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Functional Medicine in New Tripoli

How is a functional medicine doctor different than a typical medical doctor? Of what benefit are they to me?  All great questions and the answers do follow, but first lets level the playing field by clearing up some common misconceptions that are prevalent in today’s healthcare arena.

Who is a Primary Doctor?

In today’s healthcare arena, identifying a primary doctor can be confusing. There are a lot of new titles and positions that have popped up in the healthcare arena. Most people aren’t sure who an actual primary doctor is anymore.

A nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, physical therapist, nutritionist, pharmacist, massage therapist, energy worker, or health food store clerk is not a primary doctor. Each has their place, but all lack the education, depth of knowledge, experience, and licensure to qualify as a primary doctor.

A primary doctor is someone who has been trained and licensed to diagnose, in full spectrum, and independently. A primary doctor assesses the situation, makes suggestions for care, and recommends the best person to administer that care. Some examples: Chiropractic Physician (DC), Osteopathic medical doctor (DO), Allopathic medical doctor (MD), and Naturopathic Doctor (ND).

Who Practices Medicine?

Medicine is a general term. As defined by Webster, it is the science and art of dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease for the restoration of health. By that definition, no one type of doctor monopolizes the market: Medical (MD), Chiropractic (DC), Osteopathic (DO), etc. Whichever type works best for you is the best style of medicine for your situation. Often, this may be a combination of several. Finding doctors who understand the value and benefit of working together is of utmost importance. If they don’t play well with others, move on.

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is an evolution in patient assessment and treatment that is capable of addressing the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the disease-centered focus of conventional medicine to a patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend a significant amount of time with their patients listening to histories and carefully evaluating the interactions between the unique genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that influence long-term health and are often the cause of complex, chronic disease. By doing this, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.

Disease is the absence of normal function. Disease cannot exist in a normal functioning state, in the same way that darkness cannot exist when there is light. In the presence of normal function disease is absent and health is restored. Concentrating on treating symptoms and disease as a method to restore health is a misguided approach with the wrong focus. It doesn’t work, as evidenced by the current state of health in the United States.

There is a large grey area, a middle ground, between perfect health and gross pathological disease. Disease is preceded first by subtle, yet measurable dysfunction. A functional medicine doctor is trained to identify and address subtle dysfunctional illness before it progresses to disease. Why wait for disease to happen? After detecting dysfunction, a functional medicine doctor addresses the situation by supporting normal function, normal whole body balance, and environmental concerns.

Why Do You Need a Functional Medicine Physician?

Looking at the current trends and rates for disease, its clearly evident that the conventional medical system is not working when it comes to treatment and prevention of complex, chronic disease.

  • Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
  • The system of medicine practiced by most physicians today in America is oriented towards acute care and was devised to address trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis or a broken leg. As such, they commonly apply specific, prescribed treatments like drugs or surgery that are aimed at addressing the immediate symptoms.
  • The acute care approach lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. It doesn’t take into account the unique genetic makeup, environmental factors, or affects of today’s diet and lifestyle that all have dramatic impact on health.
  • Unfortunately, there is a huge gap between current, viable research and the way that doctors practice. The gap between emerging research and actual integration into medical practice is enormous, sometimes as long as 50 years, particularly in the area of complex, chronic disease.
  • Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the actual underlying cause of complex, chronic disease nor to apply the highly effective strategies such as diet, nutrition, lifestyle changes, environmental changes, and therapeutic exercise that both treat and prevent illness in their patients.

How is Functional Medicine Different

Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, treatment, and prevention of complex, chronic disease. The hallmarks of a functional medicine approach include:

  • Patient centered care. The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care, promoting health as a positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the patient tell his or her story, the practitioner brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individuals unique needs.
  • An integrative, science based, value based approach to healthcare. Functional medicine 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 patient is considered along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical, social, and environment) factors that affect the total function of the body.
  • An integration of best practices. Functional medicine integrates the best parts of traditional western medicine with the best of alternative medicine for an integrative approach that focuses on treatment and prevention through diet, nutrition, exercise, advanced laboratory testing, advanced diagnostics, stress management, detoxification, and combinations of supplements, herbs, and nurtriceuticals.

The Functional Medicine Assessment

Functional medicine doctors are taught how to assess the patient’s fundamental clinical imbalances through careful history taking, functional physical examination, and advanced diagnostic laboratory testing. A functional medicine practitioner will consider multiple factors, including, but not limited to:

  • Environmental factors. The air you breath, water you drink, food you eat, level of physical activity, toxic exposure, and number of traumas you have experienced all greatly affect your health.
  • Mind body factors. Psychological, spiritual, and social factors all have a profound influence on your health. Considering these areas enables a functional medicine practitioner to view your health status in the context of you as a whole person, not just the physical symptoms.
  • Genetic factors. Although individual genes may make you more susceptible to certain diseases, your DNA is not an unchanging blueprint for your life! Emerging research clearly shows that your genes are influenced by everything in your environment, your experiences, attitudes, and beliefs. This means that it is possible to change the way your genes are activated and expressed. Your choices have a huge impact!

Through assessment of the antecedents and triggers of dysfunction, a functional medicine practitioner is able to understand how the key biological processes that keep you alive are being affected. Much of this occurs at the cellular level, but these processes are related to larger biological function, such as:

  • Detoxification
  • Hormone regulation
  • Nerve function
  • Immune response & Inflammation
  • Energy production
  • Digestion and absorption
  • Structure and biomechanics
  • Psychological state

All of these processes are affected by environmental influences and genetics. When they are disturbed or thrown out of balance, it leads to dysfunction and the emergence of physical symptoms, which can lead to disease if the appropriate interventions are not applied.

Comprehensive Treatment

Most imbalances in functionality can be addressed; many can be completely restored to optimum function, and others can be substantially improved.

  • Prevention is paramount. Virtually every complex, chronic disease is preceded by a long-term disturbance in functionality. The trouble is, conventional medical doctors aren’t looking for this. A functional medicine doctor is trained to spot subtle dysfunction long before it becomes a full blown disease.
  • Changing how systems are functioning and restoring balance to the body as a whole has a major impact on health. A functional medicine practitioner considers a wide array of possible interventions and then customizes a treatment plan specific to your individual case that includes those that will have the most impact on correcting functionality and restoring balance.
  • Functional medicine physicians work from a greatly expanded toolbox. Treatments may include combinations of nutriceuticals, herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, and much more. Treatment will usually also include counseling on lifestyle, exercise, environment, and stress management.
  • The patient and doctor partnership. As a patient, you are an active partner with your functional medicine practitioner. This allows you to really take charge of your health and the prevention of disease. My job is as a coach or a teacher. You’re the one in the driver’s seat.

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

James Madison


Functional Medicine New Tripoli | (610) 298-8029