What is functional medicine and can it help you?

Functional medicine is a patient-centred and customised approach that empowers both patients and practitioners to work together to treat the underlying causes of a disease. Functional medicine also works to promote overall wellness.

By addressing the cause of a disease rather than the symptoms, practitioners are able to understand the complexities of the human body. They may discover that one ailment has different causes, and that one cause can result in other conditions.

If you want to know more about how functional medicine can benefit you, you may read on!

Principles of functional medicine

1. Functional medicine considers each of us to be unique, both genetically and biochemically. This customised health care practice focuses on the person rather than the ailment. Instead of addressing the disease directly, it helps the body’s natural healing systems.

2. Functional medicine is firmly grounded on research. What happens within us is linked in a complex network or web of relationships. Understanding relationships allows us to have a deeper understanding of how the body works.

3. Your body has the ability to self-regulate.

4. Your body has the power to cure.

5. Health is a state of vitality, not just the absence of disease.

6. The multi-modality approach is the combination of at least two methods of treatment.

A functional medicine doctor approaches treatment from the perspective of the patient rather than the condition.

Doctors who practice functional medicine are trained in Western biomedical sciences such as:

  • anatomy
  • physiology
  • chemistry
  • biochemistry
  • clinical nutrition
  • symptomatology and diagnosis
  • pathology and pathophysiology of disease
  • clinical psychology
  • psychotherapy
  • counselling
  • human physiology
  • biomechanics of human movement
  • pharmacology
  • pharmacognosy
  • traditional herbal medicines
  • and others.

Functional medicine practitioners are educated to recognise health problems.These studies can help in identifying biochemical, biomechanical, structural, gastro intestinal, genetic, immunological, endocrine, neurological, nutritional, and metabolic issues, which are frequently at the base of many disorders.

What is the role of a functional medicine doctor?

Functional medicine for you

Functional medicine doctors examine your medical history to assess the causes of a disease. They typically devote more time to you than GPs. They gather specific information on the ailment as well as your overall lifestyle.

A functional medicine doctor might inquire about:

  • a symptom timeline
  • your sleeping habits
  • exercise routines
  • nutrition.

They devise a treatment strategy to address the factors that may be contributing to chronic diseases. Prescription medicine, vitamins, and other forms of therapy may be included.

Finally, they monitor treatment progress and make changes as needed. Each person’s functional medicine approach is unique because each treatment is tailored to the patient’s needs. For more details on functional medicine, you may check the website of Therapy Works.

Your relationship with a functional medicine doctor may be different from your one with your GP. According to The Institute For Functional Medicine, “functional medicine determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual”.

Functional medicine conditions that may be treated

Functional medicine may help people who experience a wide range of musculoskeletal health issues. The most common conditions functional medicine may help include (but are not limited to):

  • neck pain
  • back pain
  • nerve pain
  • arthritis/joint pain
  • a range of chronic health conditions.

What you may expect from a functional medicine doctor’s visit

Usually, patients are asked to fill out an initial medical history form. The information you will provide will help the doctor study the underlying cause(s) of your present chronic disease. The detailed medical history form will inquire about your:

  • diet, job, and hobbies as examples of lifestyle factors
  • genetics including your family history of diseases
  • your environment including allergen exposure.

In the actual meeting with your doctor, they may:

  • discuss your medical history
  • conduct a physical examination
  • as needed, order lab testing
  • help you with your health objectives
  • talk about treatments and aftercare.

When to consult a functional medicine doctor

Functional medicine doctor

You might want to consider setting up an appointment with a functional medicine doctor if:

  • You need extended appointments – because their procedure requires them to note your full history, functional medicine practitioners often spend more time with you.
  • You are open to trying different treatments – aside from prescription drugs, functional medicine practitioners may recommend alternative treatments such as acupuncture, meditation, or herbal remedies.
  • You have a long-term illness – chronic illnesses are well-suited to functional medicine. Rather than treating symptoms, doctors in this profession strive to identify the underlying causes of chronic disease.
  • You desire a customised experience – functional medicine treats each person as an individual. A functional medicine doctor will use different ways than a conventional medical practitioner to assist you determine which specific treatments are suitable for you.

What makes functional medicine unique for student doctors?

Many have gone on to study functional medicine in order to learn the skills required to apply the most recent scientific discoveries to clinical medicine. Training programs are designed to educate student doctors on the traditions of medicine as well as the scientific basis of clinical practice.

Some doctors look to discover the underlying causes of sickness, and functional medicine gives a framework and skill set to do so.

Education and instruction

Doctors who practice functional medicine have completed regular medical school coursework. There is additional certification from organisations such as The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Doctors then apply functional medicine principles  and training to their primary area of practice.

Additional certification shows that these doctors have finished training and are committed to practice within this framework.

Functional medicine in practice

The functional medicine approach is implemented by providers in a wide range of contexts, including insurance-based, institutional, and private. These are some of the most common models of functional medicine practice.

However, there is no one best model for practising functional medicine, and doctors typically use a combination of two or more models.

Wrap up

According to the National Health and Medical Research Council “Where complementary medicine is used in place of conventional medicine, clinicians should discuss with their patient any potential health consequences of delaying conventional treatment that may be more effective. Clinicians should especially advise caution in cases where CM of uncertain effectiveness is used as a replacement for conventional medicine of known effectiveness.”

Doctors who practice functional medicine encourage their patients to take an active role in their own health. A patient will have a better chance of getting treated successfully and living a healthy life if they are educated about their own body and its functions.

Marshall Thurlow
Marshall Thurlow
Marshall Thurlow is Director and Founder of Orion Marketing Pty Ltd. He is a digital marketer with expertise in SEO, website design, content marketing and project management. With over 15 years of experience spanning government, not-for-profit and the private sector, he is well equipped to lead teams to success. He is a big proponent of environmental sustainability, critical thinking and progressive issues.
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