What Is Functional Medicine?
Have you heard the term functional medicine and wondered what it actually means? The word ‘functional’ seems to be used frequently in the context of health and wellness but is often misunderstood or misinterpreted. So what is functional medicine, what are the key principles and benefits and what conditions can it be used effectively to treat?
So What Is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is a holistic approach to healthcare that focuses on addressing the root causes of illness and disease rather than just treating symptoms. It views the body as an interconnected system, with each part affecting the whole, and seeks to understand and treat the underlying imbalances and dysfunctions that can lead to health problems.
What Are The Guiding Principles For A Functional Medicine Practitioner?
Advanced functional medicine adheres to a number of important key principles and components. So often when you go to see a General Practitioner it is impossible, in the time frame of a 15 minute appointment, to truly understand the background to a patient’s symptoms and provide an individualised treatment plan that will address the underlying causes of the health issue. A functional medicine practitioner aims to build a more comprehensive profile including developing an understanding of the underlying pathology and dysfunction and how diet and lifestyle may be contributory factors in the patient’s health concern.
The key elements of this approach are:
- Personalised Care: We take the time to understand each patient’s unique genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors that may contribute to their health issues. Treatment plans are tailored to the individual.
- Systems-Based Approach: Instead of looking at isolated symptoms or organs, functional medicine considers how different systems in the body interact and influence each other. This helps in identifying the root causes of health problems.
- Preventive Focus: Functional medicine places a strong emphasis on preventing illness and optimizing wellness rather than just reacting to existing health issues.
- Nutrition and Lifestyle: Diet and lifestyle factors are central to functional medicine. It often uses nutritional medicine, exercise, stress management, and other lifestyle interventions as part of the treatment plan.
- Use of Integrative Therapies: Functional medicine practitioners may incorporate a wide range of therapies, including conventional medicine, alternative and complementary therapies, and mind-body approaches, as needed to address the individual’s health concerns.
- Patient-Centered Care: Patients are actively involved in their own healthcare decisions and are encouraged to take responsibility for their well-being.
What Are The Benefits of Taking A Functional Medicine Approach?
1. Holistic Understanding: It aims to get to the root cause of health issues, leading to more effective and lasting treatments.
2. Personalisation: Treatment plans are tailored to the individual, considering their unique genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
3. Preventive Focus: By addressing underlying imbalances, functional medicine can help prevent the development of chronic diseases.
4. Improved Quality of Life: Many patients report improvements in their overall well-being and quality of life as a result of functional medicine treatments.
What Conditions and Disorders Can This Approach Be Applied To?
Functional medicine can be applied to a wide range of health conditions, including but not limited to:
- Chronic illnesses: Conditions like autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Digestive disorders: Such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Hormonal imbalances: Including thyroid disorders, hormonal acne, and menopause-related issues.
- Mental health: Anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.
- Metabolic issues: Such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance.
- Allergies and sensitivities: Including food sensitivity and environmental sensitivities.
- Neurological conditions: Such as migraine headaches and neuropathy.
What Process Do Functional Medicine Practitioners Follow?
The process typically involves the following steps:
1. Patient History and Assessment: In-depth discussions and assessments to understand the patient’s medical history, lifestyle, genetics, and environmental factors.
2. Testing: We often utilise advanced laboratory pathology tests to evaluate various biomarkers, nutrient levels, hormone levels, and other factors that can provide insight into the patient’s health.
3. Diagnosis: Based on the information gathered, the practitioner works to identify underlying imbalances and root causes of health issues.
4. Treatment Plan: A personalized treatment plan is developed, which may include dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, supplements, medications, and other therapies.
5. Follow-Up: Patients are regularly monitored, and the treatment plan may be adjusted as needed based on progress and changes in the patient’s health.
6. Patient Education: The approach places a strong emphasis on patient education, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health.
The team at Perpetual Wellbeing apply the principles of functional medicine to our patient care. As a team of naturopaths and nutritionists we are all degree-qualified in Health Science with a speciality in either naturopathy or nutritional medcine. This degree covers anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, biochemistry, medical science, research, herbal pharmacognosy and clinical herbal medicine, nutritional biochemistry and clinical nutrition/dietary medicine, clinical case taking, and communication and professional interaction.
We all also maintain a continuing professional development program and contribute, by analysis of research, to the ongoing improvement of our treatment protocols.
If you’re struggling to find the root cause of a health issue, book an appointment with one of our team and let us help you understand and treat all aspects of the problem.
N.B. It’s important to note that functional medicine is often considered complementary to conventional medicine. Patients should work with healthcare professionals who are trained in functional medicine and, when necessary, coordinate care with their primary care physician or specialists.
We offer Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine consultations
at 2 convenient locations, Brisbane CBD and Graceville