The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his or her patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.— Thomas Edison, US inventor
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. Hallmarks of a functional medicine approach include:
- Patient-centered care.
The focus of functional medicine is on promoting health as a positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the practitioner brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.
- 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 evaluated, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.
- Embraces “alternative” or “integrative” medicine.
Functional medicine embraces “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 recommended supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.
Dr. Caroline has always had a keen interest in mind-body health since childhood.
Her personal story, plus nearly 20-years of reading patient health history forms, led her to incorporate functional medicine in the scope of services offered at Balance Atlanta.
Despite a person’s healthy exterior, she realized people of all ages are suffering with conditions not addressed by the allopathic medical system. Being frustrated by impersonal doctor-patient relationships, sky rocketing insurance costs, and alarming drug side-effects, patients are seeking a safer and more logical approach to health care. The time to integrate health from the standpoint of functional medicine was only fitting.
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. Functional medicine does not replace the need for patients to seek care from their medical doctor. Nutrition and lifestyle recommendations are not a substitute for prescription drugs. Functional medicine does not cure or treat disease. Rather, it’s goal is to support the body in it’s ability to restore homeostasis naturally.
Why do we need Functional Medicine?
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, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care, 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.
Unfortunately, the acute-care approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases it does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society.
There’s a huge gap between research and the way doctors practice. The gap between emerging research in basic sciences and integration into medical practice is enormous—as long as 50 years—particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness. Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both address and potentially prevent these illnesses in their patients.
Six Core Principles of Functional Medicine:
How is Functional Medicine Different?
|Functional Medicine||Conventional Medicine|
|Health oriented||Sickness and disease oriented|
|Care based on patient needs and goals||Care determined by medical management group, insurance limitations|
|Biochemical individuality||Everyone is treated the same, one size fits all|
|Holistic – encompasses entire body||Specialization by organ systems (ENT, ob/gyn, gastroenterologist)|
|Cost effective||Expensive and driven by insurance carriers|
|Looks at underlying cause of disease||Diagnosis based on symptoms or lack of symptoms|
|Correction and prevention||Early detection of disease, suppress symptoms|
|High touch + interpersonal + high tech||High tech, little personal interaction|
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”— World Health Organization