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FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE truly is the future of conventional medicine, but it is available now. It represents the merger of naturopathic medicine with conventional medicine in that with doctors who practice functional medicine seek to identify and address the root causes of disease, and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties. It treats the whole system, not just the symptoms - and this is central to the system of naturopathic medicine.
Functional medicine and naturopathic are a system of medicine that address the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. This patient centred approach is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus to a more patient-centered focus, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just their symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners and naturopathic doctors spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, this integrated model of medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual to an optimal level.
The 6 Core Elements of Functional Medicine
Functional medicine is guided by six core principles:
- An understanding of the biochemical individuality of each human being, based on the concepts of genetic and environmental uniqueness;
- Awareness of the evidence that supports a patient-centered rather than a disease-centered approach to treatment;
- Search for a dynamic balance among the internal and external body, mind, and spirit;
- Familiarity with the web-like interconnections of internal physiological factors;
- Identification of health as a positive vitality not merely the absence of disease emphasizing those factors that encourage the enhancement of a vigorous physiology;
- Promotion of organ reserve as the means to enhance the health span, not just the lifespan, of each patient.
Why do we need Functional Medicine and how is it Different?
- Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, endocrinological (hormones) disorders and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- The system of medicine practiced by most medical doctors is oriented toward acute care, prescribing drugs, the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom. And of course, this is vitally important.
- Unfortunately however, the acute-care approach lacks the methodology, tools and time for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases the individual genetic makeup of each individual, environmental exposures to toxins and lifestyle factors that do indeed have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease are not taken into account.
- There is a large time lag between research and the way doctors practice. The gap between emerging research and integration into medical practice is enormous—as long as 50 years—particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness.
- Most medical doctors are not trained properly to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients. Nor does the current medical model of care allow for the time this type of practice requires.
- An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. Functional medicine practitioners look “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is considered, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.
- Integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine works nice with naturopathic medicine in that they both merge conventional medicine with “alternative” or “integrative” medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of botanical medicines, bioidentical hormones (as indicated) supplements, therapeutic diets, acupuncture, detoxification programs, chelation or stress-management techniques.