Functional Medicine: What Is It?
By Causenta Wellness
Functional medicine is an approach to health and wellness that is based on systems biology. It focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease.
Functional medicine looks at each symptom or differential diagnosis as one of many contributing to an individual’s illness. Functional medicine is science-based, which appeals to my philosophy of how we treat patients at Causenta.
Functional medicine, much like patient care at Causenta, takes an individualized approach to exploring what is causing diseases in a patient. Functional medicine was able to really take off because of the developments in research in the fields of nutritional science, genomics, and epigenetics.
Functional Medicine and Nutritional Science
Nutritional science primarily focuses on dietary concerns and health issues surrounding food, eating, and medicine. It’s rooted in chemistry, biology, and the social sciences. Nutritional science plays into functional medicine because both fields are interested in the metabolic and physiological responses of the body to what you eat.
This also circles back to the fact that about 70 percent of our immune system is in our gut, so what you eat can really affect your overall health and ability to fight disease. Functional medicine doctors use this fact to their advantage when treating patients.
Functional Medicine and Genomics
Genomics is a fancy way to describe the branch of molecular biology that looks at the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of genomes – all of a person’s genes. This is important for functional medicine because people react to treatments (medications, nutrition plans, types of exercise, etc.) in different ways based on their genetic makeup.
There are approximately 22,000 genes in the human body, so there’s a lot to explore here, but it is key to really providing customized care like we do at Causenta. When you understand what is happening or could happen to someone based on their genes, you can create functional medicine treatment protocols that can help them overcome the symptoms of chronic disease or life-threatening illnesses much more easily.
Functional Medicine and Epigenetics
Another key field of study that is foundational to functional medicine is epigenetics. This is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. Epigenetics has changed a lot about the way we look at people’s genomes.
Based on research, conditions including cancers, metabolic disorders, and degenerative disorders can all be linked to various epigenetic errors, meaning the gene is “turned off.” Functional medicine uses this information and research to try and fix the root cause of a condition by turning the gene back on.
Functional Medicine: Finding The Root Cause
We all know that a disease or chronic condition can be the result of more than one cause. These causes manifest themselves as symptoms. Functional medicine looks at these symptoms and potential diagnoses as pieces of a puzzle.
Think about depression. It is a chronic mental illness that affects approximately 20% of adults in the U.S. It can be caused by many different factors, including inflammation. And, a cause or symptom like inflammation can lead to a number of different health concerns, including but not limited to depression. The practice of functional medicine is based in the idea that the exact expression of each cause depends on a person’s genes, environment, and lifestyle, and only treatments that address the root cause will have long-term success.
Functional Medicine Education
There is this idea out there of “functional medicine quack” – like these doctors are not real doctors or lack proper training. This is one the reasons why I say, “Don’t ask Dr. Google. Ask Dr. Tom.” Functional medicine education starts with medical training and then has an additional course of study that usually takes two years to complete.
Only those who are licensed in their state can become certified functional medicine practitioners according to the Institute for Functional Medicine. While not every functional medicine professional is a medical doctor, they have knowledge and training in a related field, such as physical therapy, nursing, nutrition, or chiropractic.
Functional Medicine and Technology
Functional medicine is a field that is likely to grow as we continue to make advances in research and technology. The more we are able to understand how things happening at the microscopic level fit into how a person’s genes change over time, the more easily we will be able to treat disease and not just mask or alleviate symptoms.
Functional medicine also brings with it a chance for predicting what types of illnesses may occur in patients. While no one can see into the future, our genes paired with lifestyle choices can tell us a lot about health concerns that can develop in someone. Armed with this functional medicine knowledge, people could make changes or begin a treatment protocol to prevent disease from developing.
Functional Medicine and Healthcare Costs
According to the Centers for Disease Control, of total healthcare costs in the United States, more than 86% is due to chronic conditions. If functional medicine can determine the root cause of chronic conditions in patients and treat that issue, not just the symptoms that result, not only would people feel better, they would save money.
A patient with chronic pain could develop a dependency on medication, which then leads to a myriad of other health and life problems. Functional medicine practices could determine that the patient’s pain is a result of inflammation and that inflammation is caused by something the person is eating. So, by changing their diet, they could avoid a potential downfall in life.
We Can Help
If you are interested in learning more about how the team at Causenta implements the ideas of Functional medicine into our practices, contact us today for a 30-minute consultation.
We are interested in hearing about any symptoms you are having, so that we can best determine what tests we need to conduct to understand what is happening inside your body. We look forward to getting you on the path to feeling great.