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Does Functional Medicine Work?

Does Functional Medicine Work?

By Dr. Patrick Lovegrove Medically Reviewed by Lindsay Langley, BSN, RN, CHT
Posted Tuesday, June 13th, 2023
Does Functional Medicine Work?

Functional medicine aims to discover the fundamental origins of health issues and deal with them directly instead of solely managing symptoms in healthcare. It aim to have a personalized treatment plan for each patient that addresses their unique needs and helps them achieve optimal health and wellness.

Functional medicine differs from conventional medicine because it takes a more holistic approach to healthcare. Instead of fixating solely on the physical symptoms of a health problem, functional medicine practitioners consider various factors that can impact a person’s health, including genetics, environment, lifestyle, and mental and emotional well-being.

Given the holistic nature of functional medicine, many people wonder does functional medicine work. Can this approach to healthcare truly help individuals achieve better health outcomes? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind functional medicine, examine real-life case studies and patient testimonials, and discuss some of this healthcare approach’s criticisms and potential limitations.

The Science Behind Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is grounded in several fundamental principles. One is the concept of “biochemical individuality,” which holds that each person is unique and requires personalized healthcare that considers their specific genetics, lifestyle, and environment. Another critical principle is that the body is an interconnected system; imbalances or dysfunction in one part of the body can have widespread effects.

Evidence for effectiveness is increasingly apparent in functional medicine for various health issues. For example, a 2017 review of the literature published in Advances in Integrative Medicine found that functional medicine can effectively treat various chronic conditions, including autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, and mental health conditions.

An additional study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who received functional medicine-based care for chronic pain experienced extensive improvements in pain and overall quality of life. Other research has shown that functional medicine can effectively improve markers of cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity.

While the evidence base for functional medicine is growing, it’s important to note that some research on this healthcare approach is still in its early stages. More rigorous studies are needed to evaluate its effectiveness fully. Additionally, functional medicine may not be appropriate or effective for all individuals or health conditions.

Case Studies and Patient Testimonials

In addition to the scientific evidence, there are many real-life examples of individuals who have benefited from functional medicine. These case studies and patient testimonials provide compelling anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of this healthcare approach.

For example, one case study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association describes a patient who suffered from chronic fatigue, insomnia, and depression. However, after working with a functional medicine practitioner to reveal and cure the underlying causes of her symptoms, the patient experienced significant improvements in all of her health issues.

Another case study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine describes a patient with a history of recurrent urinary tract infections. After undergoing functional medicine-based treatment that addressed underlying factors such as gut dysbiosis and hormonal imbalances, the patient experienced a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of her UTIs.

Case studies and testimonials can provide strong evidence for functional medicine’s efficacy. However, it’s crucial to recognize their individual nature and acknowledge that experiences may vary. Additionally, relying solely on anecdotal evidence can be misleading. Instead, it may need to provide a complete picture of the effectiveness of functional medicine.

Criticisms and Limitations of Functional Medicine

Despite the growing prominence of functional medicine, it has its critics. Some experts have raised concerns about the field’s need for more regulation and standardization. It makes it difficult for patients to know if they are receiving high-quality care.

Some critics argue that functional medicine may only be appropriate for some individuals or health conditions. For example, some acute medical issues, such as broken bones or infections, require more immediate and conventional medical interventions. In these cases, functional medicine may not be the best approach.

Another potential limitation of functional medicine is that it can be time-consuming and costly. The personalized approach to care entirely involves extensive testing and analysis. It can be expensive and only sometimes covered by insurance. Additionally, functional medicine practitioners typically spend more time with patients than conventional doctors, which can also increase the cost of care.

The Role of Functional Medicine in Integrative Healthcare

Despite these potential limitations, many experts consider functional medicine an essential component of integrative healthcare. Integrative healthcare combines conventional medical approaches with complementary and alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, massage, and herbal medicine.

Does functional medicine work? Functional medicine fits well within this model. It seeks to pinpoint the underlying causes of health issues and address them through personalized lifestyle and dietary interventions. Targeteting nutritional supplementation, and other natural therapies.


So, does functional medicine work? Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. Functional medicine shows increasing evidence and suitability for certain health concerns. Therefore, it is essential to consider functional medicine’s potential criticisms and limitations.

However, functional medicine can provide a path to improved health and wellness for many individuals struggling with chronic health issues. By taking a holistic, personalized approach to care, functional medicine practitioners can help patients identify and address the underlying causes of their overall health concerns rather than just treating symptoms. Functional medicine may be a valuable tool for those seeking a more integrative approach to healthcare.

About the author

Dr. Patrick Lovegrove