Do you find yourself with chronic, unexplained pains and ailments? Do specialty and primary care physicians have few ideas as to why you just don’t feel well? You may want to look beyond conventional medicine. Functional Medicine can lead to answers and solutions for your health problems, both large and small. What is Functional Medicine you ask?
Functional Medicine is a way of navigating one’s state of health through the connection of patterns; a systems-based approach rather than a disease-or symptoms-based approach. This is a comprehensive process to understanding a person’s health status by identifying the root causes rather than just symptoms alone. Functional Medicine is about understanding the true nature of health and disease.
This is individualized health care at its finest, as Functional Medicine practitioners listen and learn the story of each patient, looking upstream at the history, genetic makeup, lifestyle, and environment. The upstream information helps practitioners and patients to better understand the imbalances within the biologic systems and the symptoms that have expressed because of those imbalances.
Rather than matching medications with a chronic disease, Functional Medicine asks “Why is this problem present in the first place?,” “What is causing the symptoms?,” and “What can be done to restore function?”
After an upstream listening session and clinical examination, laboratory testing may be needed to help connect the dots. Test results show whether the patient is trending toward optimal health or toward disease or the extent of current disease. Results are used to modify treatment plans and to dig deeper towards the root cause.
While Functional Medicine is not anti-medicine, it does dig deeper to discover the most effective option for the patient. If supplements and nutrition changes help to restore function, wonderful! Or, medication could best meet a patient’s needs. Remember, this is a personalized care plan designed to uniquely balance health and prevent future disease.
Nutrition and lifestyle factors are often used to treat, balance, and restore health through Functional Medicine. Food sensitivities or allergies, chronic stress overload, malnutrition, and inactivity are just some of the areas that Functional Medicine detectives (practitioners) may use to eliminate the root cause of disease and symptoms. Neither health nor chronic diseases are achieved overnight, which is why it is important that patients feel empowered and supported to follow functional health behaviors.
The need for support and expertise is why Functional Medicine is often a team-based approach that brings together physicians, dieticians, and heath coaches. Understanding the benefits of Functional Medicine, the Cleveland Clinic recently created the Center for Functional Medicine, which includes three physicians, a lead dietician, a dietician/health coach and a registered nurse.
Find a Functional Medicine practitioner near you, and be sure to ask a prospective practitioner questions about their background, experience, and insurance or payment options.
For more than 11 years, Katie Bevan has been in pain and fatigued from an underlying autoimmune disease—ankylosing spondylitis. She is on the road to healing the autoimmune disease, a leaky gut, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth through the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. With a passion for educating for the purpose of heath empowerment, Katie has been raising awareness of public health issues for more than seven years at the Lorain County General Health District. She specializes in the development and administration of population-based messages to reduce chronic diseases and unintentional traffic-related injuries. She earned a Master of Science in Health Communication from Boston University.