What is Functional Medicine and Who is it For

Misbah Akhtar

Conventional medicine and alternative medicine are sometimes seen as being at odds with each other.

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine seeks to bridge this divide while aiding patients. But what is functional medicine, and who is it for? We’ll address both of these questions and go into deeper detail as to who can benefit most from functional medicine.

What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine isn’t new per se. Instead, it is a new name for the long-held medical view that medicine should treat the whole body. This perspective is shared by holistic practitioners. Functional medicine is personalized, integrated healthcare. In fact, one of the key pillars of functional medicine is patient-centered care.

Functional medicine tries to address root causes of disease. Functional medicine practitioners analyze everything from the patient’s health history, family history, biology, and lifestyle to understand the situation and everything contributing to it.

One of the benefits of functional medicine is to treat underlying issues like obesity, poor diet, and hormonal imbalances, so you treat the root cause and see the benefits across the board. Compare this to the default solution of seeing half a dozen specialists to treat various aspects of the same, underlying condition. You can learn more here about how functional medicine may be better than the standard healthcare model.

Does Functional Medicine Reject Conventional Medicine?

The short answer is no. Functional medicine draws from conventional medicine for evaluation and treatment. For example, you’ll probably still have blood drawn and sent to the lab, and you may need an X-ray done. However, there are additional dimensions added such as prevention of disease, proactive management of health conditions through lifestyle changes, and evaluation of the patient as a whole person. Functional medicine includes the patient’s mindset, spirituality, and the environment in determining treatment and prevention of future problems.

Functional medicine goes farther than conventional medicine. You may still need a prescription or two. However, a functional medicine expert may prescribe vitamins, a therapeutic diet, botanicals, an exercise plan or lifestyle changes. High blood pressure is treated with stress management and lifestyle changes as well as medication. Yoga and aromatherapy are among your options, but you have a choice regarding what you want to do.

When Is Conventional Medicine Better?

Conventional medicine should be your first choice when dealing with sudden emergencies. When you need your appendix out or stitches after an accident, conventional medicine is the right choice. Acute infections and sudden emergencies like a heart attack call for conventional medicine.

Functional medicine should be your preference for dealing with the aftermath, whether you’ve gone through cancer treatment or a surgical procedure. Conventional medicine falls short when it comes to treating heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disorders, or functional disorders.

Who Is Functional Medicine For?

In theory, everyone can benefit from functional medicine. People who are tired of seeing many different specialists to treat the symptoms of a condition instead of the underlying root cause benefit most from the shift to holistic treatment.

Functional medicine is an excellent alternative to the routine visit to the general practitioner for yet another prescription to address your latest symptoms, especially when it seems like the root cause is never really resolved.

If you want to improve your overall quality of life without resorting to medication, you have to see a functional medicine practitioner. If you want advice on how to maximize your long-term health, a functional medicine expert should be consulted.
For example, you could receive personalized advice on dietary changes, lifestyle changes and vitamins to reduce the risk of developing various disorders instead of taking up the maintenance medication the doctor prescribes to everybody in your particular demographic. The goal of functional medicine is the prevention of disease, not its ongoing treatment.

Functional medicine should be considered if you’re dealing with autism, ADHD, and other psychiatric disorders. Functional medicine often provides better care for patients because it deals with relationships, stress and lifestyle issues that compound mental health problems or may be the root cause of them.

In other cases, improving nutrition and quality of sleep significantly improve quality of life for the patient while letting them rely less on medication. Attitudes, experiences, beliefs, spirituality and mental thought patterns are all taken into account and analyzed to come to a diagnosis – and individual solution. You don’t want to end up with psychiatric medications to treat low energy caused by a hormonal problem or vitamin deficiency. Finding alternative ways to boost energy like exercise, better sleep and less reliance on stimulants can help patients feel better naturally.

Who Benefits Most from Functional Medicine?

If you’re dealing with complex chronic diseases, you’ll benefit most from functional medicine. These conditions include but are not limited to diabetes, high blood pressure and autoimmune disorders. If you keep getting sick, functional medicine may be able to find out why and treat that root cause.
Those who continue to suffer from unknown or uncertain maladies can benefit from functional medicine. For example, a surprising number of people are suffering ill effects from vitamin deficiencies and toxins even though their doctor may not recognize that as the reason for their various complaints. If you’ve received multiple competing diagnoses, functional medicine is your alternative. They care more about identifying and treating the root cause than applying the right diagnostic label to the patient.

Chronic fatigue and constant digestive problems can have many causes. If your lab results all look normal, but you don’t yet feel normal, functional medicine can address the common root causes that your doctor may have missed.

Patients who are taking a ton of medications for various symptoms can benefit significantly from functional medicine. The root cause may be addressed, and while they may still need one or two medications, shifts in lifestyle and diet may let them drop several medications from their regimen while still feeling better.


Functional medicine sees the body as a whole, combining conventional medicine with traditional remedies, lifestyle analysis, and counseling to treat the root cause of nearly any problem. Functional medicine practitioners partner with their patients to maximize their health long-term.

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