What is Functional Medicine?

I recently has someone ask me “What is Functional Medicine? Is it for qualified Doctors or more alternative practitioners” I answered it is all of the above with over 60% of the School of Applied Functional Medicine students being from the medical profession.

First and foremost, it is important to note, Functional Medicine (FM) was started by Dr. Jeffry Bland, a PhD biochemist and nutritionist. The fact that Dr. Jeffry Bland is the founder of FM supports the fact that FM isn’t “owned” by any specific profession. Dr. Mark Hyman who is a conventionally trained MD, practices Functional Medicine(FM) and brought FM to the Cleveland Clinic which is one of the largest and most respected hospitals in the USA. There are many others who are also world renowned who have the traditional medical education – Dr. Kelly Brogan, Dr. Amy Myers and Dr. Rangan Chatterjee based in the UK.

FM is all about the science of how the body works as an integrated whole. It focuses on getting to the root of the problem and is less focused on just the symptoms of the problem. “Functional Medicine determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual” as stated by the Institute of Functional Medicine.

I have great respect for the medical profession, especially for life threatening, triage situations. What FM offers is a middle path as we know that doctors these days don't have the time to spend educating their patients on what is happening their bodies, and this is where FM shines in educating the client on their unique health situation, what is happening bio-chemically in their body, what do the lab markers mean, what steps are uniquely beneficial for them to move their health forward.

One personal example, I recently rounded off a 9 month program with a client who went from 146 signs and symptoms to 26! She had been doctoring for 4 years, been to a nutritionist, dietitian and was crashing in the afternoons, no energy, stomach cramps, gas, diarrhea, constipation, burping... the list goes on. We uncovered she was dealing with anemia, which was exacerbating the exhaustion. In reviewing her labs from the last 3 years, not diagnosing or prescribing anything (as that is only allowed by Doctors) although just reviewing the past 3 years of labs, I was able to identify sub optimally low hemoglobin and at times clinically low. In discussing what role this plays in the body, along with her crashing and fatigue for the last 4 years, she felt empowered to go back to her Dr. and ask for a full iron panel. Her Dr. called her a week later and informed her she was severely anemic and needed to start iron pills asap. And this was within a 2 month period from when she last had blood-work run. Again, that is just a snippet of the work we did together, as in doing a few more targeted functional labs we peeled the onion layer by layer to get to the root of what was effecting her overall health and well-being.

FM is for those who want to take responsibility for their own health. It is personalized Health Care, not a diagnosis or prescription (which again, is only allowed by conventionally trained MD’s). It uses nutrition, lifestyle changes, supplements and labs (depending on the practitioners scope of practice) where necessary to bring the body back into optimal wellness.

An educational overhaul and new cultural narrative must be created in order for us as a society to achieve and experience long term health. I am beyond blessed to be part of this wave of change, both in the addressing individual clients needs and in speaking up about this emerging field.