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So what is functional medicine exactly and how does it differ from other medicine?
Have you heard the term ‘Functional Medicine’ but not known what it is exactly? Are you interested in finding another way to address your health issues or concerns? Then read on, as we explain what Functional Medicine is and its underlying principles.
In this blog, we will define Functional Medicine. You will learn:
- What exactly is Functional Medicine
- How common chronic disease is today
- What the principle of Functional Medicine are and how they can help you to optimize your health
Are your clients tired of being sick? Do your clients suffer from symptoms that don’t seem to go away? Do they have unexplained issues and symptoms? Do you know how to help them and bring them back to optimal health? Then this blog is for you. Please read on for the details!
Do you get stuck clinically with challenging symptoms in your patients? Would you like to have a larger impact on improving people’s health issues?
The key to treating disease is an individual approach using nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle and exercise. To improve your patient’s quality of life, you need to identify and address each patient’s root causes. Our functional medicine course will teach you how to do this. Look into our functional medicine school (mindbodyfunctionalmedicine.com) to have a greater impact on improving your client’s lives.
** Please note: If you want the short summary version of this article, then please click here **
What is Functional Medicine (FM)?
Functional Medicine is a comprehensive science-based approach to understanding disease and health. It seeks to identify the root causes of disease and to address these root causes one by one. There is rarely just one cause of a particular disease or of one’s person’s health problems. It is almost always a combination of different factors. Similarly, one root cause can lead to various diseases, not just one. In FM, we strive to break things down into root causes which we can then address with various methodologies.
What is the Background & History of Functional Medicine?
Dr Jeffrey Bland is considered the “Father of Functional Medicine”. He established the concepts of FM in 1990. According to Dr. Bland, Functional Medicine is a systems-biology approach to the prevention and management of chronic disease, using specific tools like nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, environment and other therapies to meet the individual needs of the patient (Bland, 2021).
The Statistics are on Chronic Disease today are Frightening
A chronic disease or condition “is a physical or mental health condition that lasts more than one year and causes functional restrictions or requires ongoing monitoring or treatment” (Raghupathi W, 2018). Chronic diseases are currently the biggest health problem.
** 6 in 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease (CDC, 2022) **
** 4 in 10 adults in the US have 2 or more chronic diseases (CDC, 2022) **
Sadly, this number is growing. Trends show a large increase in chronic diseases over time.
The list of chronic diseases includes (Raghupathi W, 2018):
- Heart disease
- Respiratory disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Oral diseases
Chronic conditions are quite challenging to treat. They can lead to hospitalization, long-term disability, a poor quality of life and even death. Chronic conditions often do not exist in isolation. People can have more than one chronic disease. This is called comorbidity, when a person has two or more diseases or medical conditions at the same time. The likelihood of comorbidities increases with age (Raghupathi W, 2018).
Chronic Disease is a Growing Concern in the US (Raghupathi W, 2018):
- Chronic diseases lead to 7 out of 10 deaths in the US, killing more than 1.7 million people each year (Raghupathi W, 2018).
- Over 75% of the $2 trillion spent on public and private healthcare in 2005 was spent on chronic diseases (Raghupathi W, 2018).
Prescription Drug Use is also Very High
Anyone who ever watches TV will see a lot of drugs being promoted. Have you ever wondered how many people are on long-term prescription medications? And how many medications are they on?
These statistics are also frightening (Kirzinger A, 2019):
- 89% of adults 65 and older report they take a prescription medicine.
- 75% of 50–64-year-olds report taking prescription drugs.
- 51% of 30–49-year-olds take medication.
- 38% of 18–29-year-olds do as well.
Older adults are more likely to take multiple prescription medications (Kirzinger A, 2019):
- 54% of adults 65 and older report taking four or more prescription drugs.
- 32% of adults 50-64 years old report taking four or more prescription drugs.
- 13% of adults 30-49 and 7% of 18-29 report taking more than one prescription drug.
Chronic disease and reliance on prescription medication has clearly become an epidemic in our modern society. But there are other options. Functional Medicine is preventative. It gets to the root of the problem(s). It seeks to use non-pharmaceutical solutions as often as possible. If you are suffering from chronic disease, symptoms that won’t go away or take (multiple) medications and would like to stop, then we strongly urge you to consider Functional Medicine.
What are the Underlying Principles of Functional Medicine?
Health is a state of Optimal Vitality. What is “health” to you? To us, health is a state of feeling your absolute best and not simply a lack of disease. Many of the conditions that society thinks are normal or are due to aging can actually be greatly improved or even cured with a FM approach. Are you always tired? Do you sleep badly? Are you overweight? Do you have high blood pressure? Are you on one or more medications? These are just some examples of the types of things that many people accept as normal, but they don’t have to be. You can feel much better and enjoy a better quality of life if you are willing to put a little work into it.
