Call us now


Visit our office

250 Mathis Ferry Road, Suite 101
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464

What is an Example of Functional Medicine?

What is an Example of Functional Medicine?

By Dr. Patrick Lovegrove Medically Reviewed by Lindsay Langley, BSN, RN, CHT
Posted Friday, August 25th, 2023
What is an Example of Functional Medicine

Functional medicine tries to find and treat the root causes of illness, while traditional medicine works on treating symptoms. Functional medicine treats health problems that looking at the whole person instead of just fixing the symptoms.  It aims to restore and optimize the body’s natural functions through personalized treatment plans that integrate conventional medicine with complementary and alternative therapies.

Functional medicine principles include:

  1. Patient-centered care focuses on understanding each patient’s unique health journey, genetic makeup, and lifestyle factors contributing to their overall well-being.
  2. Identifying root causes: Practitioners investigate the underlying causes of illness, such as nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, environmental toxins, and chronic stress.
  3. Systems-based approach: Functional Medicine recognizes that the body’s systems are interconnected and explores how imbalances in one system can impact others.
  4. Individualized treatment plans: Rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach, functional medicine practitioners develop tailored treatment plans that address each patient’s needs and goals.

Integrative care: Functional medicine mixes the best parts of traditional medicine with evidence-based therapies like acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition guidance, and mind-body techniques.

Now let’s take a look at an example of Functional Medicine in action:

Case Study: Treating Chronic Migraines with Functional Medicine

Meet Sarah, a 35-year-old woman suffering from debilitating migraines for years. She has tried various medications and therapies, but none have provided long-term relief. Frustrated and desperate for a solution, Sarah turns to Functional Medicine.

A functional medicine practitioner starts by comprehensively evaluating Sarah’s medical history, lifestyle factors, and genetic predispositions. Through detailed discussions and specialized testing, the practitioner uncovers potential underlying causes contributing to Sarah’s migraines, such as:

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Food sensitivities
  • Chronic stress and poor sleep
  • Environmental triggers

Based on these findings, the practitioner creates a personalized treatment plan for Sarah. Here are some of the key components:

  1. Customized nutrition plan: Sarah’s doctor looks for nutritional deficiencies and fixes them by changing Sarah’s food and giving her targeted supplements.
  2. Hormonal balance: Balancing Sarah’s hormones, particularly estrogen, and progesterone, may help reduce the frequency and severity of her migraines. The practitioner recommends lifestyle modifications and stress management techniques and may consider bio-identical hormone therapy if appropriate.
  3. Identifying triggers: By keeping a detailed journal, Sarah learns to recognize and avoid specific triggers contributing to her migraines, such as certain foods, environmental factors, and stressors.
  4. Stress reduction techniques: Sarah learns how to deal with her stress better by learning how to meditate, do yoga, and do deep breathing routines.
  5. Supplement support: Sarah may be prescribed specific supplements to address her unique nutritional needs and support her overall well-being.

By taking this personalized and integrated approach, functional medicine hopes to get to the bottom of Sarah’s migraines, improve her general health, and give her long-term relief.

Functional Medicine vs. Conventional Medicine

Functional medicine and regular medicine are two different ways to treat health problems. Traditional medicine treats symptoms and illnesses, while functional medicine looks at the whole person. Here’s a look at how the two are different:

  1. Focus: Conventional Medicine focuses on symptom management and disease treatment. In contrast, functional medicine focuses on identifying and addressing the root causes of health issues.
  2. Approach: Conventional Medicine typically uses pharmaceutical drugs and surgery to treat symptoms, while functional medicine uses a combination of nutrition, lifestyle changes, supplementation, and other natural therapies to promote healing and well-being.
  3. Doctor-Patient Relationship: In conventional medicine, doctors often have limited time with patients and may rely more on lab tests and diagnostic procedures. In Functional Medicine, doctors take a more personalized approach, spending more time with patients to understand their unique health history, genetic factors, and lifestyle choices.
  4. Treatment Philosophy: Conventional Medicine focuses on acute care, treating specific diseases or symptoms as they arise. Functional medicine emphasizes preventative care and aims to optimize overall health and well-being to prevent future health issues.
  5. Collaborative Approach: Functional medicine encourages teamwork that makes the patient an active part of their health care. The patient and the practitioner work together to make a personalized treatment plan and deal with living factors causing health problems.

