Functional Medicine vs Conventional Medicine: What is the DIfference?
The are very fundamental differences between today’s Functional Medicine vs Conventional Medicine. Not only in the way they view medication, but also in the way they view the patient, labs, and treatment. Functional medicine tends to dig deeper and look at the cause rather than just treating the symptoms. Picture a tree where the leaves are the symptoms we see on the outside – this is what conventional medicine looks at; while, functional medicine is looking at the roots.
About Functional Medicine
Functional 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.
HOW FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE CHANGES THE WAY WE DO MEDICINE:
- Functional Medicine offers a powerful new operating system and clinical model for assessment, treatment, and prevention of chronic disease to replace the outdated and ineffective acute-care models carried forward from the 20th century.
- Functional Medicine incorporates the latest in genetic science, systems biology, and understanding of how environmental and lifestyle factors influence the emergence and progression of disease.
- Functional Medicine enables physicians and other health professionals to practice proactive, predictive, personalized medicine and empowers patients to take an active role in their own health.
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE IS GUIDED BY SIX CORE PRINCIPLES:
- An understanding of the biochemical individuality of each human being, based on the concepts of genetic and environmental uniqueness;
- Awareness of the evidence that supports a patient-centered rather than a disease-centered approach to treatment;
- Search for a dynamic balance among the internal and external body, mind, and spirit;
- Interconnections of internal physiological factors;
- Identification of health as a positive vitality, not merely the absence of disease, and emphasizing those factors that encourage the enhancement of a vigorous physiology;
- Promotion of organ reserve as the means to enhance the health span, not just the life span, of each patient.
A patient-centered approach refers to health care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and that ensures that patient values guide all clinical decisions. At IFM, patient-centered care is the core of what we call the therapeutic partnership; the relationship that forms between a patient and clinician that empowers the patient to take ownership of their own healing. The power of the therapeutic partnership comes from the idea that patients who are active participants in the development of their therapeutic plan feel more in control of their own well-being and are more likely to make sustained lifestyle changes to improve their health.
How is Functional Medicine Different?
In Functional Medicine, the same approach applies to patients. The most important factors, and the ones we examine first when gathering information about the patient, are the foundational lifestyle factors; sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress levels, relationships, and genetics. These are the roots and soil, which are in turn influenced by specific predisposing factors (antecedents), discrete events (triggers), and ongoing physiological processes (mediators), and may then result in fundamental imbalances at the trunk. These can eventually result in the signs and symptoms that are grouped into a diagnosable constellation that we call disease, represented by the branches and leaves.
Conventional medicine tends to look at the constellation of symptoms first (the branches and leaves), which usually results in a disease diagnosis. Often, this diagnosis is associated with a drug or drugs that can be prescribed to treat this constellation of symptoms, and that is the end of the story. But this approach neglects the more fundamental aspects of health that reside in the roots and the trunk of the tree. It treats all patients that present with similar symptoms the same and completely neglects both the inherent differences among patients as well as the myriad possible causes that a “disease” can have.
Functional Medicine vs Conventional Medicine
So how is Functional Medicine different from today’s conventional Western medical system? To begin, the focus of care is different. The goal of conventional medicine is for doctors to identify diseases by recognizing patterns of symptoms and to treat those symptoms by prescribing drug-based therapies that are similar for all patients with a given disease. Notice that the words patient and health do not appear in this description. The goal of Functional Medicine is to promote health and vitality in each patient. Practitioners examine each patient’s lifestyle and unique biochemical factors to identify the underlying causes of their disease and find treatments that help return patients to optimal health.
|Health oriented||Disease oriented|
|Patient centered||Doctor centered|
|Biochemical individuality||Everyone is treated the same way|
|Looks at underlying causes of disease||Diagnosis based on symptoms|
|Preventative approach||Early detection of disease|
|High touch/high tech||High tech|
Conventional medicine separates doctors based on their specialties (e.g., neurology, gynecology, endocrinology), effectively arranging medical care into separate silos. Functional Medicine is holistic, in that one clinician looks at all aspects of the patient, instead of saying, “Oh, that sounds like a hormone problem. That’s not my department.”
Functional Medicine is highly cost effective for patients, as it focuses on prevention and health promoting lifestyle changes and sustainable treatments that address the underlying causes of dysfunction, restoring patients to health. Conventional medical treatments are often expensive medications that must be taken indefinitely and do not address the underlying problem, but merely suppress the symptoms.