Functional medicine is a branch of medicine that focuses on understanding the root cause of illnesses. The area of practice is relatively new and growing in popularity for its unique approach to holistic health. When you work with a functional medicine practitioner, their primary goal is to answer the question, “Why is this happening?” So many symptoms can be connected to so many different causes, which is why it’s easy for a traditional doctor to misdiagnose a patient. In order to fully understand a patient’s problems, functional medicine practitioners aim to dig a little deeper.
Thorough Examination of Patient History
Functional medicine starts with a thorough examination of the patient’s history. It’s important to assess the patient’s lifestyle and overall health record from a deep perspective. This means they want to understand your genetics, your experiences, the medications you’ve been on, and everything in between. Usually, sessions begin before you meet the doctor with a thorough questionnaire about your overall health. After they learn more about you, they’ll choose the most relevant lab tests necessary to dig beneath the surface.
Functional Medicine vs. Conventional Medicine
There are several key differences between functional medicine and conventional medicine. One of the biggest differences is the approach to the patient-doctor relationships. In conventional medicine, you can expect to spend no more than 20 minutes with your primary care physician. They typically have a waiting room full of clients, and will try to diagnose you within a very short timeframe. A functional medicine practitioner, on the other hand, will likely spend more than an hour with you, and will thoroughly examine your history and work to provide a safe, transparent environment for you.
Conventional medicine aims to treat the symptoms to make you more comfortable, while functional medicine wants to treat the root cause—rather than put a bandaid on your symptoms. Lastly, the conventional medicine model is designed to keep you coming back. You’ll likely be prescribed pills that you may have to rely on indefinitely.
On the other hand, functional medicine strives to offer you the tools necessary to keep you from returning with compounding symptoms. Practitioners believe that the body is naturally resilient, and can cure itself of any illnesses if given the tools to do so. Therefore, instead of putting you on prescriptions, they prescribe herbal supplements and lifestyle recommendations aimed to eliminate the uncomfortable or painful symptoms you’re experiencing.
Bringing Back Balance
Any time you experience a symptom or illness, it isn’t because something is wrong with you. Often, it’s because something is imbalanced biologically or physiologically. Perhaps your body is reacting to an internal or external environment, such as too much sun exposure, hormonal imbalances, or a lack of nutrients.
It Can Help You Understand Your Weight
When you understand what’s going on with your body, you can take the proper steps necessary to make the right adjustments. For example, it’s not uncommon for a doctor to tell you that your health issues are associated with your weight.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, even for people who are slightly overweight. Talking to a functional medicine practitioner can help you better understand whether weight loss is necessary to make effective improvements to your lifestyle.
In cases where this is true, you approach your calorie cutting in a safe, healthy way. According to Start With Real, a weight loss clinic in Atlanta, there are harmful ways to lose weight, and it’s important to work with someone who can understand both your health and your personal goals.
Body Systems Approach
The functional medicine approach believes that the majority of your health issues are due to inflammation and imbalances in your body’s three foundational systems: neuroendocrine, gastrointestinal, and detoxification. By issuing targeted lab tests to learn more about each of these systems and how they interact with one another, and can prescribe a treatment plan that will reduce or eradicate symptoms altogether.