Understanding A Functional Medicine

Not really everyone knows, or understands this scope of medical approaches, and there are so many of them. Nevertheless, functional Medicine is a medical inquiry concept that asks how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing each individual’s root causes. 

It is an approach to health care that conceptualizes health and illness as part of a continuum in which all human biological system components interact dynamically with the environment, producing patterns and effects that change over time. 

Functional Medicine helps clinicians identify and ameliorate dysfunctions in the human body’s physiology and biochemistry as a primary method of improving patient health. To understand this context well, there are essential elements that inform the functional medicine approach’s footprint. 

Gene-Environment Interaction

Functional Medicine is based on understanding the metabolic processes of each individual at the cellular level. By knowing how each person’s genes and environment interact to create their unique biochemical phenotype, it is possible to design targeted interventions that correct the specific issues that lead to destructive processes such as inflammation and oxidation many diseases.

Upstream Signal Modulation

Functional Medicine interventions seek to influence biochemical pathways “upstream” and prevent the overproduction of damaging end products, rather than blocking those end products’ effects. For example, instead of using drugs that block the last step in the production of inflammatory mediators (NSAIDs, etc.), Functional Medicine treatments seek to prevent the upregulation of those mediators in the first place.

 Multimodal Treatment Plans

The Functional Medicine approach uses a broad range of interventions to achieve optimal health, including diet, nutrition, exercise, movement; stress management; sleep and rest, phytonutrient, nutritional and pharmaceutical supplementation, and various other restorative and reparative therapies. These interventions are tailored to address the antecedents, triggers, and mediators of disease or dysfunction in each patient.

Understanding the Patient in Context

Functional Medicine uses a structured process to uncover each patient’s significant life events to gain a better understanding of who they are as an individual. IFM tools (the “Timeline” and the “Matrix” model) are integral to this process for the role they play in organizing clinical data and mediating clinical insights. This approach to the clinical encounter ensures that the patient is heard, engenders the therapeutic relationship, expands therapeutic options, and improves the collaboration between patient and clinician. 

Systems Biology-Based Approach

Functional Medicine uses systems biology to understand how core imbalances in specific biological systems can manifest in other parts of the body. Rather than an organ systems-based approach, Functional Medicine addresses core physiological processes that cross anatomical boundaries, including assimilation of nutrients, cellular defense and repair, structural integrity, cellular communication and transport mechanisms, energy production, and biotransformation. The “Functional Medicine Matrix” is the clinician’s essential tool for understanding these network effects and provides the basis for the design of effective multimodal treatment strategies.

Patient-Centered and Directed

Functional Medicine practitioners work with the patient to find the most appropriate and acceptable treatment plan to correct, balance, and optimize the fundamental underlying issues in mind, body, and spirit. Beginning with a detailed and personalized history, the patient is welcomed into exploring their story and the potential causes of their health issues. Patients and providers work together to determine the diagnostic process, set achievable health goals, and design an appropriate therapeutic approach.

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