Functional medicine has become more popular over the past few years. Still, it is important to remember that it is not meant to replace traditional medicine. Instead, it uses traditional medical methods as part of a complementary approach.

Functional medicine takes a more complete and holistic approach to health and well-being. Instead of treating symptoms, it looks for the root reasons for health problems. Functional medicine improves general health and stops new diseases by getting to the root causes.

Functional Medicine in Action: Case Study

To restore health and vitality from the inside out, functional medicine examines the root causes of disease. It focuses on the individual and considers genetics, lifestyle, environment, and nutrition factors. Let’s explore a real-life example to understand how functional medicine works.

Imagine a patient, John, experiencing chronic fatigue and digestive issues. He has seen multiple doctors, but his symptoms have not improved. At a loss for what to do next, John consults a functional medicine specialist for advice.

The functional medicine practitioner takes an in-depth look at John’s medical history, lifestyle, and genetics. Through comprehensive testing, the practitioner discovers that John has imbalances in his gut microbiome, nutrient deficiencies, and high levels of inflammation. Based on this information, a personalized treatment plan is developed for John.

Here is an overview of the steps taken during John’s functional medicine journey:

  1. Identifying the root cause: The practitioner works closely with John to identify the underlying causes of his symptoms, looking beyond the surface-level manifestations. In John’s case, the practitioner determines that the imbalances in his gut microbiome and nutrient deficiencies contribute to his fatigue and digestive issues.
  2. Targeted interventions: Instead of simply treating the symptoms, the functional medicine practitioner develops a personalized treatment plan for John. This plan includes dietary changes, targeted supplements, stress management techniques, and lifestyle modifications to address the imbalances in his gut microbiome and reduce inflammation.
  3. Continued monitoring and adjustments: John’s progress is regularly monitored, and adjustments are made to his treatment plan as needed. It ensures that his individual needs are met and allows for ongoing optimization of his health and well-being.

By taking a holistic and personalized approach, functional medicine aims to empower individuals like John to take control of their health and achieve lasting improvements. It recognizes that each person is unique and that a one-size-fits-all healthcare approach may need to be more effective.

Functional medicine is gaining recognition and popularity as more people seek integrative and holistic approaches to their healthcare. It offers a promising paradigm shift in approaching and managing chronic health conditions.

Functional Medicine for Chronic Illnesses

How Functional medicine addresses chronic illnesses

The goal of the healthcare practice known as “functional medicine” is to locate and treat the underlying causes of persistent health problems.

 Rather than treating symptoms alone, functional medicine aims to restore the body’s natural balance and improve overall health and well-being. Here is an example of how functional medicine can be applied to address a chronic illness:

Case Study: Sarah’s Journey to Wellness

A 40-year-old woman, Sarah has struggled with chronic fatigue and digestive issues for several years. Traditional medicine has not provided relief, so she decides to explore functional medicine for a more holistic approach to her health.

  1. Comprehensive Assessment: Sarah meets with a functional medicine practitioner who conducts a thorough assessment of her medical history, lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors. It allows the practitioner to understand Sarah’s unique situation comprehensively.
  2. Personalized Treatment Plan: The practitioner made a personalized treatment plan for Sarah based on the exam results. This plan could suggest changes to your food, supplements, ways to deal with stress and exercises. The goal is to find out what is causing her ongoing fatigue and digestive problems and fix them.
  3. Functional Testing: Sarah undergoes various functional tests to identify imbalances or dysfunctions in her body. These tests may include blood work, stool analysis, hormone testing, and genetic testing. The results provide valuable insights into Sarah’s health status and guide further treatment decisions.
  4. Targeted Interventions: With the results of the functional tests, the practitioner designs targeted interventions to address the identified imbalances or dysfunctions. For example, suppose the test results reveal gut dysbiosis. In that case, Sarah may be prescribed specific probiotics or dietary changes to rebalance her gut microbiome.
  5. Ongoing Monitoring and Adjustments: Sarah continues working with her functional medicine practitioner over time, undergoing regular follow-ups and adjustments to her treatment plan. It ensures that her progress is monitored and any necessary modifications are made to optimize her health outcomes.

Functional medicine takes a patient-centered, whole-person approach to healthcare. Treating the root causes of chronic diseases aims to enhance health and extend life expectancy. Sarah’s journey to wellness is just one example of how functional medicine can make a difference in managing chronic diseases.

Functional Medicine Testing

Functional medicine aims to treat the underlying causes of disease rather than just the symptoms.

