We are living in an environment where information is easily accessible than ever. With such facility, more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of health & fitness. They are taking responsibility for their health and also taking an interest in different medicines and treatments. I noticed in people during my travel in the USA that most of them have not heard about functional medicine. Many patients have common concerns that how functional medicine is different from traditional medicine. They wonder why they should go for functional treatment when taking conventional medicines for quick relief. To have more clarity, we need to look into the different variables between traditional medicine and functional medicine.
So, let’s understand what is Conventional Medicine and what is Functional Medicine? How are they different?
What is conventional medicine?
Conventional drugs mainly diagnose the symptoms patient having. Conventional doctors or pharmacists use the same symptoms to detect the disease and develop a treatment plan accordingly. This plan often involves pharmaceuticals, radiation, or surgery to treat or decrease the symptoms. Conventional medicine usually treats bloating, indigestion, poor focus, rashes, fatigue, and recurring pain.
Traditional treatment involves anti-inflammatory medications, acid blockers, and antacids, steroids, and stimulants. It suppresses symptoms but does not focus on the root cause of the patient’s illness.
Conventional medicine is advanced and has made tremendous progress in preventing, diagnosing, and treating an array of illnesses. It has become highly effective in developing procedures to treat these acute problems.
What is functional medicine?
Functional medicine uses a comprehensive approach to wellness. Functional medicine doctors encourage every patient’s unique expression of health and energy and consider the body and brain interconnected system. As per functional medicine physicians, the disease may be caused due to multiple reasons.
Functional medicine definition says that the treatment revolves around identifying the underlying cause of a patient’s disease. Functional medicine believes that the symptom, cause, and condition of an individual are the result of numerous elements such as genes, environment, and lifestyle.
Functional medicine physicians spend a lot of time listening and understanding patients’ histories and knowing their genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that could cause long-term health issues and chronic illness.
Does functional medicine work?
Functional Medicine is a scientific approach that focuses on diagnosing and treating the underlying cause of a disease. Functional medicine doctors patiently listen to their patients and understand who you are by knowing your history. They treat each person as unique and develop an individual treatment plan depending on their medical condition.
Too often, traditional doctors treat the disease and not the patient, but functional medicine doctors try to know why you have an ailment in the first place. Traditional doctors don’t take the time to understand all of the variables that make you unique and can be the root cause of your illness. In contrast, functional medicine focuses on strengthening the whole body to enhance each individual’s healing process.
Chronic conditions are on the rise, and there are multiple reasons for this. More and more people are suffering from asthma, allergies, and autism. Digestive disorders and other chronic illnesses like bowel disease, fatigue, obesity and cancer, are becoming common. Conventional medicine treats these diseases and provides quick relief but has not made us healthier by diagnosing the actual reason for those conditions.
Functional medicines really work as this is a science-based approach and supported by many success stories. Functional medicine doctors educate their patients about their body system and its functioning. It increases the chances of being treated successfully and living a healthier life.
Functional doctors prescribe effective treatments after profoundly understanding the underlying cause of the disease and preventing further health problems that can arise in the future. Check below mentioned some examples of research on functional medicine in the recent few years-
- A study performed on pre-surgery patients revealed that a low-calorie, healthy keto diet( a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet) was helpful. It means they got a better overall result, improved hemoglobin levels, better drainage output, and quick discharge from the hospital. (Disclaimer: All diets have advantages and risks, so one should always consult the health practitioner before starting any diet.)
- Recent research on women shows that women who develop diabetes during pregnancy can reduce postpartum diabetes, lower the risk of premature delivery or birth weight, improve metabolism, and decrease stress with a healthy diet, positive social wellbeing, and physical exercise.
- Frontiers in Neuroscience, a leading journal, published a review that revealed stress is connected with inflammation. Stress and inflammation can both cause depression and low mood. This review helps develop future treatment plans for depression.
Functional medicine VS integrative medicine
Functional medicine and Integrative medicine both are the most popular forms of medical science that aim to address your physical, emotional, and mental needs of a patient. They are similar to some extent, but they also have their unique traits, which at the same time make them different from each other.
Integrative medicine is an approach that focuses on the patient and examines various factors such as physical, behavioral, emotional, social, environmental, and spiritual influencing his/her health. Integrative medicine uses a custom strategy considering special conditions, requirements, and circumstances of the patient to heal disease and help people to maintain optimum health. Integrative medicine treats the whole body and not just the symptoms related with one health condition.
Furthermore, integrative medicine also focuses on preventing the disease by encouraging patients to develop healthy behaviors, lifestyles, and skills for effective self-care throughout their lives. Integrative treatments include different therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care, homeopathy, behavioral medicine, and massage. This medical treatment also focuses on the individual’s food and exercise habits to fight against obesity and other health-related factors.
How is functional medicine different from integrative medicine?
The top center for functional medicine typically uses individualized treatments to diagnose the reason for the disease. Functional medicine revolves around the idea that one disease can have multiple causes or, on the contrary, one cause can have many conditions. For instance, a person’s depression can be due to low thyroid, deficiency of Vitamin D, and antibiotic use, or he/she could be suffering from depression, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes that all are caused due to inflammation.
Functional medicine focuses on restoring overall health instead of just eliminating symptoms. It provides the body what it requires to treat the reported disease and eliminate other underlying causes of the illnesses and also helps to prevent the onset of future illness.
Why functional medicine is essential?
Conventional medicine is excellent for quick relief from critical health conditions. But, it lacks a point on the long-term, overall health of a person. As I have explained above in this post that functional medicine is designed to prevent chronic illnesses like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer and to deal with temporary things such as bacterial infections and viruses in a more natural manner.
Here are the four most popular reasons that will show that why functional medicine is a necessity. Have a quick look-
- It is personalized. This treatment is 100% customized to you, your body, and your life.
- It keeps you healthy rather than just alive. By improving your health, you can improve the quality of your life.
- It eliminates the root cause of annoying symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, bloating, and skin rashes and makes you happy.
- Functional medicine teaches you how to live healthy by improving your lifestyle.
According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, nearly 900,000 Americans die due to five leading causes of death; however, the underlying cause for 20-40% of the deaths could be prevented. This is where the significance of functional medicine’s focus on prevention from disease really sinks in.