Functional Medicine For Root Causes : East Meets West

If ever you’ve gone to a doctor with a complaint, and after the examination and some tests the doctor says everything looks normal, but you still feel sick, you will appreciate the trend towards functional medicine. In the scenario above, a physician who practices functional medicine wouldn’t rely only on diagnostic tests to get at the heart of why you are unwell.

Conventional Medicine

Conventional medicine isn’t structured to heal the patient; it focuses on curing diseases, which are not necessarily the same thing. It is often described as the band-aid approach to healing; it patches the problem without healing it. As such, it is excellent for treating acute illness illnesses, such as traumatic injuries and bacterial infections. However, it falls short in helping those with chronic disorders

The conventional approach negates the differences between people in genetic makeup, lifestyle, emotional/mental disposition, etc. These factors not only impact treatment but also can influence a diagnosis.

Functional Medicine

The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) uses the example of depression and how many factors including inflammation can cause it. And inflammation can be a cause of many illnesses including depression. In other words, one condition can have many causes, and one cause can have many conditions.

Only by knowing a person’s genetic makeup, environment, lifestyle, etc. can an accurate diagnosis be made that gets at the root of the problem, which then can lead to a treatment plan that heals the person. Treatment plans are also individualistic in a functional medicine approach.

Finding the origin of chronic conditions is not only hard on patients. Doctors can feel frustrated and at a loss on how to help their patients who are still symptomatic after diagnostic testing shows nothing to indicate an illness. So, Functional medicine is also beneficial for physicians; it is another tool.

“By addressing root cause, rather than symptoms, practitioners become oriented to identifying the complexity of disease.” The Institute For Functional Medicine.[i]

Eastern Medicine Influence

Eastern medicine like Ayurveda, the Indian healing tradition, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has always taken an individual approach to healing. In TCM, for example, a practitioner will individualize prescriptive herbal medicine. One of the reasons that Western scientists have difficulty in determining the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine is because prescriptions are made up of multiple herbs that are individual specific.

The TCM and Ayurvedic practitioner spend a great deal of time getting to know the patient and getting to the cause of an illness. Functional medicine is the East meets West because it combines the whole-body approach with the backup of science.

In the last few decades, many medical doctors have seen the wisdom of treating the whole person to get at the root cause of what is causing. This is not to say that Western medicine is all bad; many diseases have been stopped because of the scientific approach to medicine. Louis Pasteur’s research on germs and bacteria was groundbreaking and as a result, have saved millions from microbe-borne illnesses.

Medical Establishments Embracing Functional Medicine

Several prominent medical facilities are incorporating functional medicine as part of their clinical methodology or teaching methods. Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine uses the model of seeing the body as a whole organism instead of a collection of organs. Symptoms are not the approach to treatment but rather the means to finding the origins of the illness. Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale Universities are part of 65 medical institutions that have partnered with IFM to include functional medicine as part of their course selection.

While the movement to Functional Medicine is moving at glacier speed, it is a movement in the right direction where instead of a disease-focused approach to medicine a patient-focused approach to healing may soon be the norm. Patients worldwide will benefit from a combination of an East meets West medical model.


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[i] Institute for Functional Medicine, Functional Medicine. Web.

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