What Does Functional Medicine Mean?
Wake Forest Functional medicine is an approach to managing chronic conditions such as asthma, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and many others. While functional medicine takes a different approach than traditional medicine, these two forms of medicine are not inherently at odds with each other. In fact, functional medicine uses many elements of traditional medicine such as studying individual health histories and doing various forms of testing in order to better understand the specifics of a condition that a patient may be experiencing.
The main difference between functional medicine and traditional medicine is that functional medicine seeks to treat the entire patient rather than just the disease that has manifested itself within their body. While traditional medicine tends to target specific symptoms and systems with medicines and other related treatments, functional medicine looks instead to behavioral and lifestyle interventions that can be made to slow down progression, manage or reduce symptoms, and otherwise promote overall health and vitality.
How Does Functional Medicine Assess Individual Health?
Functional medicine takes an integrative, patient-centered approach to the assessment of individual health. This means that in conjunction with typical information gathering such as individual and family medical histories and physical exams, functional medicine doctors also gather detailed information about lifestyle and environmental factors. These might include the following:
- Environmental factors: A wide range of environmental factors have a tremendous impact on our health in a positive or negative way. Functional medicine recognizes and seeks to address these environmental factors as a means of both managing chronic conditions and preventing further disease. Some of the environmental factors that a functional medicine might ask their patients about include air and water quality, the types of food that one eats (i.e. organic or non-organic; GMO or Non-GMO; factory-farmed or free range), the amount of exercise or movement that one engages in on a weekly basis, current sleep hygiene, and any potential exposure to toxins either in one’s home or other environment.
- Social and psychological factors: Also important to a functional medicine doctor is information related to social and psychological factors such as stress triggers, stress management, and even past traumas that one may have experienced.
How Does Functional Medicine Treat Chronic Conditions?
Once all of this information has been gathered and studied, a functional medicine doctor then works with their patient to create a treatment plan. Treatment plans almost always include a nutritional protocol, as food has long been understood within the practice of functional medicine as one of the primary contributors to overall health. Because we are, in many ways, what we eat, functional medicine often involves detailed plans revolving around daily nutrition; both what to consume and what to avoid. As necessary, there may also be a recommendation for supplements, certain kinds or amounts of exercise/movement, and ways that one might manage stress if this is deemed to be necessary.
While each individual plan will vary, due to the highly customized nature of functional medicine, the most defining factor of these plans are that they seek to provide interventions at the daily lifestyle level that are designed to promote health and vitality for the life of the patient. Far from merely treating symptoms or prescribing a pill, functional medicine doctors will work to find ways to make a difference in your life in ways that you yourself can control, making it a form of medical treatment that is not only effective but also empowering.