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What is Functional Medicine? Your questions answered

What is Functional Medicine? Your questions answered

What is Functional Medicine? Your questions answered

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional Medicine, (also known as Integrative Medicine, Natural Medicine, Holistic Medicine, Complementary and Alternative Medicine), is an integrative, science-based approach to health care with a focus on patient-centred care. 

It provides alternative therapies by blending natural medicine and the latest scientific research to address the underlying causes of disease. Rather than just treating symptoms in isolation, which is often what conventional medicine will do, Functional Medicine practitioners work with patients to find the root cause of illness to balance body systems and return them to optimal health.  

Functional Medicine has a strong focus on assessing the biochemistry of the body through targeted medical testing.  This is used to identify a range of biomarkers in the body, uncover hidden bacterias, viruses, and pathogens, and to identify key nutrient imbalances and genetic pathway dysregulations.

What do Functional Medicine health practitioners do?

Functional Medicine integrates Western medical practices and naturopathic medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of herbal medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs or stress management techniques.

We live in a world where more and more people are living with chronic diseases; they are getting sicker, more obese, and more anxious. Functional Medicine offers positive treatment solutions to work towards improving the health of contemporary societies.

Do Functional Medicine health practitioners reject traditional medicine?

Functional medicine doctors, (also known as functional doctors, integrative medicine doctors, naturopathic doctors) do not dismiss traditional medicine out-of-hand. We believe it is better suited for acute care and emergency situations, and that it works well in a medical crisis.

It doesn’t, however, work as well for many chronic diseases. Some of the chronic conditions that functional medicine treats exceptionally well include gut issues such as IBS, digestive disturbances, fatigue, anxiety and depression, fibromyalgia and many others. A comprehensive list is below.

What are the origins of Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine was invented by chemist Jeffrey and his wife Susan Bland. They founded the Institute for Functional Medicine in 1991 as a division of HealthComm.

Their vision was to bring emerging evidence and insights into clinical medicine that would enable it to move from the “drug-based model of fighting infectious diseases that worked so well in the 20th century to a systems-oriented, patient-focused clinical model designed to reverse the growing chronic disease epidemic”. 1

They understood that contemporary society’s most prevalent health issues are mostly caused by the interactions between genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures. To treat them requires understanding these interactions and using that understanding to design appropriate treatments that are personalized to each individual.

“Like the creation of many new ideas, the functional medicine concept cannot be tracked to a well-defined business plan or an organized management structure. Rather, it emerged organically from conversations and collaborations, and then it continued to evolve due to the shared visions – and hard work – of many dedicated health professionals.” 2

Jeffrey Bland

What does the ‘function’ in Functional Medicine mean?

In the functional medicine model, the word ‘function’ is aligned with the evolving understanding that disease is an endpoint, and ‘function’ is a process. ‘Function’ can move both forward and backward. The vector of change in ‘function’ through time is, in part, determined by the unique interaction of an individual’s genome with their environment, diet, and lifestyle. 3

How is Functional Medicine different from conventional medicine?

“Conventional medicine isn’t really healthcare—it’s disease management. Rather than optimize wellness through preventive and restorative lifestyle strategies, it focuses on managing illness once it has already occurred, primarily by suppressing symptoms with prescription drugs.” 4

There are a number of differences between the two medicinal models. 5

conventional medicine vs functional medicine

What are the core principles of Functional Medicine? 

Functional medicine practitioners are respectful of individual patient preferences, needs, and values, ensuring patient values guide all clinical decision-making. This way, patients feel empowered to take ownership of their own healing. Patients who are active participants in the development of their therapeutic plan feel more in control of their own well-being and are therefore more likely to make lifestyle changes to improve their health and wellness. 

We learn the history of our patients, listening to their stories, and tailoring treatments that address the individual’s unique needs. We work to understand how their genetics and environments and lifestyle factors interact to impact their health. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is considered, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.

principles of functional medicine
6

What is the process of Functional Medicine?

At your first visit, your Functional Medicine health practitioner will listen to your medical history and your current symptoms. He or she will start to build a complete picture of you and the state of your health.

It is likely you will be required to complete some testing to assess various areas of your biochemistry.  Once results are received, a comprehensive case review is undertaken, assessing all areas of your health and medical test results.  You will work with your practitioner to design a comprehensive and individualised treatment plan. This method of planning is empowering for both the practitioner and patient alike and allows freedom of choice that is rarely seen in conventional medicine.

Most health issues can be successfully treated as long as the right causes are identified. For many people, there is a complete restoration of their health and vitality. For others, they see significant improvement in their symptoms. And for a small group of patients, the goal is to ensure that their symptoms or disease do not get any worse.

The treatment plan you help design will be tailored to balance your biochemistry and may include making some changes in your lifestyle if required such as:

  • What you eat
  • Your level of physical activity
  • How you deal with stress
  • Mental and emotional happiness
  • Exposure to potentially toxic substances
  • Spiritual happiness

In addition to lifestyle changes, Functional Medicine treatments may include herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs and/or other medicines.

natural medicine supplements

How does Functional Medicine treat various health conditions?

As Functional Medicine treats the body as a whole, Functional Medicine health practitioners treat a wide variety of health issues, conditions, and disorders, viewing them as interconnected and culminating in symptoms that reduce the quality of life for the patient.

“A disease can have more than one imbalance that needs to be treated. For example, obesity can be the result of imbalances in inflammation, hormones, gut flora, genetics, diet, and exercise or exposure to environmental toxins. Similarly, one imbalance – such as inflammation – can cause many conditions. Functional medicine studies these complexities and believes restoring balance is key to restoring health.” 7

What types of conditions and disease states does Functional Medicine treat?

Gastrointestinal system disorders

  • Celiac disease
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Reflux
  • Flatulence
  • Gastritis
  • IBD (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease)
  • Gut dysbiosis
  • Bacterial infections
  • Food intolerances
  • Parasites

Immune system disorders

  • Autoimmune disorders such as hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease), hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease), and lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Herpes
  • Glandular fever
  • Tinnitus and other viral infections

Skin disorders

  • Acne
  • Alopecia
  • Dermatitis
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea
  • Urticaria. 

Mental health disorders

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Cognitive decline
  • Schizophrenia
  • Chronic stress

Musculoskeletal conditions

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gout, arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Nervous system disorders

  • Alzheimer’s disease/dementia
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease. 

Endocrine system disorders

  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism, other thyroid conditions
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Adrenal fatigue

Women’s health issues

  • Endometriosis
  • Infertility
  • Menopause
  • PCOS
  • Pregnancy
  • PMS

Men’s health issues

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility, prostatitis
  • Testosterone decline
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia

Cardiovascular system conditions

  • Anaemia
  • Heart disease
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Hypertension
  • Hypotension
  • Oedema
  • Varicose veins

Liver and gall bladder issues

  • Poor liver function and detoxification
  • Alcoholic liver disease and non-alcoholic liver disease
  • Gallstones
  • Cirrhosis

Metabolic dysregulation

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity

Respiratory system conditions

  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Asthma
  • COPD

Urinary system issues

  • Kidney disease
  • Urinary tract infections

Genetic disorders

  • Methylation
  • MTHFR
  • Genetic reporting

Sleep issues

  • Fatigue

Hormone imbalances

naturopath consultation

How can Functional Medicine help me?

Health is the foundation for everything we do. At Advanced Functional Medicine, we believe that the body is a powerful tool that can overcome many obstacles with a little help.  

We use the most advanced functional medical testing to understand exactly what is happening in your body and with your biochemistry to identify and treat the underlying causes of your health problems

Our treatments in Australia are designed to complement the body’s natural healing processes to help you overcome sickness, pain, dysfunction, and other medical conditions. We treat patients Australia wide via telehealth and in person from our Perth clinic.

Get in touch via the form below to find out more about how Functional Medicine can change your life for the better.

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