It focuses on the individual as a whole, taking into account their genetics, environment, lifestyle, and unique biochemistry. One of the key tools used in functional medicine is testing, which helps clinicians understand the individual’s underlying imbalances and determine the most effective treatment approach. Here are some common tests used in functional medicine and their significance:

  1. Comprehensive Blood Analysis: A comprehensive blood analysis provides a detailed overview of the individual’s health status. It looks at biomarkers such as blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, liver function, kidney function, and inflammation markers. This test helps identify imbalances or deficiencies contributing to the individual’s symptoms.
  2. Hormone Testing: Hormone testing helps assess the individual’s hormone levels and balance. Hormonal imbalances can contribute to various health issues, including fatigue, mood swings, weight gain, and reproductive problems. Functional medicine practitioners can develop a targeted treatment plan to restore balance by identifying any hormonal imbalances.
  3. Gut Health Testing: The gut plays a crucial role in overall health, responsible for digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function. Gut health testing involves analyzing stool samples to assess the individual’s gut microbiome, looking for imbalances, infections, or inflammation. This information helps identify gut-related issues and determine the most appropriate interventions, such as dietary changes or probiotic supplementation.
  4. Food Sensitivity Testing: Food sensitivities or intolerances can contribute to various health problems, including digestive issues, migraines, fatigue, and skin conditions. Food sensitivity testing helps identify specific foods that may trigger symptoms in the individual. Once identified, these foods can be eliminated or reduced from the individual’s diet to improve their overall well-being.

These are just a few examples of the many tests used in functional medicine. The recommended tests will vary depending on the individual’s health history, symptoms, and goals. Functional medicine practitioners strive to provide personalized and targeted care, addressing the individual’s unique needs and circumstances.

By utilizing comprehensive testing, functional medicine aims to understand the individual’s health better and create a tailored treatment plan. This approach can make interventions more successful, improve health outcomes, and improve the quality of life. Let’s say you want to learn more about functional health. In that case, it’s best to talk to a professional who can walk you through the testing process and help you get the best health possible.

Functional Medicine Treatments

Functional medicine is a method of health care that looks at the body as a whole and focuses on treating diseases and body imbalances at their roots. It tries to deal with the causes of a problem instead of just treating the signs. In functional medicine, different treatments are used to improve different parts of health and well-being. Here are some methods that fall under functional medicine:

Nutrition: Nutrition is a very important part of functional medicine and is often thought of as the basis of care. Functional medicine practitioners work with their patients to make personalized diet plans that support good health and treat specific health problems.

It may involve removing foods that cause inflammation, adding foods that are high in nutrients, and balancing macronutrients for more energy and vigor.

Lifestyle modifications: Functional Medicine recognizes the importance of lifestyle factors in overall health. Practitioners may recommend changes in stress management, sleep habits, exercise routines, and environmental exposures to promote wellness. These modifications help restore balance and support the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

Supplementation: Functional Medicine often uses targeted supplementation to address nutrient deficiencies and support overall health. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other bioactive molecules can be found in supplements. Before offering supplements, people who practice functional medicine think about what each person needs and check for imbalances.

Detoxification: Detoxification aims to support the body’s natural detox pathways and eliminate toxins that can contribute to chronic illnesses. Functional medicine may involve personalized detoxification protocols like liver support, gastrointestinal detox, and heavy metal chelation.

Stress management: Chronic stress significantly impacts health and can contribute to various diseases. Functional medicine focuses on stress management methods like mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques to improve emotional health and overall health.

Alternative therapies: Functional Medicine embraces a range of alternative therapies that complement conventional treatments. These may include acupuncture, chiropractic care, naturopathy, herbal medicine, and homeopathy. These therapies aim to support the body’s self-healing abilities and restore balance.

Functional medicine treatments are highly individualized and address each patient’s unique needs. By understanding the interconnectedness of the body’s systems and targeting root causes, functional medicine can provide comprehensive and personalized care for optimal health and wellness.

Integrating Functional Medicine with Traditional Medicine

While traditional medicine focuses on treating specific symptoms or diseases, Functional Medicine takes a more holistic approach by considering the underlying causes of these imbalances. Integrating Functional Medicine with Traditional Medicine can offer numerous benefits, combining the best approaches for optimal patient care.

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a method that tries to figure out why a person is feeling sick instead of just addressing the symptoms.

