How exactly does functional and integrative healthcare differ from conventional medicine?
It’s a question I’m often asked by prospective patients and family and friends alike. Here’s the difference in a nutshell:
- Conventional medicine treats symptoms and diseases with medication, radiation, or surgery. When you see a conventional doctor, you’ll likely get a diagnosis and then a treatment for eliminating the illness or alleviating symptoms.
- Functional medicine strives to optimize health by identifying and treating the underlying causes of poor health, which can be traced to interactions among genetics, nutrition, lifestyle, and environment.
For example, suppose you have high blood pressure. You’re likely to have two very different experiences depending on the type of doctor you see:
- The conventional doctor diagnoses high blood pressure and prescribes a drug to lower it and perhaps another drug to lower cholesterol. To be fair, the doctor may also recommend dietary changes (low-sodium, low-fat) and lifestyle changes (reduce consumption of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, and increase physical activity), but if the drug works, few patients are willing to make long-term changes to their diet and lifestyle.
- A functional medicine doctor interviews you to gather a complete medical history to determine when the symptoms began and what may be causing them. The doctor is likely to order a series of tests to figure out why your blood pressure is high. Underlying causes of high blood pressure include the following:
- Insufficient physical activity
- Excess caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol
- Emotional stress
- Excess weight
- Nutritional deficiencies, including biotin vitamin B1, vitamin C, vitamin D, choline, magnesium, or coQ10
- Toxic levels of mercury
- Excess sodium and insufficient potassium
- Magnesium deficiency
- Chronic systemic inflammation
- Elevated blood sugar
- Hormone imbalances, such as estrogen deficiency
Functional healthcare targets the underlying causes, which not only eliminates the illness but also restores health and prevents future illness. The table below compares the two approaches side-by-side. Continue reading…