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What is a Functional Medicine Doctor?

What is a Functional Medicine Doctor?

By Dr. Patrick Lovegrove Medically Reviewed by Lindsay Langley, BSN, RN, CHT
Posted Thursday, June 15th, 2023
What is a Functional Medicine doctor?

Introduction to Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a medical practice that has recently gained popularity. People look for alternative approaches to managing their health and wellness. What is a Functional medicine doctor? They are also a medical professional who often focuses on treating the symptoms of an illness or disease. Functional medicine looks at the whole person. It works to identify and address the root causes of health issues.

The Principles of Functional Medicine

Several fundamental principles underpin the practice of functional medicine. The first is patient-centered care, meaning the patient is integral to the healthcare experience. Therefore, doctors who practice functional medicine prioritize listening to their patients. To get to know them personally, considering their specific health concerns and objectives.

Another vital principle of functional medicine is addressing the root cause of illness. Rather than just treating symptoms, functional medicine doctors work to identify the underlying factors contributing to a person’s health issues. For example, it may involve looking at a person’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle habits to understand how these factors impact their health.

Functional medicine doctors use integrative and natural therapies in their treatment plans to help patients achieve optimal health. It may involve using traditional medical interventions when necessary. However, incorporating nutritional therapies, supplements, and other natural treatments into a patient’s care plan is also an option.

Finally, functional medicine is all about personalized treatment plans. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, functional medicine doctors work with their patients. Developing individualized care plans considering their unique health needs and goals.

The Role of a Functional Medicine Doctor

Functional medicine doctors are trained in conventional medical practices but also have additional training in nutrition, functional lab testing, and other complementary therapies. It permits them to take a more holistic approach to patient care, looking at the whole person and working to identify the underlying causes of their health issues.

One of the critical differences between functional medicine doctors and traditional medical practitioners is their approach to patient care. Rather than just treating symptoms, functional medicine doctors take the time to understand their patients individually, looking at their overall health and wellness and collaborating with them in creating tailored treatment strategies.

Functional medicine doctors also work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as nutritionists, acupuncturists, and physical therapists, to provide intensive care to their patients. This collaborative approach ensures patients receive the best care and support to achieve their health goals.

Conditions Treated with Functional Medicine

Functional medicine can treat various health issues, from chronic diseases to mental health conditions.

Functional medicine can address various health conditions, such as:

Functional medicine doctors use a variety of treatments and therapies to address these conditions, including nutrition and diet, lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, functional lab testing, and complementary therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic care.

Functional Medicine Treatments and Therapies

One of the critical aspects of functional medicine is the use of integrative and natural therapies to help patients achieve optimal health.

Functional medicine doctors commonly use a variety of treatments and therapies, such as:

  1. Nutrition and diet: Functional medicine doctors recognize that eating dramatically impacts our health and well-being. They work with patients to develop personalized nutrition plans considering their unique health needs and goals. It may involve identifying food intolerances or sensitivities, balancing macronutrient ratios, and incorporating nutrient-dense whole foods into a patient’s diet.
  2. Lifestyle changes: Functional medicine doctors also know how important things like getting enough sleep, managing stress, and being physically active are for good health. They work with patients to identify areas where they can make positive changes and develop strategies to help them achieve their goals.
  3. Nutritional supplements: Functional medicine doctors may also recommend nutritional supplements to help support a patient’s overall health and well-being. The supplements may contain vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements that help support different health aspects.
  4. Functional lab testing: One of the unique aspects of functional medicine is the use of functional lab testing to identify underlying health issues. These tests may include tests for food intolerances, hormone imbalances, gut health issues, and more. Functional medicine doctors can develop more targeted treatment plans by identifying these underlying issues.
  5. Complementary therapies: Functional medicine doctors may incorporate complementary therapies. Such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage therapy into a patient’s care plan. These therapies can help address physical and emotional imbalances, promote relaxation and stress relief, and support overall health and well-being.

Choosing a Functional Medicine Doctor

Selecting a qualified practitioner is vital for exploring functional medicine as an alternative health approach.

Here are some things to look for when choosing a functional medicine doctor:

  1. Qualifications and training: Look for a functional medicine doctor who has received additional training in functional medicine beyond their conventional medical training. The Institute for Functional Medicine offers a certification program for functional medicine practitioners.
  2. Approach to patient care: Choose a functional medicine doctor who takes a patient-centered approach to care. They are willing to hear what you say and collaborate with you to create an individualized therapeutic strategy.
  3. Collaborative approach: Look for a functional medicine doctor ready to work with other medical doctors. They will give you the best care possible.
  4. Reviews and testimonials: Check online and patient comments to learn how others have felt about the doctor.
  5. Insurance coverage: Check if the functional medicine doctor accepts your insurance or offers flexible payment options.


Functional medicine is an expanding area that provides and extends a personalized, holistic approach to patient care. By focusing on identifying and addressing the root causes of health issues and using integrative and natural therapies, functional medicine doctors can help their patients achieve optimal health and well-being.

If you’re interested in exploring functional medicine as an alternative approach to managing your health, choose a qualified practitioner who takes a patient-centered approach to care. Functional medicine can help you reach your health goals and improve your quality of life if you get the right help and direction.

About the author

Dr. Patrick Lovegrove