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By treating each patient’s unique fundamental causes of disease, functional medicine seeks to understand how and why disease develops and restores health. It is a method of patient care that sees health and disease as two sides of a continuum in which every element of the human biological process engages in dynamic interaction with the outside world, resulting in patterns and consequences that evolve. The therapeutic use of systems biology may be referred to as functional medicine.

A period of diminishing performance in one or more of the body’s systems typically precedes the onset of chronic disease. To regain health, it is necessary to address the individual dysfunctions that led to the disease condition. To diagnose dysfunction and encourage physiological balance as the preferred method of patient health improvement, functional medicine gives practitioners the skills and a consistent methodology that is needed.

Compared to the human genome, human biology is much more intricate. In actuality, genetics do not determine the majority of diseases. Gene expression, not genetic inheritance, is essential for the development of disease. Numerous elements, such as stress, the environment, way of living, diet, activity levels, and psycho-social-spiritual aspects, affect gene expression. The disease can be made more or less likely by switching on or off specific genes depending on dietary, lifestyle, and environmental factors.

Through a systems-oriented approach, functional medicine directly tackles factors that influence how genes are expressed, a person’s environment, and other fundamental causes of disease. To fully assess the numerous interactions between genetic, ecological, dietary, and lifestyle factors that affect health and may appear as complex chronic diseases, practitioners might use the clinical paradigm of functional medicine.

The ultimate objective of functional medicine is to treat disease and promote a healthy life. It is a customized and integrated functional health approach that focuses on understanding the core causes, treatments, and prevention of complex chronic diseases. Living a healthy life includes having positive vitality, which is characterized by energy, happiness, appreciation, and balance rather than simply being free of disease.

The goal of functional medicine is to add additional aspects to the evaluation, treatment, and management of chronic disease without dismissing conventional medicine as a whole.

Although there has been a debate on the definition of functional medicine, the main tenets of this healthcare strategy agreed upon by various healthcare sectors are:

A Patient-Centered Approach

The doctor involves the patient in the exploration process and creates a management strategy that caters to their unique requirements by truly listening to the patient’s history, understanding their story, and then bringing it back to them in the context of their difficulties.

Integrative, Scientific Approaches

The doctor looks “upstream” into the intricate web of interactions that can result in sickness from the patient’s genes, physiology, history, and lifestyle using the most recent medical research findings, patient preferences, and clinical expertise. It is a genuine “inside-out” strategy that starts from the patient’s distinct genetic makeup and moves outward to uncover any physiological imbalances that manifest as symptoms, complaints, and finally disease. All of this revolves around the frequently disregarded internal (body, mind, and spirit) and external (social and physical environment) variables that are crucial in assessing an individual for maximum function.

Combining The Finest Medical Techniques From Several Fields

Make use of it if it works. Traditional Western medical methods are combined with diverse medical philosophies from across the world by a functional medicine doctor. The following emphasis is produced from the fusion of medical traditions:

  • Illness prevention through exercise, diet, and lifestyle.
  • Usage of cutting-edge diagnostic and laboratory testing methods
  • Recommended regimens of medicines, herbs, vitamins, therapeutic diets, workout routines, recovery plans, detoxification procedures, and stress management strategies

In contrast to the prevalent conventional strategy of treating the symptoms, functional medicine is a tailored and holistic functional medicine approach to healthcare that targets the underlying causes of chronic conditions. Instead of only early detection (the disease process has already started), functional medicine assists the patient in achieving actual primary prevention of disease (even before the disease is present).  This is accomplished by taking into account an investigation of the functional interactions between all the parts of the human body and their surroundings.

Functional medicine treats the full person, not just their symptoms, by emphasizing a patient-centered approach as opposed to the traditional disease-centered strategy. Most of the time, patients already know the answers to their problems; the doctor’s role is to find them and compile them into a workable plan that the patient is prepared to follow. Functional medicine ultimately encourages each person’s uniquely customized manifestation of health and vitality. This is an advancement in medical practice that better meets the demands of modern healthcare.

