On our site, we take a look at the huge field of medicine, health, science and that critical intersection of all of those. Whether we are discussing nutrition, supplements, new training, schools of thought or anything else under the sun, we are always on the lookout for the most useful tools to pass along to our readership. Elsewhere we have been looking at Dr. Mark Hyman’s Broken Brain docuseries and what that has to offer brain health. That series is evolving out of the new trend of medical practitioners called: functional medicine.
What is ‘functional medicine’?
Functional medicine is a form of medical treatment that approaches from a different angle, tilting the problems on their head and looking for cures and treatments by addressing the root cause.
First, an example.
Let us say, hypothetically, you have recently been experiencing a wide range of symptoms. You are losing weight, your hair is becoming brittle, and your constantly feel as if you are falling into a cold, day in and day out.
You see your standard family physician, Dr. Bob, he is old school. Your grandparent’s doctor, your mom’s doctor and now he helps you and your family. He is an experienced, trusted medical advisor. In your appointment, you discover you have a thyroid disorder.
Dr. Bob has had numerous patients over the years who suffer from thyroid conditions. This he understands. Dr. Bob says it is totally treatable, smiles and prescribes a number of medications to help manage your symptoms.
Here’s the problem, you still have a thyroid condition, and you are still suffering from those symptoms, now you just have a catalog of meds to take to help alleviate them.
That’s how medicine has long worked. But is that how it should work?
Not according to the proponents of functional medicine!
Functional medicine seeks to not address symptoms, but rather the root cause of the disease or affliction. In the case of our earlier example, a functional medicine practitioner would look at what causes the thyroid disease to act up. They don’t suggest that they can cure everything but by taking a whole system approach they can eliminate the symptoms.
Again, looking back at our example, functional medicine would dictate that there are triggers, something that causes the thyroid disorder act up and causes these other symptoms. In this approach, they would then work to eliminate those triggers.
Why Functional Medicine?
Why should patients look to use functional medicine in the treatment of their chronic health problems?
The first reason is that of the key difference between traditional medicine and functional medicine. Traditional medicine is acute care, focused just on trauma or illnesses that afflict you for a short amount of time. And for a long time that worked. But now, our society is seeing a crippling increase in chronic, complex diseases. Diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, mental illness. These are conditions that require care past the acute level. To really revert or get a handle and control them a much more all-encompassing method needs to be utilized, according to doctors like Dr. Mark Hyman.
Another feather in the functional medicine cap is that there is often an immense gap between medical research and the way a doctor actually practices. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, this is ‘as long as 50 years – particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness.’ When it comes to functional medicine practitioners, they know that gap exists and by working themselves in functional medicine they put the onus on themselves to be providing that best, most efficient care for their patients.
Working with a functional medicine doctor is also a good choice for those who wish to take a very active role in their own health. Functional medicine is patient-centered, and to promote your best health your doctor will work with you, learning your history, lifestyle, community, and so much more to understand all of the factors that go into your health.
The practice also integrates all the best medical practices available. It doesn’t simply stick to ‘Western’ medicine. If something works, even if it considered ‘alternative’ it is clearly effective and can be added to a treatment plan. Working with a functional medicine approach sees treatment based on prevention. Together, practitioners and patients work to find their best health by honing lifestyle factors such as nutrition requirements, exercise or diet changes, utilizing cutting-edge techniques tailor-made for their individual need.
In essence, functional medicine is largely what this site is all about. Looking towards the horizon for the best health practices. You find what works and address the entire system and causes, not just the symptoms. The goal is in fixing those underlying issues. If successful the patient will not just feel better than when they are sick but better than ever.