You’re not feeling well. You go to your doctor. He/she gives you less than 10-minutes to explain what’s going on, hands you a prescription or two, shakes your hand, and shows you the door.
Does this actually heal anything? Was the root cause of your illness addressed? In a word, no. And what’s more likely, this approach may even make you feel worse. Unfortunately, this is all too common and fails miserably in the care of chronic diseases that affect over 125 million Americans.
This is where Functional Medicine steps in.
What is “Functional Medicine?”
According to the Institute of Functional Medicine, “Functional Medicine is a personalized, systems-oriented model that empowers patients and practitioners to achieve the highest expression of health by working in collaboration to address the underlying causes of disease”.
That’s right, a whole medical specialty dedicated to finding and treating underlying causes and preventing chronic disease, rather than just treating disease symptoms.
In other words, Functional Medicine treats the patient and not the disease.
“It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”
For example, 3 different patients presented in my office with Graves’ disease. All had seen their doctor and had been prescribed Methimazole (an anti-thyroid drug) and had been told radioactive iodine or thyroidectomy may be necessary.
For one of them, the cause of their Graves’ was celiac disease and dietary modifications and nutrients to heal the gut were able to put the disease in remission. For the second, Epstein-Barr virus was found to be the cause and once treated, the disease went into remission. And finally, the third patient’s Graves’ was due to a recent traumatic experience, and with some stress management and nutritional recommendations, the disease was under control.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach in Functional Medicine. All 3 had different causes that needed to be treated accordingly. Since I addressed the person rather than the isolated set of symptoms, true healing was allowed to happen.
This is common in Functional Medicine and why I believe it’s the most effective way to treat patients – especially those with chronic diseases.
5 Core Values of Functional Medicine
1. Functional Medicine is patient-centered.
It is the ultimate in personalized, one-on-one, therapeutic relationships in which the doctor and patient work together to dig deep and find the underlying causes of illness.
Together we look at diet, lifestyle, environment, and personal history to discover why someone is un-well. No two patients are treated the same, because everyone has unique biological and environmental factors influencing their health.
While conventional doctors are trained to NOT get emotionally involved with patients, I decided that I would treat every patient with the love and care that I give my family and friends. It’s not uncommon for an initial appointment to last over an hour. Taking the time to listen and discuss health with a patient and provide a personalized health plan is the hallmark of Functional Medicine.
2. Functional Medicine is evidence-based.
Evidence-based medicine includes three key components: research-based evidence, clinical expertise (the clinician’s accumulated experience, knowledge, and clinical skills),and the patient’s values and preferences.
This allows the practitioner to assess the strength of the evidence as well as the risks and benefits of ordering diagnostic tests and treatments for each patient.
Evidence-based medicine is not just about using evidence to design treatment plans. It also encourages dialogue between patients and practitioner, so patients can share in the decision-making and make their values and preferences known. Together, patient and practitioner can determine an appropriate course of action.
Lastly, the most important reason for utilizing evidence-based medicine is that it works! There’s a lot of data that shows if health systems diligently use the best clinical evidence and expertise, and ensure treatments are consistent with patient values, they’ll realize better outcomes in every way.1
3. Functional Medicine looks for the cause of disease.
Just like in my example above, Functional Medicine is less concerned with making a diagnosis and more concerned with finding the underlying dysfunctions or imbalances.
Functional Medicine asks the questions: “Why do you have this problem in the first place?” and “How can we restore function?” In other words, Functional Medicine looks to find the root causes involved in why someone has a particular illness or disease and how those root causes can be corrected.
Fix the root cause, fix the disease.
4. Functional Medicine is concerned with disease prevention.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
– Benjamin Franklin
A typical conventional doctor is happy to continually prescribe medicine for symptom management, making patients dependent on this medicine (sometimes for life), never addressing the root cause of the illness, and making you a customer for life.
However, we know this does not lead to true healing or disease prevention.
On the other hand, Functional Medicine looks to not only heal disease but also to prevent it. Through the integration of diet, nutrition, supplements, lifestyle changes, and stress reduction the functions of organs are strengthened as a means of preventing disease and creating vibrant, sustainable health.
This leads to the next core value of Functional Medicine…
5. Functional Medicine educates patients.
The Functional Medicine practitioner’s goal is to educate and empower the patients to care for themselves. If people are educated about their current health issues, underlying causes and how to return to health, compliance will go up and a long-term health sustaining lifestyle will more likely be adopted.
I always tell my patients that I love them but don’t want to see them for the rest of their lives. In turn, I aim to provide enough education that they are able to make the correct choices when it comes to their health.
I believe that health is not merely the absence of disease, but a mindful, deliberate effort to prevent illness, prolong life, and maintain a disease-free body-mind. With the proper knowledge and education, you become the director of your health.
Unlike the disease care model of conventional medicine, Functional Medicine is true health care. It deals with primary prevention and underlying causes of chronic disease rather than simply removing or masking symptoms once they occur.
Functional Medicine emphasizes true healing, treatment of the person rather than a disease, and a partnership of joint responsibility between doctor and patient. In this way, Functional Medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
Ready to experience the healing power of Functional Medicine and how it can end your suffering with Graves’ disease?
Sign-up for a FREE 15-minute, one-on-one “Functional Medicine Q&A” with me where we’ll go over how Functional Medicine can specifically help you.
I look forward to talking with you.