WHAT IS FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE
Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It 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 of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, Functional Medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional Medicine practitioners 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, Functional Medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
HOW FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE CHANGES THE WAY WE DO MEDICINE:
- Functional Medicine offers a powerful new operating system and clinical model for assessment, treatment, and prevention of chronic disease to replace the outdated and ineffective acute-care models carried forward from the 20th century.
- Functional Medicine incorporates the latest in genetic science, systems biology, and understanding of how environmental and lifestyle factors influence the emergence and progression of disease.
- Functional Medicine enables physicians and other health professionals to practice proactive, predictive, personalized medicine and empowers patients to take an active role in their own health.
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;
- Interconnections of internal physiological factors;
- Identification of health as a positive vitality, not merely the absence of disease, and 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 life span, of each patient.
A patient-centered approach refers to health care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and that ensures that patient values guide all clinical decisions. At IFM, patient-centered care is the core of what we call the therapeutic partnership; the relationship that forms between a patient and clinician that empowers the patient to take ownership of their own healing. The power of the therapeutic partnership comes from the idea that patients who are active participants in the development of their therapeutic plan feel more in control of their own well-being and are more likely to make sustained lifestyle changes to improve their health.
HOW DOES FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE COMPLEMENT A CLINICIAN’S INTEGRATIVE TRAINING?
Integrative medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.
If you’re already studying and practicing integrative medicine, then you know something about whole-person modalities. Functional Medicine provides an architecture that will help you organize and apply all that knowledge in a systematic way, digging deeper into the origins of disease and the determinants of health.
The Functional Medicine model considers the diagnosis, of course, but also seeks to answer the question, “Why does this person have this illness?” The answer to this question is revealed by discovering the antecedents, triggers, and mediators that underlie symptoms, signs, illness behaviors, and demonstrable pathology. Further, medical genomics can identify the phenotypic expression of disease-related genes and their products, affording another lens through which to view illness. Chronic diseases cut across multiple organ systems, and this calls for a systematic method of viewing each patient.
HOW IS FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE MODELS?
Practitioners of Functional Medicine use the Functional Medicine model to organize their findings. It’s a kind of flexible and adaptive information-gathering-and-sorting architecture for clinical practice that deepens the clinician’s understanding of the often overlapping ways things can go wrong. The patient’s story is organized according to seven common underlying mechanisms that influence health, which clarifies the level of present understanding and illuminates where further investigation is needed. An operating system guides clinicians through the entire process from gathering information to initiating treatment and tracking the patient’s progress.
All healthcare disciplines—including integrative medicine—can, to the degree allowed by their training and licensure, use a Functional Medicine approach, including integrating the Functional Medicine operating system and tools to organize knowledge and recognize patterns. Functional Medicine provides a common language and a unified model to facilitate integrated care.