What is Functional Medicine?
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.
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.
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 treat and prevent these illnesses in their
How is Functional Medicine Different?
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 patient-centered care, 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
considered, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and
external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total
- Integrating best medical practices. Functional
medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with what is
sometimes considered “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
prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines,
supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or
Definition of Functional Medicine was adopted from functionalmedicine.org, a leading source of information for functional medicine practitioners.