Traditional vs. Functional Medicine
While the term “functional medicine” has only been familiar to the Western world since the early 1990’s, the concept has existed around the world for thousands of years. Despite the fact that it is the foundation of medicine as we know it to be today, Western society has fallen further and further away from what “healthy” really looks like.
The first pharmaceutical drug was distributed in 1804 and is still popular today: morphine. Since then, our society has become addicted to the immediate gratification we get from taking pharmaceutical drugs. Healing and reversing disorder and disease within the body can take weeks, months, or even years - a timeline most don’t have the patience for these days. Pharmaceuticals provide a fast track to symptom relief, but rarely actually address the root cause of the dysfunction.
Sadly, today more than 131 million Americans are reliant on at least one pharmaceutical drug (i.e. at least one per day).
Some examples of common pharmaceuticals that you may even be familiar with are:
- Hydrochlorothiazide, Lisinopril, and Amlodipine Besylate are used to regulate blood pressure
- Atorvastatin Calcium is used to lower cholesterol
- Ventolin is a steroid used to treat asthma
- Trazodone Hydrochloride is an SSRI used to treat depression.
In contrast, on the Eastern side of the world, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are the foundation of the most popular medical methodologies. These Eastern traditional medical belief systems- also referred to as functional medicine - don’t place focus on alleviating the symptoms, but rather identifying and healing the source of the dysfunction instead. While these methodologies typically don't yield as instant of physical response, it is more effective in the long run.
Some common functional medicine practices include:
- Nutritional counseling to ensure the body is receiving the nutrients it needs.
- Mind-body therapies like massage therapy, acupuncture, and yoga to restore physical, mental and spiritual balance.
- Herbal supplementation to trigger acute responses within the body.
That being said, both forms of medicine rely on each other to be successful. The findings of each type of practitioner are ultimately trying to accomplish the same goal: keep the patient as healthy as possible.
For example, if you have developed arthritis and need help, your medical advice could go one of two ways:
- A traditional medical practitioner would assess your joint pain, muscle stiffness, skin redness, and decreased range of motion to diagnose you with arthritis. You may be prescribed steroids and/or painkillers to numb the pain. You would undergo perpetual, routine tests to ensure other parts of your body are not being negatively impacted by the drugs. Eventually, your body will become resistant to the drug, so you will have to increase your dosage over time.
- A functional medical practitioner would assess your joint pain, muscle stiffness, skin redness, and decreased range of motion to diagnose you with arthritis. They would immediately begin you on an anti-inflammatory healing protocol, which would include a variety of nutritional changes (like eliminating gluten and dairy), and herbal supplements. They would conduct a thorough analysis of your entire medical history to understand what could be triggering your joints to swell. You would work together until you eliminated the symptoms you were previously experiencing.
While both professionals took a widely different approach to each treatment protocol, they also have the ability to work as a team.
You can check out the video I did on this topic as well below.
So what is functional medicine considered when creating a treatment protocol?
The Functional Medicine Matrix
The Functional Medicine Matrix is the framework used to paint the full story of what is happening in the body. The matrix is separated into seven components:
- Defense and repair
- Biotransformation and elimination
- Structural integrity
To identify all components in the matrix and eventually conclude a diagnosis, functional medical practitioners rely on things like:
- Analyzing the patient’s family medical history and past triggering events.
- Understanding their past lifestyle choices.
- Evaluation of the patient’s mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
- Functional tests like Body Composition Testing, Toxic Metal Urine Tests, Micronutrient testing, and Fasting Glucose testing.
These tests help functional medical practitioners understand what pathways may be blocked, what processes are in dysfunction, or what deficiencies are causing the patient to experience uncomfortable symptoms.
You’re likely now thinking to yourself: why wouldn’t you want to discover the root cause when things in our bodies are not working correctly?
Well, in instances where the patient’s symptoms are considered “standard” or a faster diagnosis is required, traditional medical methodologies can help the patient find relief much more quickly. Additionally, there are many medical conditions that currently have no guaranteed successful functional treatment (such as cancers that require chemotherapy, or some autoimmune diseases for example) and require pharmaceutical intervention. As a general rule, traditional medicine is most often used as a reactive solution, whereas functional medicine yields the best results when used proactively.
When to seek out the help of a functional medical practitioner
Your body was designed to be a healing machine if you give it the chance. If you struggle with chronic pain or discomfort that has not been deemed life-threatening, you may want to consider visiting a functional medicine practitioner.
No matter if you struggle with poor gut health, undiagnosed allergies, autoimmune disorders or hormone imbalances, there IS a way to heal your body without a need for medications. All you need is a little help, some patience, and faith in the power within your body.
Want to get started on your functional medicine journey? Call our office and we’ll get you set up with a one-on-one consultation, run the necessary tests, and provide you with the healthcare you need!