Functional Medicine is a science-based and client-focused approach which aims to restore optimal health by identifying and addressing the root causes of illness, rather than a focus on the symptoms .
The focus of Functional Medicine includes:
The underlying factors of disease
Individual optimal health
The approach is holistic, recognising the dynamic balance between the interconnected bodily systems, and the biochemical individuality of each person.
The tree below presents the holistic approach of Functional Medicine to determine and address the root causes underlying disease.
How is Functional Medicine different from Conventional Medicine?
The conventional, Western, public health model of medicine is designed to diagnose disease and treat the related symptoms. Specialists tend to focus on specific organs (e.g., cardiologist, neurologist) or disease (e.g., oncologist). Conventional medicine can be very helpful in dealing with the aftermath of acute disease, such as a heart attack, cancer or infection.
Conversely, a focus on underlying causes makes Functional Medicine well suited to manage and prevent chronic disease. Rather than focusing on individual body parts or disease, it considers holistically the interconnection of all bodily systems, noting that what happens in one system affects many systems. It seeks to optimise an individual’s health – as compared with a public health model of decreasing disease and mortality across a population.
One condition, many causes; one cause, many conditions
A disease may have multiple causes. Depression, for example, may have many causes, inflammation being one. Inflammation can be triggered by factors such as an omega-3 or vitamin D deficiency or hypothyroidism (left side of the diagram below - www.ifm.org).
Meanwhile, one cause may trigger many conditions. Inflammation may lead to various diseases, one of which is depression (right side of diagram).
How these factors will affect an individual depends on their genetics, environment and lifestyle. Only by targeting the underlying cause will a treatment achieve more than suppressing the symptoms.
For more information on Functional Medicine
The "Patient Resource Center" of the Institute of Functional Medicine has useful information on Functional Medicine aimed at individuals, including suggested books, blogs, podcasts and recipes.