April 5

What is Functional Medicine? 


Do you often feel like you’re not getting the most out of life? Do you feel like your body is working against you? You may be suffering from a condition that can be treated with Functional Medicine. With the rise of chronic diseases in the twenty-first century and the desire for optimal wellness, many are asking “what is functional medicine?” and then seeking out functional medicine doctors for treatment.

So, What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a relatively new field of medicine that focuses on identifying and treating the underlying causes of disease, rather than simply treating the symptoms. It is based on the idea that our health is determined by how our bodies function, not by the diseases we have. Functional medicine practitioners use a variety of techniques to identify the root cause, such as ordering a comprehensive health history, advanced blood work, genetic testing, and more. Treating the root cause of the disease can go beyond conventional medicine and include dietary changes, supplements, and lifestyle changes. 

Treating Symptoms VS Treating Root Causes 

It is important to differentiate what it means when one says treating a “root cause” rather than treating the symptom. If you wake up and have a headache, the initial reaction most people have is to take ibuprofen and go about the day. However, if you wake up every single day with a headache, it is a different story. If you were to take ibuprofen every day, that could lead to liver damage down the line. A headache is a symptom. A functional wellness doctor would be focused on finding the root cause of the headache. 

Could it be caused by an aggravated injury? Maybe the neck is misaligned from an injury that wasn’t treated properly the first time? Could it be allergies, hormonal fluctuations, cardiovascular issues, stress, dental infections, or nutritional deficiencies? When using a functional medicine approach, the practitioner works backward from the symptoms to find the cause.

what is functional medicine 1

How is it Different from the Traditional Approach? 

Functional medicine is very different from traditional medicine, which is based on the idea that diseases are caused by germs and can be treated with drugs or surgery. The traditional approach focuses on treating symptoms rather than addressing the root cause, or underlying cause, of the disease. 

Part of the traditional approach relies on using conventional medicine for treatment. There is a common misconception that the functional medicine approach rejects conventional medicine. The functional medicine model uses conventional medicine as a foundation on which to add new dimensions in the evaluation, management, and prevention of chronic disease. 

What is a Chronic Illness? 

When asking “what is functional medicine?”, it’s important to understand what a chronic illness is. A chronic illness is a long-term health condition. Chronic illnesses can affect your quality of life and ability to carry out everyday activities. Some chronic illnesses include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and arthritis. 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the definition of a chronic illness will vary from person to person and takes multiple factors into account. However, some general characteristics of chronic illnesses include that they are long-lasting, recurrent, and often require ongoing treatment. 

What Are Some of the Principles that Guide Functional Medicine? 

One of the main principles of the functional medicine model is the belief that we should treat the body as a whole. This means that instead of just treating individual symptoms, we should look at all the factors that are contributing to someone’s health. This includes their diet, lifestyle, environment, and genetic background. 

Functional medicine physicians also emphasize the importance of disease prevention. We should focus on keeping people healthy rather than just treating them when they’re sick. And finally, functional medicine practitioners believe in using a patient-centered approach. This means that we should listen to our patients and work with them to create a treatment plan that meets their specific needs. 

functional medicine

How Can Functional Medicine Help You Achieve Optimal Health and Wellness? 

Functional medicine is all about addressing the root cause of any particular health concern and helping that person to achieve optimal health and wellness. It takes a truly holistic approach, looking at all aspects of your health and lifestyle, and considering how they may be impacting your overall health. This can be really helpful in identifying and addressing any underlying issues that may be contributing to your health concerns. 

Functional medicine can also help you to make lifestyle and dietary changes that can improve your overall health and well-being. The human body is very complex; for optimal function and to promote optimal wellness, functional medicine doctors are looking to treat the person as a whole. Because there are multiple factors in a patient’s history to take into account, a personalized approach is necessary. This empowers patients to live healthier lives, rid of preventable health problems in the future. 

Talk to Thrive! Wellness Center 

If you’re interested in learning more about functional medicine and how it could benefit you, contact Thrive! Wellness Center to speak to a functional medicine practitioner or check out Dr. Kelley’s Functional Wellness podcast. 

What Conditions Can Functional Medicine Treat? 

A few of the conditions that functional medicine can treat include: 

-Heart disease
-Chronic pain
-Hormonal imbalances
-Adrenal Fatigue
-Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
-“Leaky Gut” Syndrome (intestinal Permeability)
-Toxic Exposures (mold, heavy metals, etc.)
-Hormonal imbalances
-Autoimmune diseases

Each person’s individualized treatment plan will be tailored to their specific needs and situation. Functional medicine is holistic medicine, which means that it takes into account all aspects of a person’s life when determining what treatments will be most effective. 

