What Does Functional Medicine Consist of?

What Does Functional Medicine Consist of?

Throughout the course of human history, we have always sought to better ourselves and heal from sickness or ailments. For years, humans have treated everything from the common cold to extreme sickness and broken bones with different medical approaches. Some schools of medicine promoted natural healing practices, while others turned towards a clinical approach.

These two approaches to medicine essentially define different cultural attitudes as well as different clinical techniques employed to study and treat ailments. At The Emperor’s Medicine in Illinois, we believe in the benefits of both schools of thought, but we specialize in functional medicine. Want to learn more about functional medicine and our services? Read on, or get in touch with us today!

Acupuncture needles and wooden spoons containing herbs

What is Functional Medicine?

What is functional medicine? According to The Institute For Functional Medicine, it’s a type of treatment that takes a systems-based, biology-based approach to medicine that focuses on identifying the root causes of disease. Functional medicine practitioners will often look for the root cause of any ailment by addressing inflammation in the body, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid deficiencies, and other imbalances in the body.

In some cases, identifying the root cause of an ailment can lead to a diagnosis from a licensed practitioner or a diagnosis from a functional medicine practitioner. Once you receive a diagnosis, your functional medicine specialist will help you put together a treatment plan that will address the root cause of your ailment through treatments such as acupuncture, traditional herbs and remedies, as well as vitamins, supplements, and lifestyle adjustments.

Spoon full of vitamins with fruit and vegetables in the background

Functional Medicine Is Biology

First and foremost, functional medicine takes a biological approach to healing. At The Emperor’s Medicine, we take the time to understand your unique biology and biological needs before we make any recommendations for treatment. And, rather than take an “organ approach” (an approach where doctors will look for a single cause or organ that could be making you sick), we take a biological approach that focuses on holistic health rather than treating specific organs.

For example, research has shown that patients who are diagnosed with depression can also be deficient in a number of different vitamins and minerals essential to the body’s functioning. Some common vitamins and minerals associated with depression include

  • Vitamin K

  • Fatty acids

  • Zinc

  • Magnesium

Practitioners of functional medicine will order blood labs that look for different vitamin deficiencies to treat a number of ailments. Investigating vitamin deficiencies isn’t the only part of functional medicine’s approach to treatment. Balance is also an important part of functional medicine.

Bowl of natural herbs and supplements

Functional Medicine Focuses on Balance

Functional medicine isn’t just one treatment or pill. Instead, it is an approach that uses a variety of tools and techniques to address the underlying causes of disease. Chief among the functional medicine practitioner's toolbox are lifestyle and balance recommendations. The belief is that balancing all the different parts of the body and its systems can treat the underlying causes of disease better than targeting specific parts of the body.

For example, to treat depression, a functional medicine practitioner might investigate different therapeutic interventions, such as vitamin and mineral deficiency panels, diet recommendations, and lifestyle changes to either accompany a treatment regimen from a mental health practitioner or supplement one if more common pharmaceutical-based treatments don’t work.

Smiling woman taking a vitamin

Functional Medicine Can Be Preventative

A large focus of functional medicine is preventative care. Preventative care is habits, lifestyle changes, and even medications you can take to protect yourself from developing health problems further down the line. In more traditional, “Western” medicine treatment plans, preventative treatment could include taking a medication that treats a certain symptom before that symptom presents itself. For example, if you have high cholesterol in your family, your doctor could put you on a statin, even if there aren’t any health concerns.

Functional medicine, on the other hand, will seek to balance your life and promote an active, healthy lifestyle that’s conducive to better health outcomes. Additionally, your functional medicine practitioner will make periodic recommendations for therapies that can work toward preventing issues down the line. Some of these treatments might include acupuncture, or traditional herbs and remedies, which have been used for centuries as cures for numerous ailments.

Woman receiving acupuncture on her shoulder

Functional Medicine Seeks Natural Treatment Options

Perhaps the most defining feature of functional medicine is its preference for natural interventions, as opposed to prescription medications. If you’re dealing with chronic pain, a functional medicine practitioner might recommend a more natural treatment intervention, such as acupuncture, which has been shown to be an effective form of pain relief for many people. A functional medicine practitioner might oppose treating your chronic pain with prescription medications, which is often the first-line treatment. On top of acupuncture, functional medicine practitioners might also recommend personal therapy or chiropractic care. Functional medicine practitioners — unless they are board-certified doctors — cannot write prescriptions.

Doctor holding acupuncture needles

Misconceptions About Functional Medicine

There are many misconceptions about functional medicine that can deter people from trying it. Because we believe that everyone heals differently, we believe, true to the founding principles of functional medicine, that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan for you. This is why we always recommend looking into functional medicine treatments in your area, such as services from The Emperor’s Medicine in Illinois. Here are some common misconceptions we often see associated with functional medicine.

  • Misconception: Functional medicine is not evidence-based. Functional medicine practitioners use a variety of evidence-based approaches to diagnose and treat their patients. These include traditional medical testing, as well as alternative testing methods such as functional blood chemistry analysis and food intolerance testing.

  • Misconception: Functional Medicine is Expensive. Though some treatments may be expensive, functional is no more expensive than other approaches to treatment. Additionally, everyone at all income levels can benefit from functional medicine.

  • Misconception: Functional Medicine is Not Mainstream. As functional medicine continues to grow in popularity, practices such as acupuncture, massages, and natural approaches to healing are becoming more and more mainstream.

Misconception: Functional Medicine is Only For Certain People. Not every treatment recommendation in functional medicine requires a total lifestyle overhaul. Like more traditional medicine, there are a number of different treatments and approaches to treatment in functional medicine.

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Functional medicine is a complex, well-researched, and well-studied field that seeks to treat a number of different ailments through more natural approaches to healing. If you want to experience the benefits of functional medicine today, come visit The Emperor’s Medicine in Naperville, Illinois today, and see for yourself.

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