I am frequently asked why I chose to get training in both Integrative and Functional medicine and how do they work together. Let’s start with the formal definition of each.
Dr. Andrew Weil defines integrative medicine as a healing oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind and spirit), including all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative medicine. It is a philosophy that neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically. The focus is to use natural, effective, less-invasive interventions whenever possible and recognize that good medicine should be based in good science, be inquiry driven and be open to new paradigms.
Functional Medicine is defined as a medical system that 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.
One way to understand how these two approaches work together is to think of your smart phone. My integrative medicine training teaches me the various different healing modalities around the world which are the ‘apps’ on the phone. My functional medicine training serves as the operating system of the phone which ties everything together. Bridging both integrative medicine and functional medicine, we are able to offer an individualized approach to treat you.
So how is this approach different from today’s conventional Western medical system? To begin, the focus of care is different. The goal of conventional medicine is for primary care 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 such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more. Our approach is to discover the root cause of the dysfunction and implement a personalized plan that promotes health and vitality in each patient. We will 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.
Conventional medicine separates doctors based on their specialties (e.g., neurology, gynecology, endocrinology), effectively arranging medical care into separate silos. Integrative and 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.”
This approach is highly cost effective for patients, as it focuses on prevention and healthy lifestyle changes and sustainable treatments that address the underlying causes of dysfunction, restoring patients to health. This has the potential of dramatically reducing the cost one would spend on health care related expenses over the course of their life. This approach provides you with an education on how to take control of your health that you will possess for the rest of your life. This education is something you can share with your spouse, your children, your parents or anyone you care about.