What Should You Look for When Choosing a Functional Medicine Doctor? 

When looking for a functional medicine doctor, it’s important to find someone who is qualified and experienced in the field. There are various kinds of functional medicine doctors. For example, their medical practice can focus on osteopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine, naturopathy, acupuncture, nutrition, and more. 

Get to know your doctor. Ask about their training and how long they have been practicing. It’s also essential to find a practitioner who takes a holistic approach to health and who listens to your concerns and goals. Personalized medicine is where the medical industry is headed. The human body is too complex for “one-size-fits-all” treatments for chronic disease. 

What Questions Should You Ask a Functional Medicine Doctor? 

When you first meet with your functional medicine doctor, there are some critical questions to ask. These include: 

-What is your training and experience in functional medicine?
-How do you approach health and wellness?
-What are some treatments that you typically recommend?
-How will you work with me to create a personalized treatment plan? 

-What conditions can you treat with functional medicine? 

-How do I know if functional medicine is right for me? 

These are just some questions you may want to ask your doctor. Be sure to discuss any other concerns or questions you have during your consultation. 

What to Expect During Your First Appointment with a Functional Medicine Doctor 

Your first appointment with a healthcare professional who practices functional medicine will likely involve a detailed medical history and physical examination. You may also be asked to schedule blood work and other labs so that your health can be thoroughly assessed. 

The healthcare professional will then work with you to create a treatment plan that is tailored specifically to your needs. To take a science-based approach to find the root causes of an individual’s illness, a doctor must have a comprehensive understanding of the patient’s body as a whole. 

Are there any risks associated with functional medicine treatments or therapies? 

While functional medicine treatments and therapies are considered to be safe, there is always the potential for risks associated with any medical treatment. It is essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting any new treatment regimen. Functional medicine doctors are focused on patient-centered care. When working with a chronic disease and/or chronic conditions, the functional medicine approach may include similar treatments to that of conventional doctors. 

While being a functional medicine practitioner requires specialized training and is based on scientific principles to treat root causes, there is still the fact that all individuals are different. Risks may include but are not limited to, adverse treatment reactions, interactions between drugs and supplements, incorrect diagnosis, and failure to properly treat a condition. 

It is essential to note that the vast majority of people who undergo functional medicine treatments experience no adverse effects whatsoever. Considering how unique each person is, the functional medicine approach is primarily a “case-by-case” situation. 

How much does Functional Medicine cost, and is it covered by insurance? 

Functional medicine treatments and therapies can vary in cost, depending on the practitioner and the services provided. Many health insurance plans do not cover functional medicine services, so it is important to check with your provider. You may also be able to receive reimbursement for some functional medicine services through your health insurance plan. 

There can be a higher cost of care associated with functional medicine, which insurance companies may not be willing to cover. As many of the treatments are holistic and highly individualized, it can be hard for insurance companies to quantify and bill for. Functional medicine can sometimes be more effective in preventing disease than treating it, which is not as profitable for insurance companies. Insurance companies rely on a profit-driven model, while functional medicine practices are focused on treating the individual and preventing any future issues. 

Prevention is not as profitable for insurance companies, in comparison to the treatment for someone who is already ill.  Additionally, many of the treatments used in functional medicine (such as dietary changes or supplements) are not as expensive as traditional medications or procedures, so insurance companies do not see as much of a financial benefit in covering them. 

Insurance caters to conventional medicine since they are more focused on treating the symptoms. On the other hand, functional medicine is successful in preventing expensive, “profitable” diseases. Diagnostic and treatment options can be up to 15 years behind the research and are labeled as “experimental”. When considering your own health, science, research, and effectiveness are more important than the profitability of treatment and it can be difficult for insurance companies to understand the difference. Contact our team at Thrive! Wellness Center for more information.

Where Can I Find a Qualified Healthcare Professional Who Practices Functional Medicine? 

The best way to find a qualified healthcare professional who practices functional medicine is to ask around and do your research. At Thrive! Wellness Center, our team is determined to give each patient an individualized approach to their health. We specialize in healing our patients, not just treating their symptoms. At Thrive! Wellness Center, we work with individuals who deal with digestive disorders, allergies, hormone imbalance, prediabetes, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, heavy metal toxicity, chronic illness, and much more.

Curious about our doctors and functional medicine? Contact Thrive! Wellness today and check out Dr. Kelley’s Functional Wellness Podcast to learn more.



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