What is Functional Medicine?

When your doctor becomes a detective.

If you’ve never heard of functional medicine (FM) before or don’t know how it differs from conventional medicine, you’re not alone. Behind functional medicine is a wonderfully simple philosophy that treats the body as a whole, interconnected system which looks at mind, body, and spirit as contributing elements to a person’s overall state of health. Functional medicine is evidence-based medicine and seeks to identify the root cause of disease by probing into the unique history of a patient’s life and genetics, as well as environmental and lifestyle factors.

In contrast, conventional medicine can be one dimensional and often results in treatment by medication. In acute cases, this may be very appropriate, but because we are not one-dimensional beings in most cases there is much more to the story. When it comes to complex, chronic disease, many practitioners are, unfortunately, not adequately trained – and often don’t have time – to assess what may be the underlying cause(s) and apply diet, nutritional supplementation, exercise, and awareness of lifestyle stressors that are contributing to their patient’s illness.

As FM practitioners, we look upstream to assess the interactions of the patient’s history, physiology, lifestyle, unique genetic makeup, and mind-body-spirit that affect the function of the body as a whole.

Functional Medicine practitioners assess six major areas of health.

In looking for clues that may be contributing to symptoms of illness or disease we systematically assess and optimize the following six major areas of health:

6 major areas of health/functional medicine assessment

  1. Immune system: We look for signs of inflammation and auto-immune diseases (including Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, pain, allergies/sensitivities, etc.).
  2. Energy systems: We assess for factors that may be depleting your body’s energy, including your mitochondrial (energy part of cells) health, nutrient deficiencies and excesses.
  3. Heart and metabolic systems: We evaluate for signs of heart and vascular disease and abnormal blood sugar values.
  4. Hormone systems: For women, we assess for signs of PMS, fibroids, perimenopause and menopause, estrogen dominance, and other conditions of hormone imbalance; and for men, we assess for signs of loss of motivation, focus, low libido, andropause (low testosterone), erectile dysfunction, poor work-out recovery, poor exercise endurance, fatigue, and other conditions of hormone imbalance.
  5. Detoxification system: We assess for signs of toxin overload or the inability to release toxins from your liver and body. This system is key for optimal health of the body as well as maintaining a youthful appearance and vitality.
  6. Gastrointestinal/digestive systems: We look for signs of inflammation in the gut, food sensitivities, and infections. This system is also vital to all other systems operating effectively and preventing autoimmune diseases, weight gain, and inflammation throughout your body (joints, sinuses, lungs, thyroid, etc.).

Besides a comprehensive history, there are a number of functional medicine diagnostic tests that may be necessary. This could include a sleep studydigestive testing (stool, urine, breath), saliva testing to assess cortisol (which can indicate stress or inflammation), thyroid and other hormone testingnutritional testingmold, heavy metals, and infections like Lyme or Epstein Barr. A consultation with our dietitianpsychotherapistmeditation instructor, or treatments such as acupunctureherbal therapy, massage therapy, physical therapy or injection therapy may also be appropriate.

We are here for you, and we want to help.

Our goal is to return you to optimal health as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment please call: 703-532-4892 x2