What is Functional Medicine (FM)?
To answer this question, it is first important to briefly look at the strengths and weakness of conventional “allopathic” medicine.
Merriam Webster defines allopathic as:
relating to or being a system of medicine that aims to combat disease by using remedies (as drugs or surgery) which produce effects that are different from or incompatible with those of the disease being treated
The keyword to note in the above definition is that allopathic medicine means to combat illness.
Allopathic medicine is unparalleled when it comes to saving lives from acute illness or trauma. In this case, the “combative” approach may be the only thing that can help. But when it comes to chronic problems or preventative care, the weaknesses of allopathic medicine become glaringly apparent. When you go to see your medical doctor for a check up or a specific complaint, such as fatigue, your doctor examines you and usually order’s laboratory tests specifically to rule out pathology (i.e. illness) that can be associated with you complaint. If the lab values fall within the so-called normal range, you may be told that nothing is wrong.
Or perhaps you may be told that you do have a problem like hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure) or high cholesterol , and that you will need to take medications for a lifetime to control these problems as they put you at higher risk for serious problems like a heart attack or a stroke. While this is true, seldom are you taught that high blood pressure and cholesterol are not, in themselves, diseases, but are really often signs of an imbalance in biochemical processes occurring in your body. And even when because the numbers on conventional testing are “normal”, this does not mean that you do not have a problem.
There is another way. Functional medicine, is based on the idea that there is a broad spectrum between vibrant health and illness. Many people have symptoms of ill health but may not have a well definable illness. In functional medicine, the goal is to not combat the body by treating a specific illness, but work with it to bring chemical processes into a more harmonious balance. FM uses conventional, and novel, laboratory testing to help determine the biochemical imbalances or “glitches” that may lead to symptoms and sickness. FM can be looked at as detective work for the body.
Functional medicine in no way replaces allopathic medicine for treatment of any illness, but it may be useful as an adjunct to conventional treatment or to help bring the body into a more chemically balanced state so that pharmaceuticals, which often have dangerous or unwanted side effects, may be minimized.
What can functional medicine help me with?
Again, it is important to acknowledge that FM is not a treatment for any particular disease. However, even in cases where you have been diagnosed with a particular disease, FM can be a useful approach to control or minimize symptoms. Some problems that can commonly be helped with this approach include:
thyroid and adrenal problems
How will you approach my problem?
First, we’ll have you fill out a very extensive symptom questionnaire which can help determine which systems of your body’s physiology are under the greatest burden. Next, we’ll request you medical records from your previous doctors to see what kind of testing has already been done and what the results were.
Based on the above, we may need to order additional conventional testing, such as comprehensive blood and urinalysis, and stool testing as well as more advanced functionally oriented tests to look for a number of confounding factors including:
Heavy metal toxicity
essential fatty acids
vitamins and minerals
food allergy testing
intestinal mucosal barrier testing
sex hormone imbalance
total load on liver-liver detox testing
How will you treat any imbalances you find?