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Principle of Functional Medicine

Principle of Functional Medicine

By Dr. Patrick Lovegrove Medically Reviewed by Lindsay Langley, BSN, RN, CHT
Posted Thursday, May 4th, 2023
Principle of Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is an integrative and personalized approach to healthcare that seeks to identify and address the underlying root causes of disease rather than just treating symptoms. The principles of functional medicine consider a patient’s unique genetic makeup, lifestyle, environment, and medical history. Developing a customized treatment plan to optimize overall health and wellness.

The principles of functional medicine emphasize patient-centered care, biochemical individuality, and a systems-based approach. A collaborative partnership between practitioner and patient, and evidence-based practice. By focusing on prevention and addressing the underlying causes of illness, functional medicine aims to improve patients’ health outcomes and overall quality of life.

Despite the numerous benefits of functional medicine, there are challenges facing the field. Concerns include limited insurance coverage and the need for specialized training for practitioners. Nevertheless, the growing popularity and increasing demand for this approach indicate that functional medicine is poised to play an increasingly important role in modern healthcare.

Principles of Functional Medicine

  • Patient-Centered Care
    This fundamental principle of functional medicine places the individual patient at the center of their healthcare journey. This approach recognizes that every patient is unique. It requires a tailored treatment plan considering their medical history, lifestyle, environmental factors, and genetic makeup.
  • Understanding of the Individuals
    Understanding the individual patient is the first step in providing patient-centered care. It involves taking a comprehensive medical history and thoroughly evaluating the patient’s physical, emotional, and social health. Functional medicine practitioners can better provide customized care by understanding the patient’s needs and preferences. That can address the root causes of illness.
  • Customized Treatment Plan
    Based on this understanding, a customized treatment plan is tailored to the patient’s needs. It may include a combination of conventional and alternative therapies, lifestyle modifications, and nutritional and dietary changes. By developing a customized treatment plan, functional medicine practitioners can help patients achieve optimal health and wellness by addressing the underlying root causes of their health concerns. Ultimately, patient-centered care is a collaborative process that enables patients to play an active role in their healthcare journey and achieve better health outcomes.
  • Biochemical Individuality
    Biochemical individuality is a crucial principle of functional medicine that recognizes that every person has a unique genetic makeup and is influenced by their environment. This principle holds that individual differences in genetic makeup and environmental factors can contribute to the development of illness and disease. Functional medicine practitioners use advanced testing methods to identify these individual differences and develop a customized treatment strategy that targets the underlying causes of the disease. By understanding the unique biochemical needs of each patient, functional medicine practitioners can better provide personalized care that promotes optimal health and wellness.
  • Systems-Based Approach
    The systems-based approach is a core principle of functional medicine that views the body as a complex, interconnected system. This approach recognizes that the different body systems, such as the immune, digestive, and hormonal systems, are interdependent. Additionally, it acknowledges that imbalances in one system can affect the function of others.
  • Holistic View of the Body
    A holistic view of the body is central to the systems-based approach. Functional medicine practitioners consider the patient as a whole, not just their symptoms. A collection of symptoms or body parts. By taking a comprehensive approach to patient care, functional medicine practitioners can better identify the root causes of illness and develop a treatment plan that addresses the underlying issues.
  • Understanding of the Interconnection of the Body
    Understanding the interconnectedness of body systems is another critical aspect of the systems-based approach. It means that functional medicine practitioners recognize that imbalances in one system can have a ripple effect throughout the body. For example, poor gut health can contribute to inflammation and immune dysfunction, which can affect the function of other systems. By addressing the fundamental factors contributing to imbalances in the body, functional medicine practitioners can help patients achieve optimal health and wellness.
  • Collaborative Partnership Between Practitioner and Patient
    A collaborative partnership between practitioner and patient is critical to optimal health outcomes in functional medicine. This approach recognizes the importance of active patient involvement in decision-making and promotes shared responsibility for health outcomes. Available medicine practitioners work with their patients to develop customized treatment plans that address their needs and preferences. Patients are encouraged to participate in their healthcare journey actively, providing feedback on the effectiveness of treatments and making adjustments as necessary. By fostering a collaborative partnership, functional medicine practitioners can help patients feel heard and supported, leading to better adherence to treatment and improved patient satisfaction. Ultimately, this approach empowers patients to actively participate in their healthcare journey and achieve better health outcomes.
  • Evidence Base PracticeEvidence-based practice is one of the fundamental principles of functional medicine that integrates traditional medical methods with evidence-based therapies. This approach recognizes that there is value in both traditional and modern medical practices. It aims to provide patients with the best of both worlds. Functional medicine practitioners use scientific research to guide treatment decisions, choosing therapies proven effective through rigorous scientific study. By integrating evidence-based therapies into their treatment plans, available medicine practitioners can provide patients with safe and effective care that addresses the root causes of illness. Ultimately, this approach ensures patients receive the highest quality of care based on the latest scientific research.

