Updated: Mar 1, 2021
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is a science-based, whole body approach to wellness aiming to get to the root cause of disease. It views the body as one, whole, interconnected system rather than separate body systems. It aims to identify and address the root causes of disease, illness, and imbalance by rebalancing the body and reversing the manifestations of disease. This functional medicine framework is the health model of the future because it is truly personalized medicine that is health focused rather than disease focused, and it is available now to you and everyone.
The conventional medicine model is excellent and a tremendous blessing for survival, triage and acute care situations, such as traumas from an accident, infections, and life-saving surgeries and medical interventions, but it falls short when it comes to restoring optimal health in those with chronic conditions because it focuses on treating symptoms of disease rather than exploring the cause of it. Medications are indeed needed to treat some conditions, but they are overprescribed.
Functional medicine is the science of how to create a healthy human, and when you create health it is often that you will see disease be reversed as the body innately will return to a state of wellness. Functional medicine uses modern-day scientific research, functional testing when appropriate, and the fundamental pillars of health paired with an understanding of the physiology and biochemistry of the body to truly find and address the root cause of the problem.
The principles of functional medicine teach us how to restore and optimize the essential functions of the body which are determined by addressing all the different lifestyle and environmental inputs of life including nutrition and nutritional status, supplements, exercise and movement, sleep hygiene, stress management techniques, addressing and removing exposure to toxins, allergens and microbes, detoxification, access to nature and sunshine, meaningful relationships, beliefs, thoughts, meaning, connection, and purpose. These are principles of personalized medicine that can bring true healing in the body.
While we cannot change our genes and may have a genetic predisposition to a condition, it does not mean we are pre-destined to develop it. We have the power to influence how our genes are expressed, and all these inputs mentioned above affect your gene expression for better or for worse. It is our personal lifestyle, nutritional, and environmental choices that can pull the trigger on our genes.
Functional medicine practitioners are like health detectives who spend time with their patients and clients, listening to their unique stories, including their medical, mental, environmental, and social history, and working with them to uncover what is happening underneath the disease and dysfunction they are experiencing. It recognizes that each person is unique and deserves an individualized assessment and personalized plan that addresses each of the fundamental principles of functional medicine.
Receiving a diagnosis or diagnostic name is just a label given to people who share common symptoms but knowing the name of the disease does not in any way tell you the cause of it. For example, as the graphic below illustrates, a diagnosis of depression is one condition, but there can be many causes to it such as omega-3 deficiency, low thyroid hormone, vitamin D deficiency, pre-diabetes, antibiotic use, and so on. Likewise, a cause such as inflammation can be associated with many conditions such as depression, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Functional medicine asks the question "Why is this person experiencing dis-ease and dysfunction?" It looks past the diagnosis and works to find the underlying causes of how and why disease is manifesting in the body. The key is to remove the factors that create imbalance and harm to the body, maximize what the body needs to function and heal, and prioritize an environment of healing for each unique person. With ongoing engagement in these restorative lifestyle, nutritional and environmental factors, you have the power to super charge your health, wellbeing, and function as the body restores balance leaving you with a strong immune system, balanced gut microbiome, balanced hormones, ability to detoxify, sustained energy, and ample nutrition to fuel your body, mind, and spirit.
Image by The Institute for Functional Medicine (https://www.ifm.org/functional-medicine/what-is-functional-medicine/)
Dr. Melissa de Brito
Melissa is a pharmacist, functional medicine practitioner and coach, culinary nutrition instructor, and toxin-free living advocate . She gravitated towards a functional approach using a nutrient-dense diet coupled with sustainable lifestyle changes after struggling with her own autoimmune thyroid condition of Graves’ disease turned Hashimoto’s. She has now turned her passion of culinary nutrition and functional medicine to helping others regain their health naturally. If you would like to work with Melissa as part of your wellness journey, learn more here.
1. “What Is Functional Medicine?: IFM.” The Institute for Functional Medicine, 16 Apr. 2018, www.ifm.org/functional-medicine/what-is-functional-medicine/.
2. “Functional Medicine.” Chris Kresser, 26 Mar. 2019, chriskresser.com/functional-medicine/.
3. “Why Choose the Center for Functional Medicine.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/departments/functional-medicine/about.
4. “About Functional Medicine.” Dr. Mark Hyman, 14 Nov. 2019, drhyman.com/about-functional-medicine/.
All information is generalized, presented for information purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Product recommendations and information are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.