Functional medicine is not a new concept, but in recent years it has enjoyed an increase in popularity among chiropractors who pursue a nutritional and holistic approach to treating patients. It is a very effective method of treating many chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
The basis of functional medicine is holistic treatment methods that focus on restoring proper metabolism within the cells. This is accomplished by reducing oxidative stress and the cumulative toxic load within the body, allowing mitochondrial respiration to normalize.
This, in turn, encourages cellular energy production to return to normal as well which results in diminished symptoms of chronic illness. It also works very well with nutritional therapies used to treat diseases and disorders.
In chronic disease that is moderate, or even mild, a singular treatment approach may not be enough. Doctors using nutritional therapies or other treatments often find that incorporation functional medicine into the program has very good results.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is a methodology that utilizes medical treatments or practices that have a strong emphasis on not only curing or relieving illness and chronic conditions within the body, but to restore optimal functioning to the body. It is comprised of systems that incorporate alternative medicine and holistic practices, including nutritional therapy.
The primary intent of functional medicine is to go beyond the condition and its symptoms to address the root or cause of the disease. This is accomplished through a thorough approach that is systems oriented. It also relies on engagement of both the practitioner and the patient as they form a partnership, working together to bring about healing and improve wellness.
Why is Functional Medicine Necessary?
As incidences of chronic disease like cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, mental illness, and heart disease, continue to steadily rise, it is important to not only find ways to combat these conditions, but to draw patients into the process so that they are no longer spectators of their own healthcare, but partners with their physicians.
The approach that most doctors take to medicine is focused on acute care. The standard is diagnosing and treating illness or trauma that requires urgent care on the short term such as a broken bone, the flu, or appendicitis. There is a system already in place for treating these conditions and doctors only need to follow it, applying prescribed treatments that are specific to the condition such as surgery or medications. These treatments tend to address the symptoms or immediate problem but rarely target the core or cause.
This acute care method misses the mark when it comes to treating chronic diseases. This type of complex medicine requires a different methodology and a different set of tools that must address each patient’s unique genetics as well as lifestyle and exposure to environmental toxins.
These elements all directly contribute to the increase in chronic diseases in the modern western world. Mostly this is due to the significant disparity between how doctors practice medicine and the research that is being conducted in the sciences – in particular, chronic illness.
The connection simply isn’t there and as a result the majority of doctors are ill equipped for adequately treating chronic illness. They are not trained in identifying the underlying causes of chronic illness, or in supportive therapies including exercise, diet, and nutrition. They have an idea, but often are not able to take that rudimentary knowledge, expound upon it and apply it to a patient’s specific medical needs.
What Makes Functional Medicine Different?
Functional medicine shifts the focus away from the immediacy of acute care and hones in on long term treatment that addresses the whole patient. It involves not just the treatment of complex disease, but also their prevention and origin. There are three primary hallmark traits of functional medicine:
- Care that is centered on the patient. Functional medicine is focused on patient centered care. It strips away traditional notions that health is simply the absence of disease and introduces it as a positive vitality. The doctor takes time to listen to the patient, to learn about them as individuals, drawing them into the process and making them partners in their own care.
- A healthcare approach that is science based and integrative. Practitioners of functional medicine think outside the box, taking into account a complex web of data that may lead to illness including lifestyle, diet, physiology, genetic makeup, and the patient’s family and medical history. It incorporates all factors, both internal and external, that affect optimal functioning of the body.
- A system that integrates the best, most effective medical practices. Functional medicine combines Western medical customs with medical practices that are often termed as “integrative” or “alternative.” It is this unique mix that draws the focus to prevention and whole body treatment including exercise, diet, nutrition, and lifestyle changes. It also incorporates the most up to date laboratory testing technology with a wide variety of treatment techniques that are not only limited to medications, but also supplements, stress management, detoxification, and therapeutic diets.