Benefits of Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a healthcare philosophy focusing on the individual and their unique needs rather than just treating symptoms. This approach aims to identify and address the root causes of illness rather than just suppressing symptoms. Here are a few advantages of functional medicine.

Improved health outcomes

Functional medicine takes a comprehensive approach to healthcare, addressing symptoms and the underlying causes of illness. This approach can lead to improved health outcomes, allowing healthcare providers to identify and treat the root causes of disease rather than just managing symptoms. By treating the underlying causes of illness, patients can experience significant improvements in their health and overall well-being.

Personalized treatment plans

Functional medicine recognizes that each person is unique and requires personalized treatment plans. In creating a treatment plan, healthcare providers consider factors such as a patient’s genetics, environment, lifestyle, and other related considerations. This customized approach can lead to more effective treatments and better outcomes.

Focus on prevention and root cause resolution.

Functional medicine strongly emphasizes prevention and identifying the root causes of illness. By tackling these underlying factors, medical professionals can effectively avert the onset of the ailment. It can lead to better health outcomes and a higher quality of life.

Integration of conventional and alternative therapies

Functional medicine integrates traditional and alternative therapies to provide patients with a comprehensive approach to healthcare. This approach recognizes that different treatments may be more effective for individuals and conditions. By integrating both conventional and alternative therapies, patients can enjoy the advantages of both worlds.

Challenges of Functional Medicine

While the principles of functional medicine offer many benefits, it also presents challenges that can make it difficult for patients and practitioners. Here are three significant challenges of functional medicine:

Limited insurance coverage

One of functional medicine’s biggest challenges is the need for insurance coverage for many of its treatments and services. Because available medicine practitioners often rely on specialized testing and treatments not covered by insurance, patients might be required to pay for their care.

It can be a significant financial burden for patients, especially those who require ongoing treatment for chronic conditions. Without insurance coverage, many patients may be unable to access the care they need, which can have severe consequences for their health and well-being.

Lack of standardization and regulation

Functional medicine needs more standardization and regulation since it’s a new and emerging field with few established guidelines and protocols. Unlike traditional medicine, it isn’t highly regulated or standardized. It can make it difficult for patients to understand what to anticipate from their treatment and make it challenging for practitioners to provide consistent and effective care. In addition, the absence of regulation suggests that certain therapists may make false or exaggerated claims. It concerns the potency of their procedures, leading to inaccurate and hazardous consequences for clients.

Need for specialized training for practitioners.

This method acknowledges that the various bodily systems, including the digestive, hormonal, and immune systems, are interconnected and that any imbalances in one system can impact the function of others. This requires practitioners to possess expertise in multiple domains, including nutrition, lifestyle medicine, and functional testing. It can make it challenging for practitioners to acquire the necessary training and expertise to provide effective functional medical care. Limiting the availability of available medicine practitioners in some areas.

About the author

Dr. Patrick Lovegrove

Dr. Patrick Lovegrove is board certified by the American Board of Family Physicians. He was born in Staunton, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia where he majored in Biology. He received a Medical School Scholarship from the United States Air Force. A graduate of Nova Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine, his over 20 years of clinical experience includes Family Practice, Anti-aging, Holistic Internal Medicine, Pain Management, Aerospace, Sports, and Emergency Medicine. He believes that holistic medicine should be integrated with conventional medicine in a scientifically based model to achieve the best results for patients.