What is Functional Medicine?

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

Two years ago, I had never heard of Functional Medicine. But it's one of those things that, once you learn what it is, you see it everywhere. Functional medicine is not a health fad. It names what is hidden in plain sight: the link between our personal health, the health of our relationships, and the health of the environment in unbreakable. It's root-cause medicine and it's revolutionizing how we deliver healthcare.

The Root Cause of Disease

According to the Institute for Functional Medicine, "Functional Medicine is a systems biology–based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. Each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness."

Genes, Environment, and Lifestyle

According to the Institute for Functional Medicine, "...a diagnosis can be the result of more than one cause. For example, depression can be caused by many different factors, including inflammation. Likewise, a cause such as inflammation may lead to a number of different diagnoses, including depression. The precise manifestation of each cause depends on the individual’s genes, environment, and lifestyle, and only treatments that address the right cause will have lasting benefit beyond symptom suppression."

Individualized Approach to Disease

According to the IFM website, "...a small group of influential thought leaders realized the importance of an individualized approach to disease causes based on the evolving research in nutritional science, genomics, and epigenetics. These thought leaders found ways to apply these new advances in the clinic to address root causes using low-risk interventions that modify molecular and cellular systems to reverse these drivers of disease."

The Functional Medicine Matrix

"The Functional Medicine Matrix assists the clinician in organizing and prioritizing each patient’s health issues as elicited by a thorough personal, family, social, and medical history. The Matrix is akin to a web decoder—it organizes what seems to be disparate issues into a complete story to help the clinician gain a comprehensive perspective of the patient and subsequently facilitate discussion of complex, chronic disease with the patient." - as written on the IFM website.

The Timeline

"All clinicians take patient history, but what makes the Functional Medicine Timeline different is that it has the effect of giving the patient insight into previous life events to motivate them to change and participate in treatment. As an intake tool for organizing the patient’s history chronologically, the Functional Medicine Timeline is a graphical representation that allows clinicians to identify factors that predispose, provoke, and contribute to pathological changes and dysfunctional responses in the patient. In this way, practitioners will be able to view temporal relationships among events, which can reveal cause-effect relationships that might otherwise go unnoticed. By covering the period from preconception to the present, the Timeline reflects the connection between the whole lifespan and one’s current health."

The Functional Medicine Health Coach

"Functional Medicine Health Coaches use Functional Medicine principles & positive psychology coaching techniques to:

  • Educate clients and help them understand their doctor’s plan of care

  • Offer tools and accountability when clients implement new lifestyle changes

  • Motivate clients using positive psychology techniques

  • Guide clients through dietary changes, food plans, and physical activity protocols

  • Lead clients through group coaching sessions on specific topics

  • Work directly with the client’s practitioner when appropriate

  • Celebrate successes and encourage progress".

- according to the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy

To learn more, visit the Institute for Functional Medicine.

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