What Is a Functional Medicine Doctor?
If you're always on the lookout for new ways to be the best version of yourself, you've probably heard a bit about functional medicine. However, you might not know what a functional medicine doctor does or the philosophy behind this approach to wellness. Here you can find all the information you need about functional medicine and how it may help you. Let’s dive in.
If you're always on the lookout for new ways to be the best version of yourself, you've probably heard a bit about functional medicine. However, you might not know what a functional medicine doctor does or the philosophy behind this approach to wellness.
Here you can find all the information you need about functional medicine and how it may help you. Let’s dive in.
What Is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine takes a unique approach to diagnose and manage treatment for illnesses — the philosophy behind this medical practice is based on systems biology, the idea that all of the physical and mental functions within your body are interconnected and affect each other.
Based on this idea, functional medicine practitioners tend to look at one condition as possessing multiple root causes. These causes could be physical, mental, emotional, or a combination of all of the above.
In their diagnosis, a functional physician might recommend taking a unique, more non-traditional approach to treatment, not forsaking conventional medicine completely but staying more open to complementary and alternative medicine, as well.
The main goal of functional medicine is getting to the root cause of disease, especially chronic disease, and resolving it with a whole-body approach.
In other words, a functional medicine doctor wants you to be as healthy as possible – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. And a functional physician hopes that you'll be able to manage chronic health problems with more than just prescription medication.
What Does a Functional Medicine Doctor Do?
According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), around 50% of adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 25% of adults have two or more of these conditions.
Chronic health problems are persistent, and their symptoms can last for years or even decades. That’s where a functional doctor comes in.
Helps Manage Chronic Illness
Functional doctors aim to determine the root cause of an illness and address that root cause. When you visit a functional physician, they're likely to look at a wide array of factors as potential causes for your condition.
A functional doctor views every illness as complex, stemming from a variety of interconnected causes like lifestyle choices, nutrition, hormones, genetics, and more.
While functional medicine doesn't discourage the use of prescription medication and other conventional treatments, medication is often not the first (or even second) step of treatment.
Your functional doctor will likely recommend making lifestyle changes, forming healthy habits, and supplementing your micronutrients first, turning to pharmaceutical medicine only if other strategies are not successful.
Functional doctors place a major emphasis on disease prevention. Also known as prophylaxis, preventative healthcare focuses on avoiding the development of chronic illnesses by addressing the underlying causes of disease proactively.
For example, before letting heart disease develop, prophylaxis calls for heart healthy foods and a regular exercise regimen as necessary steps toward health.
The physician focusing on preventative health care looks at a patient's medical history, genetic timeline, heredity, and other factors that might contribute to their risk of developing a chronic illness. Functional medicine physicians work in collaboration with their patients to help stop these diseases from developing or progressing.
The holistic approach to healthcare encourages a medical doctor to see each patient as a whole person. According to holistic medicine, your body, mind, and emotions are all interlinked and contribute to your overall health and wellness.
Holistic doctors often adhere to many of the principles of functional medicine, looking at multiple factors to get a deeper understanding of a disease. However, there is more of an emphasis in holistic medicine on Eastern medicinal therapies like acupuncture and massage, supplements, and herbal remedies.
When Should I See a Functional Medicine Doctor?
Several factors might motivate you to visit a functional medicine doctor. Below are some of the perks of setting up an appointment with an MD specializing in functional medicine.
You Want Longer, Personalized Appointments
When you visit a functional doctor, it is easy to build what's known as a therapeutic partnership. This patient-doctor relationship is a mutual commitment to your long-term health, and every interaction you have with your doctor is motivated by this relationship.
An appointment with a functional medicine doctor is likely to be longer and more personalized, with your doctor asking you more personal questions about lifestyle factors, your habits, your relationships, and more.
Functional medicine better addresses these aspects of a patient's life than conventional medicine, which is one of the main strengths of a functional doctor.
The relational nature of an appointment with a functional doctor can make a big difference in your life, especially if you are visiting your doctor multiple times per month – or even per week. Seeing a doctor who pays attention to aspects of your lifestyle, such as your diet, sleep quality, and habits, can help you get the support you need to achieve higher overall health levels in the long run, for the long run.
You Have a Chronic Illness
A functional doctor is likely to take a different approach to help treat these illnesses than a conventional doctor. However, there's no objectively "better" medical philosophy to subscribe to when you suffer from a chronic health condition.
In addition, you can supplement conventional medical care with visits to a functional doctor for well-rounded, comprehensive treatment.
Functional medicine doctors take a unique approach to diagnose and help treat illness, and this different perspective can be helpful for many people that need extra support. Functional medicine may be worth exploring if you suffer from a chronic disease or want a more personalized form of medical care.
While we appreciate the approach of functional medicine in the way it prioritizes whole-body nutrition and support, conventional medicine is the gold standard for a reason. It’s proven, evidence-based, and research-backed, which is why we use the principles of conventional medicine to guide our services here at ivee.
ivee makes in-home integrative health and wellness accessible. To learn more about all things health and wellness, make sure to check out our blog.
What is Functional Medicine? | IFM
American Diabetes Association | Research, Education, Advocacy | Diabetes.org