In recent times, talks around functional medicine have increased. It serves as a means to provide not just medical care, but holistic health care. Doctors practicing functional medicine focus on providing tailored, individual care. The patient and practitioner both focus on better lifestyle practices to treat complex diseases.
What is Functional Medicine?
Most patients with any chronic disease will definitely have heard one or more of the following:
- This disease has no specific cause. It can happen to anyone.
- You have to continue taking medication lifelong.
- We can only control the symptoms. There is no cure.
Sounds familiar right?
Functional Medicine provides an alternative to this conventional approach. Functional Medicine doctors undertake a complete understanding of your body. This is not limited to physical illnesses alone. It also includes emotional well-being and mental health, all factors which can directly impact your health.
The principles of this approach were first put forward by the Institute for Functional Medicine close to three decades ago. They explained how every person's genetic makeup is different. As a result, the way they respond to the environment also varies. It advocated a biology based approach to understand all these connections.
To treat any chronic disease, it is necessary to explore the root cause. That is the only way to address the real problem. Focusing on symptoms is a temporary solution of sorts.
This is why health is in itself a positive state. It cannot simply be defined as an absence of disease.
Consider a situation where you have back pain. You apply a balm over it. It produces a cooling effect and your pain reduces. Next time it happens, you take a painkiller tablet.
Will these prevent it from happening yet again? Most likely not. Unless you identify all the factors putting strain on your back and address them, it is likely to recur.
The same parallel can be drawn with other medical conditions. This does not mean that the use of medications can be skipped completely. They are a necessary part of the treatment. However, they should not be the only component of your road to recovery.
What does a functional medicine doctor do?
You may be wondering what a visit to a functional medicine doctor looks like. Let us walk through what you might find new.
Any given disease can occur due to a variety of causes. Of these, most are not addressed by conventional therapy. Therefore, a few additional steps taken in a functional medicine set up include:
Assessment of nutritional deficiencies Most chronic diseases are related to micronutrient or protein deficiencies. These can be corrected by diet improvements and additional supplements. The specific requirement of these is assessed.
Gut Health A leaky gut is not linked only with digestive problems. It can contribute to hormonal imbalances, mood disorders, skin conditions and several autoimmune conditions.
Stress management Although stress is universal, it can be managed. This requires in depth analysis to identify how you are coping with stress currently. Following this, more effective options can be suggested.
Active lifestyle Exercise can be a very effective source of relaxation. However, it requires a balance to avoid overdoing it and causing stress.
Food as medicine Our expert nutritionist can guide you to adopt a diet which reduces inflammation. We harness the medicinal properties of food to improve your daily habits.
The final treatment plan includes a combination of medications and these therapies. This is reviewed over time to assess the response. The plan is constantly modified to best suit the needs at the time. Eventually, the aim is to wean the patient off medication or maintain the lowest possible dose.
A functional medicine plan requires much more active participation by the patient. They have to be involved at every step. Optimal results are seen when they consistently follow the lifestyle changes suggested. Visits to a doctor may also last longer.
The Functional Medicine Model
The fundamental principle of functional medicine is to focus on the cause, not just the symptom. Any given disease is a culmination of many triggering factors as we have seen above.
Conversely, the above mentioned factors can individually be a risk factor for various conditions. What do we mean by this? A single cause such as inflammation can cause depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other illnesses. This means that directly addressing this factor can offer you protection against other diseases as well.
Hence, the focus should be on tackling that root cause itself, not limiting oneself to controlling the resultant disease. The field of functional medicine achieves this by modifying the conventional medical approach.
Why choose functional medicine?
Simply treating symptoms does not treat a disease. Even if you feel the medications make you feel comfortable, the underlying disease process continues. This means that despite feeling better, you might be getting worse.
Thus, the functional medicine practitioner adopts an integrated approach. The conventional science based approach uses medications for short term control. The alternative medicine component works towards long term health care.
The functional medicine model is ideal for patients with chronic disease. These include diabetes, thyroid disease, polycystic ovarian disease, psoriasis, nerve disorders and many others.
In India, the incidence of these conditions is on the rise. Functional medicine provides individualized treatments which target specific concerns. This includes an assessment of medical history and present lifestyle. It brings to light some habits which the patient may not even associate with the present disease.
These diseases are a source of economic burden as well. The proactive approach of functional medicine can reduce this as it improves overall health status. Integrative medicine makes your entire body healthy.
Hence, choosing functional medicine can help you gain a deeper understanding of how your body works. It can help you feel more energetic and reduce dependence on tablets. It also takes into consideration genetic factors, toxins and microbial makeup. These significant factors are sometimes missed by some doctors practicing medicine.
Every individual is unique. The occurrence of a disease in the human body involves multiple variables. Functional medicine helps break down this complex process and answer one simple question: why did I get this disease? By shifting focus to the patient, functional medicine aims to restore balance to the body. This means not only will you get treated, you will become healthy from the inside out.
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