Functional Medicine is the Future of Medicine — Join Me?
January 1st, 2013
The future of medicine is now.
What does your ideal physician look like? Is she compassionate and empathic? Would she meet with you for an hour or maybe even two? Would she listen attentively to every detail of your health history knowing it’s interconnected like a web and everything is a clue into your present state of health? Would she be knowledgeable about nutrition, environmental toxins and stress reduction? Would she take the time to talk with you about this? Would she be concerned with preventing disease and getting to the root cause of your illness instead of just treating the symptoms with a drug? Would it be a healing partnership rather than a hierarchical relationship?
In today’s world of managed healthcare and only minutes to spend with a doctor, it would seem difficult to imagine a physician such as the one described above and even more impossible to actually find her. However, if you are like many of us, this is truly whom you want for your physician and what you want out of your health care.
What if I told you there are doctors that practice medicine in the way I described above – would you want one as your physician?
The great news is that there are physicians like the one above! We are called Functional Medicine physicians. We are physicians who in addition to graduating from medical school and a residency programs have completed the Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) training program with the Institute of Functional Medicine.
The Institute of Functional Medicine is a non-profit organization that is accredited by Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) and is dedicated to educating physicians and other healthcare practitioners.
Of the over 800,000 practicing physicians in the United States only about 1000 have completed the AFMCP training.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine has been described as 21st century medicine. It is a new and comprehensive approach to health care that focuses on prevention and finding the root cause of illness instead of only treating the symptoms of disease. Functional medicine is a science-based approach to healing which looks at function in the body – the dynamics of physiology and biochemical reactions in the body rather than naming a disease and giving a pill. It looks to treat the underlying imbalances that cause illness by designing individual therapies to restore health and improve function. In Functional Medicine we believe there are five main areas that cause imbalance and disturbance in optimal function: environmental toxins, allergens, stress, infections and diet/nutrition. We believe that most illnesses are of an inflammatory origin and toxin overload. Our goal is to find the source of inflammation and toxins for each individual person and to restore balance in the body by optimizing nutrition and diet, fixing the gut and improving digestion, restoring proper detoxification and energy production.
The basic tenant of Functional Medicine is that each person is biochemically unique and, therefore, no one treatment is right for everyone. The approach is individualized for your health needs and focuses on a patient-centered not disease-centered model of care. It is personalized medicine.
By personalized, we mean that no two people are a like. Each of us is unique in our genetic makeup and physiology. What ultimately causes illness in one person is not he same for another and treatment for each will therefore be different.
Functional Medicine looks not at the individual named diseases but rather seeks to find the common link between them. We believe all illness is interconnected.
Conventional medicine, on the other hand views people in terms of their disease, a one-size fits all model. It focuses on naming a disease and giving a pill for that disease. This practice is becoming increasingly true as conventional medicine becomes more specialized and more fractured, viewing symptoms and diseases as separate entities within the body.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Let’s use an example of a typical patient that comes to see me at my clinic. I will use a woman who has been diagnosed with migraine headaches, irritable bowel and arthritis. Under the conventional medical model this woman will likely be referred to three separate specialists (a neurologist for the headaches, a gastroenterologist for the stomach pain and rheumatologist for the joint pain) and prescribed at least three medications, one for each complaint. These medications all have potential side effects and unwanted symptoms, possibly further compounding the problems and necessitating prescribing additional medications.
As a Functional Medicine physician, I, on the other hand will search for WHY she has these named illnesses. I begin by taking an extensive history and listening to her life story of how she got to where she is today. I then put each of my patients on a special elimination diet called The Myers Way. I have them removal of the major food allergens such as yeast, gluten, dairy, soy, corn and several other foods all at once. I also order comprehensive state of the art lab testing. Through this process we may find that this woman has an allergy to dairy, difficulty detoxifying and a parasite in her gut. By removing dairy from her diet, improving detoxification with vitamins and supplements, and treating her for the parasite, within a short period of time her headache, joint pain and stomach pain all resolve. This patient won’t need to be on any medication. Again, I seek to find the common link and solve problems from the root cause – not simply treating the symptoms with a pill.
I ask you to ask yourself whom do you want as your physician and what do you want out of your health care? I believe our health care system is failing us and we need to fix it. I believe that Functional Medicine is at least a big part of the answer. We cannot rely on the prescription drug companies, the government, insurance providers or the food industry to get us out of this mess. We must stand up for our families, our health and ourselves. Functional medicine has the ability to change your life and restore your health. The future of medicine is now. The choice is yours.