Conventional Medicine or Functional Medicine

In conventional medicine, a visit to the doctor's office is generally focused around diagnosing the patient’s symptoms, and developing a treatment plan based on the diagnosis. Functional Medicine practitioners concentrate on finding the root cause of the person’s symptoms, and developing treatment plans to fix the root causes.

Instead of the typical 5-10 minutes with a conventional medicine model, one is likely to spend 30-60 minutes with a functional medicine doctor. The purpose of such a lengthy intake is to obtain a complete picture of your complete health, as this will provide valuable clues into what might be ailing you, why it's ailing you and how it can be addressed at the root.

Functional Medicine basics

Functional Medicine is essentially an approach based on systems biology with many variables. Functional Medication is an approach that encourages the unique expression of health and energy for every individual and recognizes the brain and body as one, interconnected system. This manner, a Functional Medicine workup can be helpful for everybody.

Functional Medicine is for everyone. Functional Medicine physicians spend a lot of time with their patients, listening to their own histories and taking a look at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that could affect long-term health and contribute to complex, chronic illness.

See: Integrative vs Functional Medicine

All symptoms and ailments have a cause or multiple causes. The Functional Medicine approach is designed to discover and deal with the one or multiple causes of disease and symptoms to the specific individual. This requires looking beyond the symptoms and signs to recognize the basic imbalances in the body and what may be causing those discomforts. Because of this, Functional Medicine can be helpful to anyone suffering chronic symptoms, whatever the diagnosis. Two individuals with the same diagnosis may have different causes; and two individuals with various diseases may have developed them from exactly the same cause.

Through a partnership of practitioner and patient, functional medicine seeks to have a holistic view of the person - body, mind, spirit, and environment - to encourage wellness and health through the prevention and treatment of disease. Functional medicine, according to the Institute for Functional Medicine, addresses the underlying causes of disease, utilizing a systems-oriented approach so as to identify and attempt to fix imbalances within the body. Functional medicine physicians combine integrative and functional medication to aid the inherent healing properties of each individual.


Similarities between Conventional & Functional Medicine

In Functional Medicine and traditional medicine are similar in many ways. Both are practiced by licensed health professionals; both are evidence-based, use advanced diagnostic tests, and might use prescription medications. Traditional medicine is excellent at treating acute and urgent medical conditions such as heart attacks, stroke, broken bones, physical trauma and severe illnesses are usually immediately diagnosed and well cared for under the traditional medical model. Skilled physicians, surgeons, and hospital personnel are well trained to provide such specialized services. Conventional medicine has become extremely powerful in developing methods to treat these acute issues.

Differences between Conventional & Functional Medicine

Functional medicine differs from conventional medicine in the principles that guide the approach to chronic symptoms. When a patient has undergone recurring symptoms, conventional medicine doesn't tend to deal with the underlying cause. The focus is rather on the symptoms, and therapy is often geared toward turning off those symptoms. Conventional medicine will often treat symptoms like acidity, gas, bloating, fatigue, rashes, and recurring pain with prescription medication such as anti inflammatory drugs, stimulants and steroids, acid blockers or antacids.

Functional Medicine considers that disorders are best solved by identifying and treating the underlying cause. The functional medicine doctors don't prescribe the medications - since they believe they hinder the body from reacting to the actual causes of these symptoms; when the underlying causes aren't addressed, problems can progress and worsen. Rather, they help guide the patient's therapeutic process with the belief that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. The focus is on strengthening the whole body with the objective of enhancing each person's healing process.

It's known now that chronic and debilitating medical conditions are often the effect of the foods we eat and the substances we consume in our living and working environment. The ways we deal with stress can affect our healing responses, occasionally resulting in exhaustion or burnout. Similarly, functional medicine looks for the causes of problems in potential infections or parasites, chemical poison exposures and other conditions not contemplated by traditional medicine. Functional medicine addresses the pressures people live in their work and private lives, and then supplies necessary treatments to deal with the sources and causes of these stressors. Rather than prescribing pharmaceutical products, dietary supplements are suggested to customize treatments to this exceptional problem the man is experiencing. Functional medicine treatments are individualized.

Functional medicine approach differs from traditional medicine as follows:

- partner with our patients for optimum health

- cure the causes and not just the symptoms

- focus on the source of disease, with the aim of eliminating not just the symptom, but the inherent problem

- see the body as an interconnected matrix as opposed to a group of separate systems

- address the holistic body/mind/spirit link

- analyze the physical and psychological aspects of illness. 

- take advantage of the latest advances in medicine to customize a treatment plan

- strive to improve the body's inherent healing ability

- when appropriate, recommend diet, exercise, lifestyle modifications, and supplements. Prescribe medication if necessary & supplements to manage side effects

Functional Medicine vs Conventional Medicine Lab Tests

In a conventional medical appointment, your doctor may order routine or specific laboratory work to get a sense of your general health and/or research symptoms For Instance, if you go to the doctor for a regular checkup they may, or may not, order labs to assess your lipid levels, glucose levels and kidney function. The primary focus of conventional medicine lab testing is disorder detection only. There's rarely a focus on predictive labs or root cause labs. That is where Functional Medicine is fundamentally different.

Functional Medicine practitioners will conduct one or more laboratory tests to give them a detailed picture of your entire health such as:

• Hemoglobin A1c - covers the past 8-10 weeks of your average blood sugar levels and represents blood glucose influence in your cells

• Insulin, Fasting - a mark of pre pre-diabetes used to capture blood glucose issues early

• Thyroid Function with TSH and T3, free gives a comprehensive picture of your thyroid health and function, beyond just the standard TSH test

• Vitamin B12 - serves a great part in metabolism, energy, brain function, mood and intestinal health

• Homocyst(e)ine, Plasma - signifies your body's ability to utilize B-vitamins, especially B12 and folic acid, and has enormous consequences to heart health

• Ferritin (stored form of iron)--plays a role in energy and metabolism, promotes muscle health, brain function, blood health and vitality

• Lipid Panel, Fasting - tests triglycerides and steps the dimensions of your LDL levels and the complete amount, your HDL levels and cholesterol levels - and other tests as determined by your Functional medicine doctor. 


The people who get tested in labs – in other words, the population of that lab – are obviously statistically not the healthiest segment of the population. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be getting lab tests. That means if the lab results are “normal” despite your symptoms, what your doctor is essentially saying is you’re just like a lot of other sick people!

Functional medicine looks at a much narrower range of normal ranges of lab markers ranges, unlike a broader range used by conventional medicine. They also concentrate on the optimal assortment of nutrient and organ function in the body, or the ranges that prevent illness and maintain good health.


These ranges may be lower or higher than conventional medical ranges.

Functional Medicine physicians help you understand your laboratory markers including what all those markers mean to your current and future state of health, and how this information can help us help you reach your health objectives. The Functional Medicine evaluation process has been shown highly effective at treating disorders at their root cause preventing chronic disease, in studies done at The Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine.

References

1. Institute for Functional Medicine, https://www.ifm.org/

2. Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/departments/functional-medicine


Get a Consultation
(650) 539-4545
Get more information via email