For years, when people heard the term “alternative medicine,” they thought of shamans, burning incense and a bunch of “woo woo” philosophies.
But times are changing. Holistic healing and naturopathic treatments have become more mainstream, and we’ve seen a new field of medicine emerge: functional medicine.
When it comes to conventional versus functional medicine, there is a great deal of debate among healthcare professionals. Due to a lack of scientific evidence, many people are asking: “Is functional medicine real?”, “is it effective?” and most importantly, “is it safe?”
In the medical community, conventional doctors trust the facts and evidence-based data. Functional medicine goes against the traditional scientific model – a system that’s been in place for hundreds of years.
“The reason why alternative medicine is dismissed is because our scientific culture, and medicine in particular, has a 400- or 500-year-old world view predicated on disproving the dominant religious paradigm of medicine, physics, and physiology that existed when the church was the dominant institution,” says Dr. Joseph Loizzo, director of the Center for Meditation and Healing at Columbia-Presbyterian.
For centuries, there has been a battle over the nature of science itself. “If you say anything that sounds remotely like ‘the mind has an effect; there’s something subtle that isn’t like a machine influencing what’s happening,” Loizzo explains. “Western physicians are all trained to dismiss it as a superstition, but our mechanism has now become the counter-religion. It’s a paradigm that derives from modern Newtonian physics, and that’s no longer the sole paradigm even in physics.”
In other words, science is evolving and so should our perspective.
Conventional vs Functional Medicine
Conventional medicine addresses the symptoms you’re experiencing to diagnosis a health condition. Doctors use this information to develop a treatment plan, which typically involves prescribing medication to alleviate the symptoms.
However, doctors of functional medicine take it one step further and focus on the root causes of the symptoms. They integrate aspects of traditional medicine while also taking genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors into account.
Functional medicine is centered around a holistic and individualized approach. As the name suggests, it focuses on how your body functions. It views each person as being unique on a genetic and biochemical level. In short, functional medicine treats the patient, not just the symptoms.
Unlike conventional medicine, functional medicine does not use a one-size-fits-all approach. Treatments include a wide variety of options including dietary supplements, herbal remedies, acupuncture, chiropractic care, yoga and more.
The Benefits of Functional Medicine
- Provides whole body care
Our society is continuing to see an increase in complex, chronic health conditions. Whether it’s an autoimmune illness or mental disorder, traditional methods of treatment aren’t always effective.
That’s why it’s important now more than ever that doctors treat the whole person, not just the disease. By getting to the root of the problem, the patient can make the necessary changes that will improve their overall health and wellbeing.
- Offers a more personal doctor-patient experience
Patient-centered care is the foundation of functional medicine. Practitioners perform an in-depth analysis of the patient’s history – going beyond medical history to uncover environmental stressors and more. After gathering all of this information, they can create an integrative treatment plan.
- Focuses on prevention
Doctors of functional medicine practice a customized, biology-based approach to healthcare. They’re proactive and look ahead for potential problems. To lower the risk of illness, doctors analyze all of the factors that influence mind and body functioning: the individual’s genes, environment and lifestyle.
To answer the question: “is functional medicine real?” the answer is yes. Just because it’s different from conventional medicine, doesn’t make it less credible or less effective. As we continue to discover new scientific breakthroughs, it’s important to keep our minds open to the possibilities of new treatment options and the wide variety of benefits that alternative treatment can provide.