In the past, traditional medicine had a holistic approach. However, in recent times, conventional medicine has been more concerned with the physical aspects of illness.
This means that the body is broken up into parts and treated in isolation by specialists who concentrate on disease and dysfunction. Unfortunately, this approach has led to a focus on disease rather than health, which has affected how medicine is practiced and how patients are treated.
Integrative and functional medicine, on the other hand, are different. They bring the focus back to the patient and their health and healing.
These modalities are becoming increasingly popular, suggesting that patients are drawn to this new (or very old) approach.
So what exactly are integrative medicine and functional medicine?
Both offer an approach to achieving health that is focused on the patient and the root causes of disease, rather than just the symptoms or the disease itself. While the two disciplines have similarities, they differ from each other.
What Is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine utilizes a method that is grounded in evidence to treat the whole person, taking into account their body, mind, and spirit. Each patient’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs are taken into consideration as they are considered crucial to their overall health and well-being.
To achieve individualized healing, integrative medicine incorporates a blend of techniques from various disciplines. Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer in integrative medicine, established the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1994, and has been teaching practitioners from around the world about the advantages of integrative medicine for almost two decades.
In an interview on his YouTube channel, Dr. Weil defines integrative medicine this way:
“Integrative medicine is the intelligent combination of conventional and alternative medicine.”
“In essence [it] is trying to restore the focus of medicine on health and healing away from disease symptom management.
“It emphasizes whole-person medicine, meaning that we are more than just physical bodies—we are minds, spirits, and community members.
“It looks at all aspects of lifestyle—it emphasizes the importance of the practitioner-patient relationship to the healing practice. And then it is willing to look at all methods—from whatever tradition they come from that may be of value in treating disease—that is the alternative piece.”
What Is Functional Medicine?
The primary goal of functional medicine is to determine and address the underlying cause of illness. Instead of relying on medication or surgery, functional medicine practitioners prioritize dietary and lifestyle changes to promote wellness and healing. They also explore potential genetic and hormonal factors that may contribute to or treat illnesses.
Similar to integrative medicine practitioners, functional medicine practitioners take a comprehensive approach to patient care, addressing all aspects of their well-being including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Individualized treatment plans are developed to accommodate each patient’s unique circumstances, focusing on lifestyle habits, natural supplements, and complementary therapies.
Functional medicine complements conventional medicine and is particularly effective in treating chronic, complex, or multilayered conditions that conventional medicine may have difficulty diagnosing or treating effectively.