Declining health in older age is also not a given. A preventative FM approach can improve how a person ages. The last 10 years of a person’s life can still be very enjoyable. With FM, you can feel great today, and also stay well into old age to be able to play with your grandchildren, travel the world and enjoy retirement!
Identify the Root Causes. There can be a variety of issues or causes in a complex medical case. Functional Medicine seeks to dig deep into each individual case and identify the root causes. Why is someone suffering from a particular symptom or set of symptoms? FM will get to the underlying reasons for why the symptom or symptoms exist and address those underlying root causes.
Some examples of Root Causes include:
- Hormonal imbalances, like HPA axis, thyroid dysfunction or menopause/andropause
- Hidden underlying chronic infection, like Lyme disease, Epstein-Barr or others
- Gut infections/ dysfunction, like IBS, SIBO, parasites, dysbiosis or others
- Immune system function or autoimmunity, closely related to gut function
- Inflammation, but what is the root cause of the inflammation?
- Toxicity/toxic overload, from heavy metals, heavy drinking/smoking, mold exposure, etc.
- Nutrient deficiencies, like B12 or iron deficiency anemia, etc.
- Blood sugar issues & metabolic syndrome, which can ultimately lead to chronic diseases like diabetes or cancer
Prevention is Key. It is important to prevent issues before they turn into a disease. There are often signs of a problem lurking years before a person is diagnosed with a disease. We can see antibodies in blood tests years before an autoimmune condition is diagnosed. We can see type 2 diabetes coming if the right blood glucose and insulin tests are examined. Rather than focusing on disease, Functional Medicine focuses on optimal function. This means that in addition to getting well when chronic disease is present, there is also a focus on longevity, increasing vitality and energy, and not just feeling okay but actually feeling great. There is also a focus on sustaining and maintaining wellness once you have achieved that state.
Functional Medicine is Science and Fact-based. In FM, we use the latest medical and scientific research to understand how the body functions. Peer-reviewed studies are regularly reviewed by the greater functional medicine community. FM does not take the 15-20 years that it sometimes takes for research to become integrated in conventional medicine. Instead, research is applied to clinical practice shortly after being published. This means that innovative and new interventions are put into practice quickly.
Use Comprehensive Lab Testing. In FM, our motto is ‘Test Don’t Guess’. Lab testing is frequently used so that we can see what is happening rather than making assumptions. We use more precise and more extensive lab testing than you may see with your conventional medicine doctor. This is because, again, we are trying to identify the root cause of the problem and rely on testing to give us the clinical information we need. We don’t guess or assume and we don’t ignore symptoms. By getting your functional medicine degree online you will learn how to order, use and interpret these labs.
FM has many Modalities to Resolve Disease. What do we use in Functional Medicine to address the root causes and improve the symptoms? We don’t just rely on pharmaceutical drugs. We have a whole toolbox of tools to apply. We use nutrition, herbs, supplements, lifestyle habits, stress management, quit smoking/drinking, exercise, meditation, sleep hygiene and others. Sometimes we will prescribe a medication if that is the best approach to a person’s issues.
The Functional Medicine Approach is Individual and Patient-focused. It is not one-size-fits-all. We know the key to treating disease is an individual approach using testing, symptom assessment and root cause identification. We can then formulate a game plan for each individual that uses nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle, exercise and other modalities. People are different and no two cases are exactly the same.
Want to get your functional medicine degree online? Please note that our programs are not collegiate level degrees but are functional medicine certifications, courses and training programs.
- Functional Medicine is ideal for complex cases in which people have seen many doctors but are still ill.
- FM is the best option when there are unexplained or unresolved issues that conventional medicine has been unable to identify and/or resolve.
- FM can help to improve and even reverse chronic lifestyle diseases like pre-diabetes, diabetes, obesity and others.
- FM can help reverse root causes of immune dysfunction & autoimmune diseases, gut issues (IBS, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, etc.), hormone imbalance (without the need to take hormone replacement in many cases), chronic infections like Lyme disease, toxic burden like mold toxin illness (also called Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome or CIRS), and many more because the root causes of nearly every chronic illness are similar.
- FM is for anyone who wants to prevent health problems before they become debilitating, or even start to appear.
- FM is for everyone who wants to experience optimal health and enjoy life to the fullest! Just because some people feel good now doesn’t mean they can’t feel even better. Longevity, vitality, happiness and a sense of purpose are all areas of focus for a more integrative type of Functional Medicine.
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Are You a Suffering from Chronic Illness?
*Do you feel that you have tried many things and either nothing works, or the treatment does not hold?
*Have you been told that there is nothing that can be done to reverse your illness and you just need to manage symptoms?
*Does your illness impact your work, your family, your happiness and your social life?
We specialize in finding answers and solutions for complicated chronic illness when people feel like they have tried everything. If this sounds like you, book a free call with us to see if we are the right fit for your health goals
Dr. Miles Nichols and Dr. Diane Mueller have spoken for the following organizations: