How Does Functional Medicine Differ From Conventional Medicine?


In conventional medicine making a diagnosis is often the endpoint of therapy. Treat the symptoms and send the patient home. Functional medicine looks deeper to find the cause of dysfunction. When we have pain, discomfort, or reoccurring health complaints, it is our body's way of trying to get us to pay attention. Rather than taking a pain medication each time we get a headache or backache perhaps we should be asking why we’re experiencing the pain.

Functional medicine investigates whether you’re missing something you may need such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics or amino acids. It also looks to see if you have something you don't need such as environmental contaminants, heavy metals, bacteria, fungus, and/or parasites. The answer may be simple or complex.

Contemporary medicine talks about "prevention". But pap smears, cholesterol and blood pressure screening, and cancer testing are all tests for early detection of disease, not prevention of disease. Functional medicine is concerned with prevention of disease. By paying attention to small problems, you can often prevent large ones. We seek to help you be able to do more of the things you want to for longer in life and to increase your "healthspan".

One of the underlying bases of Functional Medicine is the 4-R approach. This approach provides the basic functional treatment philosophy and provides an effective approach for resolving difficult and undefined illness. The 4 R's:

  • Remove refers to the elimination of anything that may be in our body or diet which contributes to poor health. This can include foods, pesticides, food additives, unwanted bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
  • Reinnoculation involves the use of probiotic supplements containing lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacteria, and other friendly flora.These bacteria manufacture vitamins, repel harmful microbes, and have anti-tumor effects. They are easily disrupted by use of antibiotics and the stress of contemporary living.
  • Replace refers to the addition of supplements to support digestive function and may include:digestive enzymes, bile salts, and/or HC1.
  • Repair refers to the nutritional support that helps quickly regenerate and heal the body.
Your relationship with your doctor is different. It is an equal partnership. It’s teamwork and a rewarding partnership for both parties. Functional medicine asks you to pay attention to your body and your biology.  

Functional medicine takes you and your lifestyle into the practice of medicine. Your relationship with your doctor will be one of a partnership. Your physician and medical staff will be your advisors in your life journey. You may find that they spend more time with you. You may fill out extensive questionnaires, about your medical history, work history, diet, exercise patterns, stress level, hobbies, use of supplements and medication, and home and work environment. A program will be developed which will be specific to you and your individual needs and lifestyle.

In a functional medicine approach the absence of disease is not health. Functional medicine is concerned with finding out how you function on a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. Optimal wellness is the ultimate goal.