Functional Medicine – A Quest for Health

Understanding Functional Medicine:

Today people are seeking alternative methods of medical care. Functional medicine is a holistic approach to treatment and aspires to treat a patient not only physically but also on an emotional and spiritual level. This treatment is based on the assumption that every individual is unique and has a distinct biochemistry. Functional medicine, often referred to as the medicine of the future is a holistic treatment which takes into account the well being and lifestyle of an individual. The treatments are usually personalised where the patient also plays an active role in the treatment as often radical changes in diet and lifestyle are required.

The treatment is anchored on the philosophy that dynamic balance exists between an individual’s internal and external factors. Disease or illness occurs when this balance is disturbed. Functional medicine is rooted in two simple scientific principles which advocate adding what is deficient to help the body achieve an optimal state of functioning and removing anything which hampers its journey towards achieving an optimal physiology. Unlike conventional medicine which only masks or manages the symptoms, this medicine uses innovative research methods to get to the root of the ailment and treat it accordingly. According to Dr Mark Hyman, a well renowned physician and an advocate of this alternative treatment, ninety percent of all illnesses arise due to imbalances in the seven fundamental core systems namely nutrition, hormones, immune function, digestion, detoxification, energy metabolism and mind-body. In his book, ‘The Ultramind Solution’, Dr Hyman presents a simple plan based on the functional medicine principles to reinstate health and vitality.

Functional Medicine versus Conventional Treatments:

Conventional medicine is disease centred and is divided into different specialties like cardiology, neurology, endocrinology, haematology, psychiatry etc. It provides independent treatments for each of the body’s organisation. However an individual is made of intricate web like networks involving the mind and the body which are in constant communication with each other. The name of the disease does not matter more than the cause.

Hence a psychiatrist may not be able to effectively treat a depressed patient by antidepressants as the underlying cause maybe a hormonal imbalance like a low functioning thyroid. Functional medicine unlike conventional medicine is not compartmentalised and tries to delve into underlying causes where treatments are customised to the cause rather than the disease.

Healing Chronic Diseases

Many people suffer from chronic ailments. Conventional treatments are usually not effective in treating such ailments. As a result such people have to limit their lives accordingly and this in turn puts a huge socioeconomic burden on the society. In such cases, this treatment becomes significant since it undertakes a holistic approach to treatments which especially becomes necessary in case of chronic health conditions. For example a chronic ailment like depression might not be corrected by prescribing antidepressants as the underlying cause might be a vitamin D deficiency. Functional medicine effectively corrects such underlying imbalances and nudges the patient slowly towards the path of wellness.

Functional medicine can be considered as the future of medicine as it holds the keys to several health challenges where conventional treatments fail miserably. The present healthcare system needs a paradigm shift in its thinking and functional medicine should be complimented with conventional treatments for achieving optimal health.