Approach to Assessment In Functional Medicine

Through thorough history taking, physical examination, and laboratory tests, the functional medicine approach focuses on the patient’s fundamental core clinical functions. Many variables are taken into account:

Core Clinical Functions

The essential physiological processes that keep each of us alive are known as “core clinical functions.” Environment, heredity, and mental state all have an impact on all essential clinical activities. They can cause symptoms and then disease when they are out of balance. The underlying cause of any chronic illness may be discovered within these fundamental clinical abnormalities. The seven essential clinical tasks are:

  • Integration (digestion, micro-biome, absorption)
  • Repair & Defense (inflammation and immune system)
  • Energy (energy regulation and mitochondrial function)
  • Elimination & Biotransformation (detoxification and toxicity)
  • Interaction (hormones, immune messengers, neurotransmitters, cognition) 
  • Transport (lymphatic systems and cardiovascular)
  • The integrity of the structure (from cellular membranes to skeletal system)

Environmental Inputs

According to some experts, lifestyle can account for up to 80 percent of the risk of developing chronic diseases. You must change your lifestyle to treat chronic diseases. Major lifestyle elements that can be changed include:

  • The quality of the water you drink.
  • The quality of the air you breathe
  • The standard of the meals you consume
  • The kind of diet you adhere to
  • The amount of exercise you get.
  • The quantity and quality of your sleep
  • Exposure to chemicals and toxins in the past and present
  • Any trauma you’ve gone through (mental, physical, and emotional)

Genetics

Each person is born with a special collection of genes that may result in different degrees of vulnerability to disease. It’s crucial to understand that the DNA is not your fate, even while knowing a patient’s genetic makeup might be useful in diagnosing disease. According to recent studies, the surroundings as well as the patient’s experiences, beliefs, and attitudes all play a role in how genes are expressed. It’s called epigenetics. Through their behavior, people can alter how their genes are triggered and expressed.

Mind-Body Components

Psychological, social, and spiritual aspects (namely, how the patient handles feelings of stress) can have a significant impact on health. A truly comprehensive approach to the patient must include these components.

Treatment Approach In Functional Medicine

Primary illness prevention is given the utmost importance (before the process of disease has started). As the proverb goes that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, it has a lot of truth to it. Once a clinical disease process has begun, it may be determined which essential clinical function is out of balance and what is causing it. The majority of functional abnormalities can be addressed with functional medicine treatments, some can be significantly corrected (treated), and some can be fully restored to their ideal states (healed). The patient’s health is always significantly improved by rebalancing key clinical processes. For the greatest impact on the underlying functionality, a wide range of interventions are assessed, and a personalized treatment plan is implemented.

Beyond drugs and surgery, functional medicine increases the doctor’s toolkit. Botanicals, therapeutic diets, supplements, exercise routines, functional neuro-rehabilitation, stress reduction strategies, detoxification regimens, and much more are also included.

The patient and functional medical doctor collaborate actively. A collaboration like this empowers the patient to take full responsibility for enhancing their wellness and their overall health.

Traditional medicine is more of a disease management practice than healthcare. It emphasizes controlling disease after it has already happened, mainly by controlling symptoms with prescription medicines, as opposed to maximizing wellbeing through preventative and restorative lifestyle methods.

For instance, if you visit a conventional doctor with high blood pressure, they will likely prescribe you a medication to lower it. Rarely is there any research done to determine the root cause of your hypertension? Pharmaceuticals continue to be the major form of treatment even while lifestyle improvements are advised since the system isn’t designed to help you make those changes.

The following shocking figures make this very clear:

  • According to research, over half of all Americans, and some estimations put that number as high as 70 percent, frequently use between 2 and 4 prescription drugs.
  • From 12.8% to 39%, the percentage of older individuals taking more than 5 prescription drugs tripled between 1988 and 2010.
  • Over 20 percent of youngsters below the age of 18 take at least one prescription medication each month, like opioids and antidepressants.
  • Although there is undoubtedly a place and time for prescribed drugs, there are several fundamental issues with relying so much on medications in our healthcare system. (Aside from that, they are expensive and raise the already exorbitant cost of treating chronic diseases conventionally, which by 2030 may reach $47 trillion globally.)

Drugs hardly ever treat a health issue’s root cause.  They don’t simply cover up symptoms; they also repress body processes, including those that are essential. As a result, they may eventually make an issue worse.

Drugs frequently produce side effects by correcting one imbalance by creating another or multiple others. The unexpected consequences of medicine frequently outweigh the intended effects by a wide margin.

Functional medicine specialists utilize specific training and approaches to identify the underlying causes of complex disorders. They may look into numerous factors that cause one disorder, or they may look into numerous conditions that are caused by one problem.

