Functional Medicine is an approach to health care that asks the questions: “Why do you have this problem in the first place?”, “Why has function been lost?” and “What can we do to restore function"?
In conventional medicine, there’s a doctor for every part of your body: cardiologists for the heart, gastroenterologists for the digestive system, neurologists for the brain and nervous system, podiatrists for your feet, and ophthalmologists for your eyes. Due to this siloing, conventional medicine focuses on individual body systems. It looks at symptoms in order to name a disease and find a corresponding drug.
In Functional Medicine, we see the body as an interconnected whole, within a larger environment. We recognize that in order to treat one part of the body, all other parts must also be considered. Instead of looking at and treating health problems as isolated diseases, we treat the whole individual. A disease such as depression, chronic fatigue, IBS or auto-immune disease might be the "label" but according to Functional Medicine, the cause lies in the altered physiology below the surface, an imbalance of bodily systems. We seek not to suppress symptoms but to address that imbalance.
These underlying systems include such things as-
- gut health (eg. "leaky gut", imbalances in gut bacteria, inadequate enzyme and stomach acid production)
- hormone levels
- thyroid balance (using testing and treatments to fine tune thyroid function significantly beyond conventional treatment with thyroxine alone)
- adrenal functioning (HPA dysfunction or "adrenal fatigue")
- toxicities (eg. heavy metals such as mercury from amalgams, biotoxin illness such as chronic Lyme-like illnesses)
- nutrient deficiencies that alter metabolism and function (eg. low vitamin D or B12, zinc or copper imbalances)
- neurotransmitter production and mood pathways (using individualised nutrient approaches to address imbalance).
Many patients have very complex issues that have not found solutions in mainstream medicine such as auto-immune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, behavioural issues, autism and ADHD. Functional medicine looks deeply at the individual so is genuinely patient-centred.
Using scientific principles, advanced diagnostic testing and personalised treatments, Functional Medicine restores balance in the body's primary physiological processes. The goal: the patient's lifelong optimal health.
Testing is done at a detailed level, looking at things such as the gut microbiome, heavy metal toxicity, nutritional deficiencies through blood and urine testing, adrenal function and food intolerances.
Specialised treatments prescribed may include changes to lifestyle, nutrition, micro-nutrient supplementation, correction of gut flora imbalance, gut healing, and removal of toxins. Referrals may also be made for specific modalities such as acupuncture, herbs or psychology.
(references include Chris Kresser and Your Medical Detective)
"The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease."
Sir William Osler, founding professor of Johns Hopkins Hospital.