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What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a complete rethinking of health and disease based on understanding the whole body. It seeks to identify and take care of the root causes of disease.  It is a shift from medicine by symptoms to medicine by cause. It treats the “whole body” as an integrated system. It searches for underlying causes in the interaction between an individual’s genetic uniqueness, lifestyle, environment and diet.

Functional medicine then engages patient and practitioner in designing a personally, tailored health-management program that couples pharmaceutical science, where necessary, with changes in the patient’s environment, diet, and lifestyle.

How is Functional Medicine Different?

    • Patient-centered care. The focus is on patient-centered care by listening to the patient and learning his or her story. Through the discovery process, treatments address the individual’s unique needs.
    • A functional, science-based healthcare approach. Practitioners look “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. They consider internal (mind, body and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.
    • Combine best medical practices. Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with what are sometimes considered “integrative” medicine, creating a focus on prevention and treatment through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.

Why Do We Need Functional Medicine?

Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Physicians prescribe treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom only. There is a huge gap between emerging research in basic sciences and the ways doctors practice. The gap of integrating this research into medical practice is enormous particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness. Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of chronic disease and to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet and exercise to both treat and prevent illnesses in their patients.

Complementary and alternative medicine has never been more popular. Nearly 40 percent of adults report using complementary and alternative medicine, also called CAM for short. Doctors are embracing CAM therapies, too, often combining them with mainstream medical therapies — spawning the term “integrative medicine.” Click here to learn more about CAM on the Mayo Clinic website.


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