What is Functional Medicine?

Functional Medicine

What is Functional Medicine?

The contemporary distinguishing characteristics of Functional Medicine are embodied in the following seven core concepts:

  1. The gene-environment interaction is a central feature in establishing an individual’s function.
  2. Function of the individual is regulated by interaction among organ systems.
  3. Signals from the diet, environment, lifestyle, and social experiences are translated into clinical phenotypes.
  4. Assessment of the patient is focused on an understanding of their antecedents, triggers, and mediators, and their relationship to their signs and symptoms.
  5. Managing systems dysfunction requires multimodal treatment programs.
  6. Each patient is unique and therefore represents an N-of-1 experience.
  7. The individual’s health issues must be contextualized through the perspectives of time and relationships.

In the clinical assessment and management of patients, these core concepts translate to a Functional Medicine model that focuses on the evaluation of six core physiological processes:

  1. Assimilation (digestion, absorption, microbiome)
  2. Defense and Repair (immune, inflammation, cellular renewal)
  3. Bioenergetics (mitochondrial function, cellular energy transport, tissue specific energetics)
  4. Transport (cardiovascular, hematological, respiratory and lymphatic functions)
  5. Communications (hormones, neurotransmitters, signal transduction processes)
  6. Structural Integrity (subcellular membrane barriers to musculoskeletal function)

Learn more about what it is, and the training I completed by visiting The Institute Of Functional Medicine.

Watch my discussion with Dr. Nina Fuller-Shavel for more insight in to what Functional Medicine is.

What Is A Functional Medicine Practitioner?

A Functional Medicine Practitioner should be a practitioner who has completed some official training with a Functional Medicine organisation.

I recommend looking for the qualification IFMCP (The Institute Of Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner) as this is the best qualification available in Functional Medicine. This is what I completed in 2016 having received education from the likes of Dr, Jeffrey Bland, Dr. Minnich, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Datis Kharazzian and Dr. Tom O’Bryan, among many others.

How To Become A Functional Medicine Doctor

If you want to get the best training then I recommend training with the Institute Of Functional Medicine (IFM).

IFM is the only organization providing functional medicine certification along with educational programs directly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME)

How To Become A Functional Medicine Practitioner

There are now various organisations offering Functional Medicine training. However some are only available for medical doctors. I recommend training with the original educator: the Institute Of Functional Medicine (IFM).

Functional Medicine Doctor Near Me

You can find your local Functional Medicine practitioner using this database: https://healthpath.com/directory

Is Functional Medicine Legitimate?

For a patient-specific modality like Functional Medicine, the best tool for determining outcomes in a clinical study is the validated Patient Reported Outcome Measurement Information System (PROMIS).

Using PROMIS, a number of studies have been performed and published that demonstrate the clinical value of the Functional Medicine model versus a standard-of-care approach. This includes a study done at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine comparing outcomes and quality of life variables in patients presenting with chronic symptoms. The results indicated that both treatment approaches were associated with improvements, but those patients treated at the Center for Functional Medicine had improved outcomes for a number of the PROMIS quality of life indicators that were statistically significant. (source)

Another recent study evaluated the impact of a Functional Medicine approach to the management of inflammatory arthritis. Patients with inflammatory arthritis were treated either with standard-of-care or the Functional Medicine approach. PROMIS scores for physical health, mental health, and pain were collected at baseline and after 12 weeks of treatment. Multivariable statistical modeling was used to identify the impact of intervention on the patient-reported outcomes. This analysis revealed that patients in the Functional Medicine treatment group had statistically improved pain and physical health scores compared to those in the standard-of-care cohort. (source)

In a study of patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it was found that the Functional Medicine Autoimmune Protocol resulted in directional improvement in subjective symptoms based upon PROMIS outcome variables, and a decrease in high sensitivity C-reactive protein and white blood cell count was also noted. (source)

As the evidence-based literature grows, we are truly witnessing the maturation and global spread of the Functional Medicine model.

Here are some more papers published in peer reviewed medical journals demonstrating its efficacy:

What Is Functional Medicine UK?

Functional Medicine UK is simply the term used to described the practice of Functional Medicine in the UK. It’s important to note that Functional Medicine is not a protected term and thus any practitioner can market themselves as a Functional Medicine Practitioner.

Are Functional Medicine Doctors MD’s?

Functional Medicine Doctors can be either MD’s (medical doctors) or ND’s (naturopathic doctor’s).

How is Functional Medicine Different?

It involves understanding the origins, prevention and treatment of complex chronic disease. Hallmarks of a FM approach include:

Pateint-centered approach. The focus of FM is on patient-orientated care, promoting health as a positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease.

An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. FM practitioners look ‘upstream’ to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patients is considered, along with internal (mind, body and spirit) and external (physical and environment) factors that affect total functioning.

Integrating best medical practices. FM integrates traditional Western medical practices with what we are sometimes considered ‘alternative’ or ‘integrative’ medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutritions, diet, and exercise; use of laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and combinations of supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs and stress management techniques.

Visit the About Alex page to learn more about me, my qualifications and experience.

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