Understanding the Integrative Approach of Functional Medicine

functional medicine plan given to client

The Hippocratic oath, a moral obligation that medical professionals have long upheld, states that the most important thing they can do while practicing medicine is “first, do no harm.”

In modern Western medicine, this task has become almost impossible to fulfill as medication and treatments can often cause just as many problems as the condition they are prescribed to remedy.

Thankfully, even within the scope of modern medicine, there is hope on the horizon in the form of functional medicine. On its own or even integrated into conventional practices, it can change how each patient’s case is approached for the better.

The Purpose of Functional Medicine

The overall purpose of functional medicine is to approach each patient individually. It is a systems-based approach to a patient’s biological makeup. It looks at not only the symptoms and diagnosis of a patient but also who that person is outside of a purely medical setting. Sometimes, the precise reason a particular disease or condition manifests could be related to genetic, environmental, or lifestyle factors.

In other words, while a functional medicine doctor will consider the symptoms their patient is experiencing, they will also take the time to get to know them as a person, not just a patient. This means understanding their nutritional choices, activity level, emotional well-being, and other lifestyle factors that could contribute to their current medical issues.

Common Myths & Misconceptions

Functional Medicine Is Anti-Prescription

Contrary to this myth, functional medicine is not outright anti-prescription. In reality, even under functional medicine, a doctor might prescribe medication. However, the main difference is that medication is likely not the first solution offered. Instead, it is just part of an overall approach that identifies the root cause of the illness or condition, not simply popping a pill to try to remedy the symptoms of the problem.

You Can’t Have Both a Primary Care Doctor & a Functional Doctor

This statement is not true, as you can most certainly have a primary care doctor and a functional doctor. It’s simply a matter of choice. In many cases, these two professionals will work together because primary care doctors already have the patient’s medical history and current or previously attempted solutions noted.

Functional Medicine Is Expensive

While some functional medicine practices might be more costly, they’re no different from traditional medicine providers. The price of conventional medicine varies based on the doctor’s specific prices, the services provided during the visit, and insurance coverage. The same also goes for functional medicine.

Functional Medicine Isn’t Covered Under Insurance

While it isn’t as common for functional medicine to be covered by traditional medical insurance, some providers, like Total Health Systems, accept insurance. Taking insurance means that even more people can access this innovative way of practicing medicine. In fact, more and more practitioners across the nation will likely follow insurance-based models of care based on demand.

Functional Medicine Isn’t Science-Based

A great deal of the belief in this myth comes from the perceived newness of this type of practice. However, although functional medicine was popularized in the 90s, it was practiced long before then. Additionally, researchers continue to study functional medicine. Like any newer model of care, additional research is needed, but functional medicine studies have been performed and are continuing to be performed that prove the worth of functional medicine.

Functional Medicine Practitioners Are Not Real Doctors

While some functional practitioners are not full-fledged doctors in the strict sense of the word, many practitioners have gone through traditional medical school training and earned MDs or DOs.

As it is practiced today, functional medicine is not standardized within the United States. With that in mind, consider consulting with functional medicine practitioners who have gone through medical school or some form of medical training and are certified by the Institute of Functional Medicine.

How Functional Medicine Works

Functional medicine goes much deeper than the surface level that traditional medicine often stays within. It looks at a patient’s medical history, lifestyle, current condition, pain level, stress level, and more to understand and define the root cause of an issue. In comparison, conventional medicine focuses on primarily treating the symptoms causing the patient discomfort. Treatments within the scope of functional medicine could include suggestions for nutritional changes, exercise recommendations, stress management, prescription medications, supplements, and more.

The Essential Elements of Functional Medicine

The practice of functional medicine includes five major components:

  • Patient’s Story: This is done during intake. During this consultation, the patient is asked to provide their entire background to their functional doctor.
  • Empowering Partnership: This is a team effort approach between the patient and the physician.
  • Lifestyle Factors: This step looks at lifestyle factors that could be modified and potential environmental exposures impacting the patient’s health.
  • Systems Biology Matrix: This is a framework that helps the functional doctors understand how to approach treatment for an individual.
  • Personalized Recommendations: The final step involves letting the patient know which changes must be made to improve their condition(s).

Who Is a Good Candidate For Functional Medicine?

Anyone can try functional medicine. It is particularly recommended for people who have already tried conventional medicine and are not seeing any improvements in their health or if their existing conditions have worsened.

Smiling patient at consultation with doctor sitting at table in office clinic.

Conditions that can be treated with functional medicine include:

  • Thyroid Dysfunction
  • Digestive Dysfunction
  • Emotional Stress
  • Blood Sugar Problems
  • Hormone Imbalances
  • Immune Disorders
  • Heavy Metal Toxicity
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Environmental Toxins

Try The Functional Medicine Approach Today

Total Health Systems is a multidisciplinary wellness center serving the Chesterfield, Clinton Township, St. Clair Shores, Washington Township, New Baltimore, and Center Line areas in Michigan.

We have a team of licensed physician assistants, physical therapists, personal trainers, chiropractors, and other medical professionals ready to help you achieve pain-free living.

During your first visit, you can expect a comprehensive consultation where we review your medical history, perform examinations, and work with you to develop a treatment plan that works best for your lifestyle and goals.

If you want to learn more about functional medicine and how it could help you live your best life, please contact us today to schedule your first consultation.

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