From family doctors to internists, there are many types of physicians that patients see regularly. Yet, one often overlooked discipline in the medical world is functional medicine. Functional medical professionals still receive formal education and clinical training, but their approach is different from that of most other doctors. Find out what functional medicine doctors do, and whether working with one could be the right choice for you, below.
What Do They Do?
Functional medicine doctors use a systems-oriented approach to address underlying causes of diseases, engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. In other words, these doctors take more of a patient-centered approach to treat the entire person – not just their isolated symptoms. These physicians are well-versed on the complex interplay among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that impact long-term health, which also play a role in many underlying health issues and chronic diseases.
What Are the Benefits of Working With One?
Working with a functional medicine doctor gives patients a unique advantage. They incorporate the knowledge of how various factors can influence disease emergence and progression with advancements in science to take a powerful, all-encompassing approach to treatment. In doing so, they achieve the highest expression of health, and treat patients not just retroactively by assessing symptoms that have already emerged, but also proactively. Functional medicine doctors can therefore offer predictive guidance to empower patients in their quest for improved and sustained wellness.
Moreover, patients who are treated by functional medicine doctors receive tailored services and treatments. For instance, these professionals may recommend a customized supplement program based on a thorough nutrient assessment. With the knowledge that lifestyle elements like nutrition and exercise are uniquely linked to internal physiological factors, they can help patients seek the dynamic balance that works best to support their version of ideal health.
How Do They Help Certain Populations?
Individuals with illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, and similar chronic ailments may find themselves working with doctors who can offer relief for symptoms, without making any real improvements in terms of treating what could be contributing to the condition in the first place. In patients who suffer from a chronic condition, and especially those with neurodegenerative disorders, issues such as gastrointestinal dysbiosis – the imbalance of gut flora – may be an underlying contributor. Research shows gastrointestinal dysbiosis is associated with changes in immune responses, which further supports internal medicine doctors’ stance that our bodily systems are inextricably linked.
Of course, gastrointestinal issues are only one example of an underlying condition that a functional medicine doctor might uncover. Factors like exposure to toxins, including heavy metals, could be wreaking havoc on your internal systems, unbeknownst to you (or your existing medical team). If you’re living with a chronic condition or symptom like persistent pain, there is a whole host of factors that could be acting as a barrier against your healthiest self. And, the only way to discover them is to use the comprehensive approach applied by functional medicine doctors. If you’re interested in finding one of these professionals in your area, visit the Institute for Functional Medicine® here and click “Find a Practitioner” at the top of the page.