There is an epidemic that has gone rampant in the U.S. with regards to certain diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity that have amplified the expense of medical care astronomically.
In addition, countless many are dissatisfied with orthodox pharmaceuticals and 10- minute doctor visits. Americans more than ever are seeking improved results in the arena of alternative medicine.
They want meaningful results and to avoid the side effects of common-day pharmaceuticals.
Functional Medicine is distinct from conventional medicine in that it is not couched in the model of treating symptoms.
In Functional Medicine, a practitioner spends time discovering how and why certain illnesses occur and then restores health by addressing what we call the root cause.
This model is an individualized, patient-centered, and science-based approach that empowers both patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness.
Dr. Sidney M. Bakeris credited with being the Father of Functional Medicine.
He is the 1999 recipient for the Linus Pawling Award for his contribution to the development of functional medicine. In a recent interview with Dr. Mark Hyman, chairman of the board of directors for the Institute for Functional Medicine, Dr. Baker draws a distinction between the labeling of a disease based on a pattern of symptoms and determining a treatment strategy when searching for causality.
He goes on to say, that one particular disease can have many different causes that would then determine different treatment modalities, but by focusing only on disease, medicine just treats symptoms.
The Institute for Functional Medicine was established in 1991 and through the energy and dedication of Susan and Dr. Jeffrey Bland, now offers Functional Medicine related services, products, and educational programs both nationally and internationally.
The Institute for Functional Medicine trains licensed healthcare practitioners who have at least a Master’s Degree. To become a Certified Practitioner, one must complete seven modules including Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice, Cardio-Metabolic, Digestion, Hormones, Gastro-Intestinal, Immune, and Energy.
A case report has to pass the scrutiny of the board, and a certification written exam must be passed.
The art of functional medicine requires a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors. The practitioner will then use that data to personalize treatment plans that result in improved patient outcomes.
Here’s an example of how a Functional Medicine Practitioner might look at someone with Hashimoto’s (auto-immune thyroid disease).
First, a full thyroid panel would be done, not just the typical TSH, but T3, T4, Reverse T3, thyroglobulin, and thyroid peroxidase. The practitioner would look to see if other systems are involved by looking at symptoms like digestion, bowel movements, gas, and bloating. That’s because a Functional Medicine practitioner is trained to see the link between gastrointestinal issues and autoimmune issues of all kinds.
An understanding of what nutrients the conversion and utilization of the thyroid hormones need would cause a Functional Medicine practitioner to look to see if there are micronutrient deficiencies and to correct if needed. In addition, food sensitivities and leaky gut also play a role with autoimmune thyroid, in fact, any autoimmune issues and there is a four-step gut healing protocol that would be employed.
As you can see, by addressing root cause, rather than symptoms, a Functional Medicine practitioner can see the interwoven pieces in the complexity of disease.
They may find that one condition has many different contributing causes and likewise, one cause may result in many different conditions. As a result, Functional Medicine treatment will target the specific manifestations of disease as it expresses in each individual.
Lori Graham, OTR, MS Exercise Science, Post Masters in Nutrition, Certified in Functional Medicine