is what every sick person desires.

Functional Medicine: A Different Approach to Health Care

Functional medicine is making headway in the medical community for its approaches to disease. Using the biology-based method to find the reason for chronic illness, it may soon become a norm in every doctor’s office. Hopefully the question, “What is functional medicine?” will no longer be mysterious to you.

If your suffering from chronic illness, consider finding a functional medicine doctor and discussing your symptoms with them to find relief.

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