The entire picture of your mental, physical, emotional, and occasionally even spiritual health is taken into account by a doctor who practices functional medicine.

They take into account things like nutrition, heredity, hormonal fluctuations, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and other aspects of lifestyle. For patients with chronic conditions that are difficult to manage with traditional medical procedures, this type of specialist may be perfect.

After finishing their regular medical training, doctors choose to specialize in functional medicine. Functional medicine may be the area of specialization for other medical professionals, such as naturopaths and chiropractors.

To determine the underlying reasons for an illness, functional medicine experts examine your whole medical history. Compared to traditional doctors, they typically spend more time with you. They gather thorough data regarding the illness and your general lifestyle.

A physician of functional medicine might inquire about:

  • Symptoms over time
  • Sleeping habits
  • Exercise routines
  • Nutrition
  • Stress factors
  • Personal relationships
  • Emotional health

They then develop a treatment strategy to address a variety of potential contributing factors to chronic illnesses. It could consist of over-the-counter remedies, dietary supplements, or other treatments.

Finally, they monitor the course of the treatment and adjust as necessary. Since each treatment is customized to the individual’s particular illness, the functional medicine method is distinct for every patient.

In functional medicine, the system impacted, not the ailment diagnosed, determines the type of care administered. For instance, a diagnosis of depression could have several underlying factors. A functional medicine physician will investigate and address each cause, resulting in a customized treatment plan.

Training & Education

Functional medicine physicians get their degrees and certifications from traditional medical schools. After that, they might decide to obtain more accreditation from a company.  Then, physicians incorporate functional medicine principles into their primary area of practice.

Further certification does not increase these doctors’ legal standing, but it does demonstrate their training and dedication to this modality. Acupuncturists, nurse practitioners, dentists, and other professionals can also earn a functional medicine certification.

Physicians who practice at functional medicine clinics urge their patients to actively engage in their health. A patient will have a better chance of receiving treatment and leading a healthy life if they are informed about their own body and their functions.

It simply follows that functional medicine’s comprehensive approach would be more frequently successful than adhering to a conventional medical care paradigm, even if one doesn’t have a medical degree. There are numerous causes of chronic illnesses.

The best method to restore someone’s optimal functionality is not by treating them with general remedies. A single solution cannot address all of the innumerable factors that make up the human condition, let alone each subcategory. Finding out what is not working within a single person, as opposed to a group of people who may share a condition but have radically diverse genetic make-ups, medical histories, and lifestyles is the most effective approach to treatment. In other words, it isn’t appropriate to ask, “Does functional medicine work?” Should read: “Do conventional medical models function sufficiently?”

Traditional practices frequently adopt a medical management strategy that is too quick to turn to medications, surgery, and other critical care therapies. For immediate medical issues, this application is suitable, but not for ongoing medical issues. Treating chronic health issues frequently involves two steps:

  • To push the body’s physiology closer to a condition of optimal functioning, supplement what the body is missing.
  • Get rid of anything that prevents the body from achieving this ideal state of physiology.

Doctors at functional medical clinics first attempt to ascertain the cause of the body’s dysfunction. They accomplish this by thoroughly examining a patient’s lifestyle as a whole, using sophisticated lab testing as a tool, and using the patient’s particular medical history as a guide. A variety of natural agents, including homeopathic, herbs, and supplements, as well as medication, if necessary, are frequently used in treatment. These include dietary and lifestyle changes, counseling (psychological and/or dietary, as needed), and lifestyle changes. Such a holistic approach to treatment is indeed highly effective in not just treating the patients but healing them.

There could be several reasons to visit a functional medicine doctor about your health and treatment. Some of these are listed below.

You Desire Longer Appointments

Because their procedure entails taking a thorough history, functional medicine practitioners usually spend much more time with you.

You Accept Alternative Therapies

Functional medicine specialists may also recommend complementary therapies like meditation, acupuncture, or herbal remedies in addition to prescription medications.

You Have A Long-Term Illness

Chronic illnesses respond well to functional medicine. Instead of treating symptoms of chronic diseases, doctors in this profession look for their causes.

You Desire A Tailored Experience

Individual needs are addressed by functional medicine. A functional medicine physician will assist you in determining which treatment options are appropriate for you by employing techniques different from those used by a conventional physician.

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