People still tell me they are confused about what functional medicine is. I tell them that functional medicine is not anything new or gimmicky. It’s the lens in which we approach our patients. We take the time to ask many questions that are not often asked in conventional medicine. We want to know about your mother’s health and her birth experience with you. We want to know about whether you were breast-fed or not or whether you received multiple doses of antibiotics during your lifetime.
Getting to know this history, decade by decade for a patient will give us clues as to why symptoms or diseases have developed. Often retelling a patient their story can have be an “Ah ha” moment for that patient. Understanding the root causes and triggers of your depression let’s say may have been due to a combination of genetics, early life traumas as a young child…and then gastrointestinal disruption with multiple antibiotics. This can start to put the pieces together as to why someone has developed a chronic condition.
In conventional medicine you are given a diagnosis of depression then the physician stops asking WHY? That’s when medications are often used. We as functional medicine practitioners start with the question why and we keep trying to find out why? In knowing your WHY, we can tailor your treatments to you specifically. We don’t succeed in medicine with this one size fits all model of conventional medicine.
In learning your story we look at a systems biology approach to medicine. We aren’t just studying individual organs. We look at 7 “nodes” we call them:
- Assimilation of nutrients into your body
- Defense and repair-this is where we think about autoimmune and allergic conditions
- Energy-this is where we think about fatigue and pain syndromes such as migraines
- Biotransformation and Elimination-this is where we think about our normal peeing and pooping out toxins and how efficient are body is in removing them. We think about toxicity of many types in general here.
- Transport-this is where we think about high blood pressure and vascular issues such as cold hands and cold feet. We also look at hyperglycemia and diabetes problems in the transport node.
- Communication-this is the important area of looking at the brain/adrenal axis as well as thyroid problems and issues with your sex/reproductive hormones.
- Structural integrity-this is where we look at problems with the lining of your gut, problems with lets say a knee injury or arthritis.
In looking at these 7 nodes after taking a thorough history, we as functional medicine practitioners can start to see what areas are the most involved with that particular patient. Once we know where to start we can tailor our treatments more effectively.
In Functional Medicine:
We ask the question why: Addresses symptoms by focusing on the underlying cause of the problem, which leads to more profound and longer lasting results.
We look at the whole person: Envisions the body as an interconnected whole that is in dynamic relationship to its environment, and recognizes the importance of these connections in health and disease.
We try using safe non-pharmaceutical options if at all possible: treatments have mild or no side effects, and other unrelated complaints often improve spontaneously.
We are patient-centered. Treats the patient, not the disease. Treatments are highly individualized based on patient needs.
We expect patient participation: The patient is respected, empowered, educated and encouraged to play active role in healing process.
We are integrative. Combines the best of both modern and traditional medicines and emphasizes importance of diet and lifestyle.
Restorative. Our tests and treatments are designed to promote optimal health and to prevent and reverse disease.
We are preventative. We attempt to treat things before disease settles in.
We are evidence-based. The Institute for Functional Medicine reports and teaches us the latest most cutting-edge research from peer-reviewed medical journals.