In recent years, the healthcare landscape has shifted. In the early days of medicine, it was a common practice to treat conditions using nature and plants, as this option was often all that was available. However, as medicine moved toward the 21st century and more knowledge and technology became available, medicine began to shun treatments solely rooted in nature.
Medicine eventually became what most people are familiar with today. However, in recent years, more and more people are moving away from this conventional medical model to a more holistic approach, and the tides in medicine are turning again.
Now, we have options, such as functional medicine, that focus on treating patients as a whole and identifying root causes of illness rather than patchwork treatment of ailments as they arise. Today, we will discuss what functional medicine is, why medicine is moving toward holistic approaches, the benefits of functional medicine, and what we offer here at Shakthi Health and Wellness Center.
What is functional medicine?
Functional medicine is an approach to diagnosing, treating, and, often, curing health issues while considering the patient as a whole. Where traditional medicine will identify patterns of symptoms and test results that help paint a picture of a disease(s), and then aims to treat the symptoms of the disease through the use of medicine and surgery, functional medicine strives to identify the underlying reason, or root cause, of why a person is experiencing the symptoms they are and works to find ways to address it through nutrition, lifestyle changes, and other functional treatments.
And, because functional medicine encompasses a whole health approach, doctors will often assess how one’s diet, stress, sleep, exercise (or lack thereof), emotional well-being, and relational factors can produce illness and dysfunction for a person. Beyond this, functional medicine doctors will also consider epigenetics, or how the environment around us affects our genes, and how these factors can affect our health.
But, before we go on, if all of this sounds familiar, and you’re wondering why functional medicine sounds oddly similar to holistic medicine, let us explain. Functional medicine may sound familiar to you if you’re aware of what holistic medicine is. The reason is that functional and holistic medicine are one and the same.
Functional medicine takes a holistic approach in viewing a person as whole, and a reflection (in terms of health) of their diet, lifestyle, and environment. Now, we’ve talked about what functional medicine is, so let’s look at how it compares to some of the other holistic medical practices.
How is functional medicine different from integrative medicine?
Let’s start by looking at what integrative medicine is. Integrative medicine is often thought of as the marriage between conventional medicine and complementary therapies. Integrative medicine practitioners believe that to treat a person appropriately; the whole person should be considered, which means mind, body, and spirit.
This holistic approach of mind, body, and energy is why integrative medicine incorporates therapies, such as Reiki, yoga, Tai Chi, massage, and chiropractic therapy. While both functional and integrative medicines aim to treat the person by considering how aspects of life, like stress, can affect our well-being, functional medicine focuses on discovering the root causes of diseases.
What’s more, while functional medicine utilizes alternative treatments, such as nutritional therapy, other therapies like Tai Chi may not be included as they would in integrative medicine. So, is a functional medicine doctor right for you?
What is a functional medicine doctor, and what training do they receive?
Most functional medical practitioners are also medical doctors. They have followed the traditional path through medical school and then received additional training to specialize in functional medicine. It is possible, however, to find a functional medical provider that is not an MD, as other healthcare providers, such as acupuncturists and chiropractors, can obtain certificates in functional medicine as well.
However, receiving care from practitioners of varied backgrounds may benefit patients as each field brings its own perspective on illness and treatment. Regardless, though, of the professional background, every functional medicine provider learns to identify the root causes of ailments using a matrix tool that breaks down health issues into seven categories. These categories are:
- Assimilation: This category focuses on digestive concerns, such as malabsorption and food metabolism.
- Defense and repair: This category is concerned with how the body is healing and fighting off viruses and other foreign bodies.
- Energy: This aspect of health centers on the body’s ability to produce energy via mitochondrial function.
- Biotransformation and elimination: Focusing on issues with this element of health will tell a functional medicine provider how well the body is eliminating waste from nutrient consumption.
- Transport: This category looks at how well your body moves blood and lymphatic fluid for circulation and restoration.
