Traditional Western Medicine or Allopathic Medicine sees the individual primarily as individualized organ systems: heart, lungs, kidneys, digestive tract, etc. It assigns diseases to these systems based on a set of symptoms, signs, abnormal labs, and tissue pathology. Once the diagnosis is given to the diseased organ system, pharmacologic or surgical treatment is initiated.
What is Functional Medicine and how is it different?
Functional Medicine is a dynamic approach to assessing and treating you as a whole individual. It is a way of seeing you as a functioning whole that integrates all of your contributing parts. These parts represent the Mind <-> Body <-> Spirit <-> Emotion continuum, as well, as the Micro (cellular) <-> Macro (individual) and Genetic (inside) <-> Environmental (outside) continuum. This is a much more complex, dynamic, integrative and informative systems approach that looks at much more than a diseased organ. It allows a deeper understanding of how one aspect affects other aspects of your entire being. Without this perspective, it is impossible to get to the true underlying causes of imbalance, which often are multiple and originate from different aspects of your being. In assessing your current state of balance, the information gathered is processed through your unique genetic predispositions and functional physiologic processes. Functional imbalances are identified in each of the above continua. Then Nurturitive (Psycho-social), Nutritive, Physical and Environmental solutions are identified.
Principles of Functional Medicine:
- Your Health is a Positive Vitality
- You are on a Continuum of Health and Wellness
- Wellness <-> Illness
- You have the ability and knowledge available to you to affect where you are on this spectrum
- Most imbalances are present before symptoms develop. It is the imbalance that leads to the symptoms and these imbalances can be detected early
- As your physician, it is my goal to identify these imbalances and your location on this spectrum and help you achieve your optimal wellness
- Balance – Helping you to achieve balance in all realms
- Mind <-> Body <-> Spirit <-> Emotion
- Cellular <-> Individual
- Genetic <-> Environmental
- Biochemical Individuality
- Focus is on you, the individual, and your life experiences
- You have a Genetic <-> Environmental uniqueness
- Balance is between internal and external forces
- All aspects of the system (continuum) have a web-like interaction
- Frequently Genetic Imbalances can be overcome by Positive Environmental Interventions such as a change in nutrition, specific nutrient, exercise, or change in thought, action, circumstances or environment
- Patient-Centered Treatment
- The focus is on understanding your experience and its relationship to your health as opposed to focusing on your disease
- This brings about an understanding of your story and your genetic – environmental interactions and your metabolic physiology
- Therapy is then individualized to your particular needs to bring you back into functional balance
- Your earthbound functions are in balance when you are healthy
- They are interconnected and when one functional system is out of balance it causes imbalances in others
- These functional systems are:
- Immune Surveillance
- Inflammatory Processes
- Energy Production – Oxidation & Oxidative Stress
- Detoxification & Biotransformation
- Hormone & Neurotransmitter Regulation
- Physical Structure
- Each is part of a web of interconnections within you that helps maintain the balance but also propagates imbalances throughout the connections. In some ways, this spreads imbalances more evenly so symptoms are not so severe and is also the stimulus for your system’s overall attempts to self-correct.
In August of 2000, the CDC stated, “Virtually all human diseases result from the interaction of genetic susceptibility and modifiable environmental factors.” This is a concept that the functional medicine model has incorporated for some time. “Genetic variations do not cause disease but rather influence a person’s susceptibility to environmental factors.”
In summary, conventional medicine focuses on a diagnosis related to an organ system and targets a suppression of physiology (your body’s attempt at correcting an imbalance) with medication or surgery. Functional Medicine, on the other hand, focuses on you the individual and your functional (systemic) imbalances and enhances your own self-correcting mechanisms with a variety of Nurturitive (Psycho-social), Nutritive, Physical and Environmental solutions.
If you have questions or would like to make an appointment, please call Dr. Cole in one of our convenient locations.