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.
Why 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 a heart attack 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 is ill equipped to address complex, chronic disease. In most cases, the model does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual and does not allow time for exploring the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society; critical environmental factors such as stress, diet, and exposure to toxins. As a result, most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease, nor to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.
Functional Medicine is a different approach, with methodology and tools that are specifically designed to prevent and treat chronic diseases.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine asks how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.It is an approach to health care that conceptualizes health and illness as part of a continuum in which all components of the human biological system interact dynamically with the environment, producing patterns and effects that change over time.
Functional Medicine helps clinicians identify and ameliorate dysfunctions in the physiology and biochemistry of the human body as a primary method of improving patient health. Chronic disease is almost always preceded by a period of declining function in one or more of the body’s systems. Functional Medicine is often described as the clinical application of systems biology.
Restoring health requires reversing (or substantially improving) the specific dysfunctions that have contributed to the disease state. Each patient represents a unique, complex, and interwoven set of environmental and lifestyle influences on intrinsic functionality (their genetic vulnerabilities) that have set the stage for the development of disease or the maintenance of health.
To manage the complexity inherent in this approach, IFM has created practical models for obtaining and evaluating clinical information that leads to individualized, patient-centered, science-based therapies. Functional Medicine concepts, practices, and tools have evolved considerably over a 30-year period, reflecting the dramatic growth in the evidence base concerning the key common pathways to disease (e.g., inflammation, oxidative stress); the role of diet, stress, and physical activity; the emerging sciences of genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics; and the effects of environmental toxins (in the air, water, soil, etc.) on health.