- Communication: This aspect of health is concerned with how well the hormones are communicating with the nervous system.
- Structural integrity: This aspect of functional medicine focuses on any structural abnormalities from veins to muscles, cells, and gut health.
By using this matrix, a functional medical doctor can explore your specific medical background to determine which category(s) your health concerns fall into, and then formulate the best course of action.
Why is medicine moving toward functional medicine?
There has long been a disconnect between healthcare providers and their patients. As a result, many people feel disappointed at the failure of being treated in a way that makes them feel seen and heard by their doctor. This unrest over the years has prompted healthcare professionals to search for ways to address patients’ health concerns neglected by conventional medicine.
The answer to this problem comes in the form of functional, holistic, and integrative medicine. And while even traditional medicine has recognized this gap in their approach to care, which may explain recent shifts in the conventional medical paradigm that will hopefully lead to healthcare being more patient-centered, this focus on care still does not fully recognize the correlation between diet, lifestyle choices, and overall health. Moreover, doctors often do not feel comfortable giving advice on lifestyle changes needed to address health issues.
However, functional medicine acknowledges the connection between epigenetics, genetics, and lifestyle to our overall health, making this form of therapy a more upstream approach to medicine. So, rather than simply waiting to see what new symptoms arise and then adding new medication and procedures to treat these symptoms, functional medicine doctors work with you to identify the cause(s) of symptoms and devise a treatment plan that will fit your specific needs.
As more people recognize functional medicine’s benefits, it is hard to fathom why it would not draw people to a more holistic model of care that addresses health concerns and strives to prevent them altogether.
What are the benefits of functional medicine?
So, what are the benefits of functional health, and why might it be right for you? One benefit of functional medicine is the extra time you’ll spend with your doctor. Like holistic medicine, with functional medicine the care you receive is not limited by insurance coverage and nonpayments, so you are afforded the time to dive deep into your health needs and concerns. This also highlights the second benefit of functional medicine- personalized care. You can rest assured that your treatment plan is personalized to exactly what you need.
Third, if you prefer treatment not centered only on medications and procedures, you’ll find what you’re looking for in functional medicine. And lastly, you’ll benefit from care that identifies and resolves the root causes of health issues. For example, patients with chronic illnesses often fail to reach remission because conventional medical treatments aim to treat and mask symptoms. With function medicine, underlying causes are addressed, leading to symptoms disappearing altogether.
Functional medicine at Shakthi Health and Wellness Center
At Shakthi Health and Wellness Center, our very own Dr. Jyothi Rao heads up the functional medicine team. With an understanding of how improving our gut health can significantly change our overall well-being, Dr. Rao uses diagnostic testing to determine the presence of any inflammation and hormone imbalance and recommends ways to address these while reducing your overall stress. Moreover, Dr. Rao will suggest dietary changes to heal your gut and improve your vitality and wellness. To find out more, visit us at www.raowellness.com.
In closing, functional medicine seems to be the way of the future as it responds to the needs of thousands of patients looking for ways to not only identify their health issues but treat them in a way that does more than just slap a bandaid on the issue. Functional medicine doctors seek to fully understand their patient’s needs as they develop a treatment plan that cures from the inside out.
As a result, patients receive personalized care tailored to their specific concerns and health needs and get the extensive attention they deserve during visits. Lastly, functional medicine is the response to the need for healthcare that does not automatically send patients into a medication cascade that can seem neverending. Once again, Dr. Jyothi Rao heads up the functional medicine team here at Shakthi Health and Wellness Center. If you’d like to schedule an appointment or get more information, visit us at www.raowellness.com.
Why Functional Medicine is the Way of the Future – Dr. Andrey Lutskovsky (americanregen.com)
Identifying The Root Cause of Disease: Functional Medicine Doctors (webmd.com)
Integrative Medicine: What Is It, Types, Risks & Benefits (clevelandclinic.org)
What Is Functional Medicine | Shakthi Health & Wellness (raowellness.com)