If you were to ask someone about functional medicine, you may get a different perspective from that of a traditional medical doctor. When it comes down to it – what is functional medicine? I will explain it using an example of someone who has symptoms of fatigue.
What is functional medicine from a diagnostic perspective?
From a traditional and functional medicine perspective, both traditional and functional medical doctors will look at common causes of fatigue such as anemia, stress, depression, infection, cancer, and others. From a diagnostic perspective functional medicine performed by a physician is not much different.
What is functional medicine from a root cause perspective?
Fatigue can be indicative of all of the factors mentioned above, however, a functional medicine doctor will also look at other things such as nutrition, hormones, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, heavy metals, toxins, food sensitivities, neurotransmitter imbalance and more. All of these possibilities may need to be addressed but most functional medicine doctors will start with the most common first.
What is functional medicine from a nutrition perspective?
Functional medicine physicians will approach nutrition from a very different perspective. They will individualize treatment by uncovering food sensitivities that can cause inflammation, immune dysfunction, fatigue, and weight gain, mental fog, and other symptoms. Most commonly you will be asked to remove common food allergens from your diet, and use supplements to detoxify and heal the immune system and “leaky gut” otherwise known as intestinal permeability. Then you would reintroduce foods in their pure form, one at a time to determine if any cause symptoms. Food can be used as medicine to decrease inflammation and alter metabolic disorders such as high blood sugar, cholesterol, weight and blood pressure as well as fatigue. Removing foods that cause inflammation or hormone fluctuations, can unleash energy. Blood, genetic and other tests can help determine the foods that will help or hurt you.
What is functional medicine from a testing perspective?
Measuring nutrients in the blood stream only tells you if nutrients have been absorbed, however, if you have genetic variants, heavy metal toxicity or nutritional deficiency, even with adequate levels of nutrients in the blood, your cells may not absorb or use them properly. A functional analysis of nutrients inside cells can give you a very different picture. There are also tests that can determine if you have enough good bacteria that can influence energy, mood, weight, immune function and other issues. Stool tests can determine whether your bowel is inflamed if you have enough digestive enzymes and much more. There are genetic tests, anti-aging tests, and many other types of test that differ significantly from traditional tests that may only tell you that you are normal even though you don’t feel well. Measuring cortisol, the stress hormone in saliva is a good indicator of how stressed you are and it can be elevated even if you think you are not stressed or have a physical, hormonal or nutritional stress.
What is functional medicine from an interpretation perspective?
Generally, labs come with a reference range of what is “normal for your age.” However, the range of normal is wide and if you are on either end of the spectrum you may not be optimal. When looking at the lab values, a functional medicine physician can pick up abnormalities sooner and help you achieve optimal ranges where you function much better. For example, it is normal to have low estrogen during menopause, but if it is causing hot flashes and interferes with your sleep, causing fatigue, it is not optimal and can be normalized with hormone replacement therapy.
In trying to answer the question of what is functional medicine, I hope you gained an understanding that it is a holistic approach that covers all bases and integrates all of your systems as well as the mind, body, and spirit. If you want to know more, you can read about my services as a functional medicine doctor. You can also contact us today to schedule a consultation.
Dr. Maita is a recognized and award-winning holistic, functional, and anti-aging physician and author. She transforms people’s lives by getting to the root cause of illness using the best of science and nature. Her approach is personalized, precision medicine where you are treated as the unique individual you are.