WHAT IS FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE?
Functional Medicine Approach
- Diagnoses considers system biology
- Focus on chronic conditions
- Focus is on the whole patient
- Emphasis on lifestyle solutions
- Goal is treating root causes
Conventional Medicine Approach
- Diagnoses based on organs
- Focus on acute care
- Heavy reliance on pharmaceuticals
- Focus is on the condition
- Goal is suppressing symptom
Dr. Lisa Ballehr hiked, mountain biked, skied, scuba dived, and rode motorcycles. Then, at age 49, a mini stroke hit, causing weakening of the left side of her body, slurred speech and difficulty thinking. How could this happen? How could a person be active and perfectly healthy one day and laid up from a stroke the next day?
The search for answers led her to functional medicine, a systems-oriented, science-based approach that takes a patient’s biochemistry, physiology, genetics and environmental exposures into account when looking for the cause of a specific medical issue or set of symptoms. The lab work that is integral to functional medicine indicated Dr. Ballehr was at extreme risk of sudden cardiac arrest or a massive stroke within three months. Through lifestyle changes guided by functional medicine principles she was able to return her levels to normal.
This is the key to functional medicine. It doesn’t stop at diagnosing a condition. It digs deeper to identify the root causes that lead to a chronic disease. Rather than focusing on a symptom, it studies systems within the body. It seeks to treat the whole person to return him or her to health, or to prevent a severe condition from developing.
Suppose cracks started appearing in the walls and ceiling of your home. You could fill them with spackle and repaint, getting rid of the unsightly gaps, but eventually they would re-open. Or you could hire someone to assess your foundation and make it sound again.
Functional medicine looks at your foundation, measuring how your specific biologic systems are working. Your “genetic fate” is not irreversible. Dr. Ballehr will ask about your full medical history. She’ll look at biomarkers, extensive lab work, your body composition and your physical exam and develop a personalized treatment plan.
Conventional medicine tends to treat all people with a particular condition the same. Functional medicine recognizes that our unique genetics and biologies may require entirely different strategies to get the same result. The diet plan that works for you may be unsuitable for the person next to you in the waiting room.
Changes in nutrition, exercise and movement, sleep and relaxation, stress management and relationships can right your foundation and treat chronic symptoms. By getting these elements to work properly together, your health can be exponentially improved. This is the essence of functional medicine.