What is Functional Medicine?
By using a combination of homeopathy, herbs, nutrition, vitamins and natural alternatives, functional medicine is the process of finding issues within the body and restoring it back to its natural function before the disease has a chance to take hold.
For Michele Grundstein M.D., the main focus is on functional medicine within the Quantum Wellness Center while Dr Popkin also has a certification in this niche from Functional Medicine University.
As an evolution in the practice of medicine, functional medicine better addresses the healthcare needs of today. Essentially, it uses a more customer-focused approach and treats the whole person as one as opposed to isolating sections of the body. For functional medicine practitioners, they like to learn about the history of their patients while also assessing environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors that could impact on long-term health and chronic disease. With this approach, each individual receives a unique care program.
Why Do We Need Functional Medicine?
- In today’s society, complex chronic diseases are common and these include heart disease, diabetes, mental illness, cancer, and autoimmune disorders (such as rheumatoid arthritis).
- By most physicians, the medicinal system used focuses on acute care which includes the identification of short-term illnesses and traumas such as a broken leg and appendicitis. In an attempt to treat the issue, physicians will recommend surgery or drugs or whichever prescribed treatment has become the ‘norm’.
- If we compare research and the way in which it’s practiced today, there’s actually a large gap. Particularly when it comes to chronic illnesses, the gap between emerging research and its integration can be as much as 50 years.
- Nowadays, most chronic diseases can’t be assessed by physicians due to a lack of training. Sadly, they can’t advise on exercise, nutrition, and diet to treat the issue now while also preventing it from returning in the future.
How Is Functional Medicine Different?
With functional medicine, the aim is to understand the origins of the problem and using this to formulate a treatment and prevention plan. The functional medicine approach can be defined as:
- Patient-Focused - As mentioned previously, the patient is at the center of the care with functional medicine with positive vitality being particularly important (beyond simply removing the disease). By learning the patient and their story, practitioners allow the patient to learn the discovery process which allows the treatment to be personalized.
- Science-Based - With functional medicine, all practitioners focus ‘upstream’ to keep in mind the interactions between physiology, health history, and lifestyle. With each patient, their genetic makeup is also important in addition to internal and external factors contributing to total function; this includes mind, body, spirit, and social environment.
- Best Medical Practices - With a combination of Western medical practices and what you might call ‘integrative’ or ‘alternative’ medicine, there’s an additional focus on preventing issues in the future through exercise, nutrition, and diet. Furthermore, laboratory testing plays a vital role along with prescribed drugs, botanical medicines, therapeutic diets, supplements, detoxification, and stress management.
Working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner
By focusing on the underlying factors behind good health and illness, functional medicine practitioners promote wellness. With the Functional Medicine Approach to Assessment from The Institute of Functional Medicine, all practitioners learn about treating clinical imbalances by paying attention to physical examinations, patient history, and lab testing. With functional medicine, practitioners will make numerous considerations:
- Environmental Inputs - This includes the diet we consume, the air we breathe, the exercise we enjoy, the quality of food we have access to, and the water we drink. Are there also toxic exposures that pose a risk to health?
- Mind/Body Elements - When it comes to health, spiritual, social, and psychological factors, these can all be important. Rather than paying attention to your physical symptoms alone, practitioners use these factors to get a wider sense of who you are as a whole person.
- Genetic Makeup - In addition to making you more susceptible to various diseases, our DNA is an ever-changing factor. Thanks to research, we know that genes may actually be influenced by our environment, beliefs, experiences, and attitudes. With this, we can adjust the way in which genes are expressed and activated.
In order to understand how key processes can be affected, functional medicine practitioners can really assess the triggers of dysfunction and underlying causes; of course, these are important to keep us alive. For some, they occur at a cellular level and include the function of our cells as well as how they repair and maintain their life. These are all impacted by larger biological functions including:
- Inflammatory responses
- Immune system function
- Structural integrity
- Production of energy
- Removal of toxins
- Hormone regulation
- Nutrient digestion and absorption
- Health of digestive tract
With each process, it can be affected by genetic makeup and environmental factors. As soon as they’re imbalanced or disturbed in some way, this can cause disease (assuming effective interventions aren't applied).
A Comprehensive Approach to Treatment
While a few imbalances in functionality can be completely restored, most can be addressed and improved in some way.
- Prevention is Critical - For most chronic diseases, they develop from a long-term disturbance which makes prevention the key component of the process.
- Improving Systems - For your health, a great impact can come from changing the function of the systems. With your functional medicine practitioner, they’ll assess numerous interventions before then personalizing a treatment plan to include those having the biggest impact on underlying functionality.
- Expansion of Tool Kit for Clinician - With treatment including botanical medicines, drugs, nutritional supplements, detoxification programs, and therapeutic diets, this can be combined with wider-health solutions including exercise, lifestyle counseling, and stress management.
- Patient is a Partner - Rather than taking a backseat in your own health, all patients become partners in their treatment and ongoing health. By working with the functional medicine practitioner, you stay in charge of your health, affect the outcome of disease, and learn how to stay healthy now and in the years ahead.
If you need help with functional medicine today, please feel free to get in contact; we’d love to hear from you!
* Results may vary from patient to patient