Introduction to Functional Medicine
Updated: Jan 7
by Birgitta Bella PA-C
Are you looking for a more holistic approach to healthcare and wellness? If so, then you’re in the right place!
One of several missions of Shoona, is to broaden the reach of Alternative Health Care Practices within the general population of the United States.
One of these is the practice of Functional Medicine.
In this blog post we will give you a short summary of the ideas and concepts that make Functional Medicine worth a second look, especially for patients struggling with multiple chronic health issues. Read on to find out more.
According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM)’s founder, Dr. Mark Hyman, “We must learn to treat the person, not the disease; the system, not just the symptoms. This is personalized medicine, the medicine of the future.”
The difference, you see, between Modern Western Medicine and Functional Medicine is one of perspective and paradigm.
Western Medicine looks at you as a patient and sees your symptoms, for example indigestion and migraines, as 2 separate symptoms.
In this case, with a Western Medicine model, your Primary Care Provider will refer you to a GI specialist and a Neurologist, who will each treat you with medication. For example you may be prescribed a proton pump inhibitor (for your “GERD”) by the Gastroenterologist, and sumatriptan (for your “migraines”) by the Neurologist. Just like that, Western Medicine took two dysfunctions in your body and treated them separately because they occurred in different parts of your body, and as Mark Hyman would say, they gave you “... a pill for the ill” in each case.
A Functional Medicine PERSPECTIVE is altogether different, in that it views your body as a whole system not a collection of organs.
A Functional Medicine provider would look at your symptoms of indigestion and migraine and ask:
“What could be the cause of both of these?”
“What is going on “upstream?”
“What would cause these end results?”
Functional Medicine investigates the “root cause” of these symptoms in order to treat the origin of the symptoms rather than mask the symptoms with a pill.
Furthermore, imagine the PARADIGM of Functional Medicine being about half-way in between Modern Western Medicine and Ayurveda on a continuum of Medicine if you would, as:
It borrows much of its philosophy from the Ancient Ayurvedic teachings of treating the patient as a whole person.
It subscribes to routines in self-care as important pillars of wellness.
It accepts diet as the single most important tool we have to help us maintain health.
It acknowledges past psychological and physical trauma as causes of future illness and disease.
It views dis-ease as being caused by either “something that is missing” or “something that is too much.”
Functional Medicine aligns with Modern Medical Philosophy in several key aspects as well, though:
It uses diagnoses typically accepted in Western Medicine.
It recommends laboratory testing to find answers and causes.
It operates as a sub-form of Western Medicine in regards to licensure and regulatory issues.
However, I think it would be a mistake to simply view Functional Medicine as a hybrid somewhere in between Modern Western Medicine and Ayurveda.
Functional Medicine is much more than that. It is a philosophy unto itself.
While Ayurveda is guided by connection to nature and the life force, Modern Medicine is guided by business ideals and treatment goals. The philosophy of Functional Medicine though is more one of practicality and common sense in my opinion.
Dr. Mark Hyman (once again) says it best in this criticism of Modern Western Medicine:
“The way modern medicine operates is like trying to diagnose what’s wrong with your car by listening to the noises it makes instead of looking under the hood.”
Working with a Functional Medicine Provider may be as close as you can get to having an expert investigative mechanic on your Healthcare Team!
Hopefully this article has helped you learn more about Functional Medicine, and has opened your mind to the different Perspectives and Paradigm that Functional Medicine offers.
To learn more, follow us as we dive deeper into many more topics like this one! Be sure to also come say Hi over on Instagram! You can find us @shoonahealth.