Benefits of Integrating Functional Medicine with Traditional Medicine:

  1. Holistic Approach: By combining the two approaches, patients can benefit from a more comprehensive and personalized treatment plan considering their unique needs and circumstances.
  2. Preventative Care: Functional Medicine emphasizes the importance of prevention, helping patients develop long-term strategies to maintain their health and prevent future illnesses.
  3. Improved Patient Outcomes: Functional medicine can help patients get better results and feel better for longer if it gets to the root cause of their problems instead of just treating the symptoms.
  4. Personalized Treatment: Functional Medicine takes into account the individuality of each patient, considering their genetics, lifestyle, environment, and unique health history to create a personalized treatment plan.
  5. Collaborative Approaches: Integrating Functional Medicine with Traditional Medicine encourages collaboration among healthcare professionals, fostering a team-based approach to patient care.
  6. Expanded Treatment Options: Traditional medical treatments, as well as modifications to lifestyle, food, supplementation, and other therapies, are all part of functional medicine’s toolkit for addressing health issues.

It is important to note that Functional Medicine is not a replacement for Traditional Medicine but rather a complementary approach that aims to enhance patient care and outcomes. By working together, doctors and nurses can take a more specialized and all-around approach to their patient’s health.

Benefits and Limitations of Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a way to treat illness and problems in the body that focuses on getting to the root of the problem. It considers the individual’s unique genetic makeup, environment, and lifestyle to develop personalized treatment plans. Here are some benefits and limitations of Functional Medicine:


  1. Personalized approach: Functional Medicine looks at each individual, considering their health needs and goals. It allows for personalized treatment plans tailored to each person’s unique circumstances.
  2. Focus on prevention: Functional Medicine strongly emphasizes disease prevention rather than just symptom management. Chronic diseases can be stopped if the underlying reasons for health problems are found and fixed.
  3. Collaborative healthcare: Functional medicine practitioners often work in multidisciplinary teams, collaborating with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care. This integrative approach can lead to more effective and holistic treatment.
  4. Emphasis on nutrition and lifestyle: Functional Medicine recognizes the powerful impact nutrition, exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors have on overall health. It provides guidance and support for making positive lifestyle changes.


  1. Time and cost: Functional medicine consultations and treatments require more time and resources than conventional medicine. It can make it less accessible to individuals with limited time or financial constraints.
  2. Limited insurance coverage: Functional medicine treatments may not be covered by insurance, making patients pay out of pocket for these services.
  3. Lack of evidence: Some critics argue that functional medicine lacks the same scientific evidence as conventional medicine. However, it’s important to note that functional medicine is a relatively new field, and research is ongoing.

Despite these limitations, functional medicine has gained popularity and recognition for its patient-centric approach and focus on holistic healthcare. Its emphasis on identifying and addressing the root causes of health issues can lead to long-term improvements in well-being.

Functional Medicine Practitioners and Clinics

It’s important to do a lot of studies when looking for reputable functional medicine doctors and clinics to ensure you get good care. Functional medicine is a method of health care that looks at the whole person and focuses on finding and treating the causes of illness, not just the symptoms. Here are some tips to help you find a functional medicine doctor or center that fits your needs:

Research: Research different functional medicine practitioners and clinics in your area. Look for online reviews, testimonials, and credentials to determine their expertise and reputation. You can also check professional directories and associations, such as the Institute for Functional Medicine, to find practitioners trained and certified in functional medicine.

Referrals: Seek recommendations from friends, family, or healthcare professionals who may have experience with functional medicine practitioners. Referrals from people you know can give you useful information and help you find trustworthy professionals.

Specialization: Consider the specific health concerns or conditions you want to address and look for practitioners or clinics specializing in those areas. This way, you can ensure they have experience and expertise in treating your needs.

Consultation: Set up a first meeting with the practitioner or center you are considering. During this appointment, you should ask questions about how they handle functional medicine, how they plan to treat you, and whether they have previously dealt with similar cases. It will help you understand their ideas and decide if they fit you well.

Communication and Relationship: Functional Medicine is a collaborative process, so finding a practitioner or clinic with whom you feel comfortable and can establish a good rapport is important. Look for practitioners who listen actively, are responsive to your concerns, and prioritize patient education.

Functional medicine is personalized medicine; finding the right practitioner or clinic is crucial for your overall health and well-being. By following these guidelines and taking the time to research and evaluate your options, you can find a reputable functional medicine practitioner or clinic that aligns with your needs and goals.

About the author

Dr. Patrick Lovegrove