In many ways, the medical system we experience in America is broken.
Conventional medicine is effective for infections, trauma, medical emergencies, and acute diseases.
However, because treatment consists of diagnosing the symptom and then prescribing a corresponding medication or recommending surgery, this approach fails millions of people each year, especially those with chronic diseases.
Many doctors see each patient for less than 15 minutes and often patients have little understanding about the condition they have or why it is happening.
This can be incredibly discouraging, especially if you are one of the many who has been shuffled from specialist to specialist and eventually just been given methods for pain management without any hope of a cure.
Our current system leaves doctors exhausted and unfulfilled in their professions and produces patients who are not on the road to recovery or living healthier, more energetic and happy lives.
There is a better way for our nation to practice medicine that supports the doctor and allows the patient to achieve optimal health, and it’s called Integrative & Functional Medicine.
An Alternative Approach to Medicine
In the last few decades, an increasing number of people have been finding that alternative medicine offers care and treatment which improves their health and quality of life in ways that conventional medicine has not been able to. Many of the alternative approaches are different from conventional medicine in that each is trying to treat the root of the problem rather than merely the symptoms, but each approach can differ significantly. How then, does functional medicine stand out from the rest of these alternative medicines in providing comprehensive, holistic, and systematic treatment for each patient?
Integrative medicine uses a holistic approach that takes into account your lifestyle and environment, not merely your symptoms. It works to treat the mind, body, and soul of the patient. The practitioner and patient partner to find a plan that promotes the patient’s overall health and wellness. Functional medicine pairs the integrative model with a rigorous scientific and systems-based approach that aims to understand the root cause of diseases. By using Western and alternative medicine methods, functional medicine can provide a more comprehensive, personalized, and science-based care plan to promote the health of each patient.
As with any health care approach that quickly gains popularity, it is natural and even prudent to wonder if the system is legitimate. Why the surge in popularity? How is this approach different than what has come before?
To understand the benefits of functional medicine, it is important to contrast it with conventional medicine. Conventional medicine is the standard model of care that most North Americans are used to encountering when they enter a doctor’s office. Most patients have a general practitioner who will treat their symptoms with medication or refer them out to one or several specialists depending on the symptoms they are presenting. However, as mentioned earlier, this approach fails millions of people every year, such as those who have chronic pain or digestive, hormonal, allergic, neurological, or metabolic conditions. Fortunately, people with chronic conditions have been finding hope in the field of functional medicine.
To highlight the difference between conventional medicine and functional medicine, imagine you have a headache. In conventional medicine, after interviewing and possibly examining you to rule out life threatening causes of the headache, the doctor most likely would prescribe some form of pain-relieving medicine to treat the pain. The actual cause of your headache would not be explored any further.
Alternatively, if you were a patient of a functional medicine practitioner at Temecula Center for Integrative Medicine, you would be asked a myriad of questions leading to an in-depth discussion about many areas, including your family history as well as your individual history. Some of the areas your doctor would focus on are systems of your body, toxic load, genetics, your individual environment, gut function, cardiovascular history, diet and nutrition, what environmental toxins you may have been exposed to, what drugs and supplements you are taking, and your menstrual history if you are female. All of these questions assist us in truly understanding possible causes of your headache and allow us to begin to formulate a hypothesis about the underlying cause. Could it be that the cause is related to food or environmental sensitivities or allergies, or from an imbalance of the microbiome (all the bacteria and other things that live and interact in the gut)? Could it result from stress over an overwhelming divorce or job? Perhaps the cause is systemic inflammation leading to an elevation in blood pressure in addition to environmental toxins which lead to negative effects on the neurological system in the brain? After discussing these things, a thorough, yet focused, exam pertaining to probable underlying causes leading to the headache would be performed. The treatment would then be focused on the underlying cause in order to prevent your headache from returning or leading to worsening health problems.
A Systematic, Holistic, and Individual Approach
Toward a Healthier You
As you can see, functional medicine is a fundamentally different approach from the treatment you often receive when going to see a conventional medical doctor, and this is why it has gained popularity. In functional medicine, you will not be moved around from specialist to specialist. You will not be prescribed dangerous, addictive medication. You will not be treated as just another person with a similar disease or symptom.
Functional medicine practitioners believe that each patient has a unique and individual bodily ecosystem that is affected by a particular genetic, environmental, and psychological history. Due to this basic belief, functional medicine is patient-centered by design. It is a holistic approach because it addresses the needs of the entire person, rather than simply trying to treat symptoms of diseases. Each treatment plan is tailored to you as an individual, which requires an in depth look into your medical history. Understanding the complex web of interactions in the body, as well as the individuality of each patient, means that functional medicine practitioners will consider both Western and alternative medicine approaches when making a patient care plan. This allows for patients with complex or chronic conditions to receive effective care that conventional medicine has not been able to provide. Additionally, functional medicine always aims to prevent potential problems by recognizing the earliest stages of disease development, when intervention has the greatest impact.
This highly individualized process requires that the doctor-patient relationship becomes a partnership built on trust, listening, and dialogue. You will receive personalized, thoughtful care in which you are listened to and partnered with to get at the root of the problem. The aim of functional medicine is not merely an absence of disease but the flourishing and health of every single patient.
By using the best practices from a variety of approaches, functional medicine treats the whole person. It focuses on prevention and sustained holistic care through proper nutrition and exercise. Additionally, the practitioner will integrate other modes of care such as acupuncture, botanical medicine or supplements, detoxification programs, stress-management techniques, therapeutic diets, chiropractic care, and massage therapy to treat the entirety of your body’s interconnected systems.
More than anything, functional medicine relies on the belief that the body has incredible capacities for healing. When healthy, the human body’s own systems can prevent disease, self-regulate, and restore themselves. The intent of functional medicine is to tap into and utilize these natural mechanisms for health and healing so that your body can be brought back into its vital balance.
Patients love that functional medicine teaches you how to listen to and partner with your body. Instead of treating it like a problem, functional medicine facilitates a relationship with your body that allows you to tap into the sources of healing and renewal that your body already holds. This includes education about day to day living that supports you in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Despite chronic stress, sedentary lifestyles, and environmental toxins all around us, functional medicine works with you to restore healthy functioning in a body that is made to do exactly that. It moves away from a disease-focused approach to build a strategy for lifelong health and thriving. This individualized, scientific, and systematic method combines the best that each approach has to offer in order to truly partner with you towards health.
IMCG is committed to supporting the forward movement of Integrative, Functional, & Lifestyle Medicine. We do this by working with healthcare practitioners in building clinics and lifestyle programs that focus on the reversal of chronic diseases. Our aim is to act as an extension of the practice, inspire & support doctors to get back into patient-centered medicine while increasing clinical revenue. We improve patient outcomes and practice management while positively affecting doctors, patients, and health care nationwide.
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