Functional medicine can get confused easily with other approaches to medicine such as holistic medicine, integrative medicine, preventive medicine, lifestyle medicine, alternative medicine, natural medicine, and anti-aging medicine. While some or all of these approaches contain some common elements, they describe different nuances to how you approach healthcare. For that reason, we will compare the approaches in the paragraphs below.
Conventional Medicine is the traditional western approach where doctors place a strong emphasis on diagnosing conditions based on a collection of symptoms and behaviors. They use tests and procedures to aid their diagnosis, and ultimately prescribe medications, procedures, or surgeries to “fix” the problem. The body is compartmentalized and viewed as many different organs that work separately from one another as there are doctors that specialized in each organ system. There have been great advances in the fields of emergency medicine, diagnostic procedures, and surgical interventions, but ultimately it has failed at chronic disease management. People can live longer, but they are having a poorer quality of life. Medications are used as a bandaid patch over the symptoms rather than trying to get to the root cause of the disease. Doctors unfortunately are being trained to follow algorithms that usually help the majority of people. Who usually suffers are the minority on each side of the bell curve and get kicked out of the conventional system to self navigate. Unfortunately, medical schools don’t place much emphasis on nutrition or lifestyle changes and are just training future doctors to give pills for symptoms. Conventional medicine has its place, but it needs to be combined with a broader view of the body as a whole and that’s the other types of medicine we will be talking about below.
Functional medicine is an approach that focuses on finding and dealing with the root cause of illness. Its goal centers on restoring the human body to optimum functioning. It starts with a detailed understanding of a person’s genetic, lifestyle, and biochemical makeup through in-depth history taking and questionnaires. Visits are usually longer due to the fact that practitioners have to dig deep into the past as to why, when, or how the symptoms have come about. Functional Medicine practitioners tend to do a lot of different types of functional laboratory tests and diagnostics to find the root cause of symptoms and treat the whole person and not just the disease. For example, comprehensive stool analysis, organic acid testing, nutritional evaluation, genetic SNP testing, heavy metal testing and different types of specialized testing may be used to find the true sickness, and treatments are personalized and individualized based on the patient’s background, lifestyle, and genetic factors. Practitioners empower patients to work on their diet, environmental toxins and uses labs as a motivator and diagnostic as it tries to get patients to optimal range and not just the “normal” lab range.
- Integrative medicine tends to utilize both conventional medical techniques and integrate it with other nonconventional or alternative medicines in dealing with illness conditions. They embrace the use of western and eastern medicine, using modalities like herbs, supplements, homeopathy, and body mechanics. An emphasis on nutrition, lifestyle, and wellness plays a role in integrative medicine, as they do in functional medicine.
- Acupuncture ( needle or needleless) falls into this category of medicine. It consists of a practitioner inserting thin, sterile needles into specified places on the skin. This allows your body’s natural healing process to do its work.
- Chiropractic utilizes manipulation of your spine and other parts of your body to make sure they are in alignment. This approach then allows your natural body structure to bring about healing.
- Pulsed Electromagnetic field therapy utilizes magnetic or electrical fields to help the body heal from muscle and skeletal issues and improve circulation.
- Reiki utilizes light touch by the practitioner to tap into your body’s natural healing energy. The practitioner’s hands channel energy to the parts of your body that need it. It’s a form of energy medicine.
- Herbal medicine and supplements are used for healing in a natural way, and can be used instead of or as an adjunct to conventional medicine.
- Low Dose Immunotherapy and Low Dose Allergen Immunotherapy conditions the body to develop tolerance and accept stealth pathogens so the body’s immune system will not overreact and cause damage.The types of antigens targeted in LDI include a variety of bacteria, fungi, mold, protozoa, virus, and hormones. They can also be allergens derived from chemicals, foods, pollens, animals. Most people who have reactions to antigens or allergens try to avoid them the best they can, but this may involve significant restrictions on your lifestyle. The promise of low-dose immunotherapy removes these kinds of restrictions. LDI promises to help alleviate this problem.
- IV Therapies are also an integral part of integrative medicine, spanning from IV nutrition to IV chelation to ozone to laser therapies.
- IV Photobiomodulation uses light wave ( photons) and its healing power for cellular optimization.
- Ozone Therapy harnesses the power of reactive oxygen species to lower infectious potential in the body and increase mitochondrial energy.
- Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy help men and women to feel young again.
Alternative Medicine is an approach to medicine that doesn’t use the traditional or conventional approach. It sometimes carries the label of natural medicine or complementary medicine or holistic medicine. It focuses on the premise that the mind, body, and spirit are connected in health and merit consideration when dealing with illness conditions. It embraces the use of eastern medicine like acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, and Ayurvedic medicine. It also focuses on the healing of the mind, body, and spirit, including energy medicine and the use of herbs and supplements. Functional medicine may do the same regarding herbs and supplements.
- Preventing illness conditions before they happen defines preventive medicine. This approach deals with individuals by helping them avoid death, disability, or disease rather than waiting until some illness condition develops to intervene. It also broadens its scope to include communities and populations in the public health arena. This approach to medicine works within clinical and non-clinical settings.
- In clinical settings, practitioners help people make changes in their lifestyle which may help them avoid illness. They also perform preventive health screenings to catch the disease before it gets worse. In non-clinical settings, these practitioners focus on healthcare legislation, health policy, and social and behavioral factors that influence a person’s health.
This approach to medicine seeks to use lifestyle changes as the first option in dealing with and preventing chronic illness conditions. It stresses a whole food, mostly plant-based diet, along with regular exercise, good sleep, management of stress, and avoidance of substances that increase the risk of illness along with good social interaction as its primary approach to dealing with chronic illness conditions. It looks for underlying causes of illness rather than continuing to push medications and medical procedures, much the same as functional medicine. It is also a great way to lose weight.
Lam Clinic uses a blend of all these medicine approaches to provide the best results for patients. For more information regarding any of these approaches to medicine and to determine the best approach for you,