Healing Beyond Pharmaceuticals
The majority of healthcare providers today practice what is known as conventional (or Western) medicine using standard protocols and algorithms to diagnose and treat diseases based on scientific evidence and research. We believe there is a time and place for conventional medicine, although more and more people are looking to alternative therapies to prevent and reverse many chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, hormone imbalances and chronic inflammation. Various forms of alternative medicine, such as functional and integrative medicine, have been gaining popularity in today’s society. Both practices are highly regarded by world-renowned health care practitioners such as Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Steven Gundry, Dr. Pamela Smith, and Dr. Anna Cabeca. Many believe functional and integrative medicine models are the future of healthcare. Physicians and providers are beginning to take a more holistic approach to treating patients and not just concentrating on treating a disease. Although both functional and integrative medicine have similarities and overlap in several areas, there are a few factors that make each discipline somewhat unique.
What is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine is a holistic medical discipline which takes into account a person’s lifestyle and habits that effect their health. The medical provider works with the patient to treat them as a whole person rather than just the disease. We look at the mind, body, and soul to promote healing and well-being.
Integrative medicine uses a combination of modern healthcare practices to diagnose and treat a patient. Treatment may include acupuncture, yoga, or massage and focuses on the nutritional and exercise habits of the patient to reverse effects related to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Integrative medicine providers believe poor lifestyle choices are the root cause of many chronic diseases.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine embraces the same philosophy as Integrative Medicine described above, but it also implements a systems-oriented medical approach to identify and understand the underlying or root cause of a disease. This discipline takes into account the personalization of healthcare, as each patient’s care plan is distinct and unique. The relationship between patient and practitioner becomes a partnership and teaches the patient to become their own healthcare advocate. Every aspect of a patient’s medical history is reviewed in detail and the patient is treated as an individual rather than the disease. Looking into a patient’s genetics and environmental factors can give a deeper knowledge of the patient’s health status. Understanding the biochemical make up of an individual can lead to the underlying cause of diseases and aid in prevention of additional health risks. Functional medicine is gaining popularity as the consumer is looking for alternative methods to take control of their health to prevent and treat chronic diseases. Rather than simply making a diagnosis and then determining which drug to prescribe or surgery to do to treat the patient, functional medicine practitioners dive deeper into the patient’s history and biochemistry to determine why this patient is ill. People are trying to find the root cause of why they feel the way they do instead of getting a medication prescribed to them to put a “band aid” on it. Physicians, nurse practitioners and other medical care providers can now earn a fellowship in Functional/Integrative/Anti-Aging Medicine through accredited programs developed in the United States.
Healthcare is undergoing drastic changes in the 21 st Century. Insurance companies are dictating how practitioners treat and care for their patients and reimbursement is low. This means many practices that provide care under the insurance model need to see a large number of people to cover their overhead. This has created a very rushed, impersonal, and non-thorough management of care. Practitioners who embrace the Functional/Integrative Approach to medicine will be at the forefront of healthcare in the 21 st Century.