What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine aims to identify and treat the root causes of diseases. Practitioners of functional medicine employ a systems biology approach. It focuses on the deep underlying causes of disease and not merely treating symptoms.

Key Principles of Functional Medicine

Some key principles of this medicine include:

  • The body has an innate ability to heal itself if given the right environment and nutrients. It removes obstacles to healing and supports the body’s self-repair mechanisms.
  • Health conditions and chronic disease often arise because of imbalances in the body’s systems, not just isolated diseases. Restoring balance can treat the whole person.
  • No two people are alike in terms of underlying causes of disease. A functional medicine approach provides personalized care.

Functional Medicine Assessments and Testing

It can include:

  • Nutritional status testing: Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants checking operations. The existence of deficiencies makes the health suffer.
  • Inflammation testing: Seeking key players responsible for inflammation, the main cause of chronic diseases.
  • Microbiome analysis: Assessment of microorganism’s diversity and health state in the intestine.
  • Hormone testing: Checking for hormonal imbalances that hurt the wide variety of body systems.
  • Food sensitivity testing: Analyzing the idiosyncratic responses of products to foods.
  • Toxicity testing: Build-ups of heavy metals and pollution.

These functions assessments give a baseline of underlying issues in a patient, which contributes to symptoms and disease. 

Functional Medicine Treatments

This treatment focuses on addressing root cause imbalances uncovered during testing. It includes:

  • Dietary Changes: Eliminating inflammatory or allergenic foods, healing leaky gut, and adopting an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Nutrient Support: Prescribing pharmacological doses of targeted nutritional supplements to correct deficiencies uncovered by testing. This is a core part of functional medicine.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Adding in more exercise, sleep, and stress relief – depending on what areas show dysfunction.
  • Prescription Medications or Botanicals: The functional medicine practitioner may prescribe medications or herbal formulas to help rebalance systems in the body like hormones or digestion.
  • Support for Toxin Removal: Help eliminate built-up toxins through saunas, nutritional support, and water filtration.
  • Microbiome Support: Providing prebiotic foods, probiotic supplements, or fecal transplants to improve microbial health.

How to Find a Functional Medicine Practitioner?

  1. Researching Practitioner Backgrounds

It’s wise to carefully research a functional medicine practitioner’s background before your first appointment. Key things to look for include:

  • Proper Education & Training: They should have training from accredited functional medicine educational programs like the Institute for Functional Medicine. Look for the credentials behind their name.
  • Degree Types: Many have dual degrees like MD/DO and also a certification in functional medicine. Some come from other backgrounds like naturopathic medicine or chiropractic.
  • Specialty Focus Areas: See if their practice focuses on your main health concerns like autoimmunity, hormones, etc.
  • Treatment Approaches: Read about methodologies they commonly use to ensure they align with your care preferences.
  • Location & Availability: Make sure their practice location and hours work with your schedule.

Doing diligent background research helps vet practitioner competency and fit.

Initial Consultation Visit

  • Go extensively through your detailed health and medical history.
  • Learn about any symptoms bothering you plus your health goals.
  • Conduct specialized examinations based on your unique situation.
  • Develop an initial treatment approach and lab testing plan catered to you.
  • Explain their comprehensive functional medicine process for working together over the long term to resolve underlying dysfunction and disease processes.

This intensive initial intake process lays the groundwork for a systems biology approach to identifying and addressing the root causes of your health condition. It takes time in that first appointment but leads to better outcomes long-term.

Here are two more subheadings continuing the blog post:

Questions to Ask Potential Practitioners:

When interviewing potential functional medicine practitioners, come prepared with questions to help determine if they are the right fit. Important questions to ask include:

  • What conditions and cases do you most commonly treat? Make sure a decent amount relates to your health concerns.
  • What has your success rate been with those conditions? Ask for approximate percentage rates.
  • How long are initial and follow-up appointments? Functional medicine visits tend to be longer than conventional ones.
  • How frequently will follow-up appointments be needed? Expect close monitoring as treatments get implemented.
  • What additional treatment providers do you collaborate with? See if they work with dietitians, acupuncturists, etc.
  • Do you take insurance? If yes, make sure they accept your insurance plan. If not, ask for approximate cash rates.
  • What access do I have between appointments? Can your portal message questions? What is the response time?

Asking thoughtful questions helps you understand how they practice functional medicine and if their approaches fit your preferences.

Following the Treatment Protocol:

Once you decide on a practitioner and complete initial consultations and testing, you will be given a detailed functional medicine treatment protocol tailored to your underlying dysfunction. Key things you must do for successful outcomes include:

  • Carefully Following All Aspects of Your Protocol: Strictly adhere to the dietary changes, nutritional supplements, lifestyle changes, and other interventions prescribed. Straying from protocols undermines results.
  • Tracking Your Progress and Symptoms: Keep a daily log of any symptom changes, side effects, or new issues you notice as you implement your protocol. This information lets your practitioner know how you are responding.
  • Highlighting Any Issues: Be very proactive about reporting negative reactions, worsening of symptoms, or lack of improvement to your practitioner quickly. Protocols often need to be adjusted along the way.
  • Communicating Openly & Honestly: Keep an open line of communication with your functional medicine practitioner about all aspects of your care plan and how you are responding. Give regular progress reports.

Closely following protocols and maintaining open communication sets functional medicine patients up for the best chances of success. Be a partner in your care.

Wrapping Up: 

Finding an experienced and compassionate functional medicine practitioner to partner with on your health journey can greatly improve your quality of life. Use the tips above to search for one that fits your individual needs.