Also known as root cause medicine, functional medicine is a new, 21st-century clinical model brought about to replace outdated 20th-century care models. Rather than simply treating symptoms, functional medicine focuses on assessing and treating the underlying root causes of chronic diseases using a personalized, patient-centered, and science-based approach. Taking this patient-centered approach empowers both patients and doctors to work together toward the patient’s optimal wellness.
Contrary to conventional medicine, functional medicine leverages the latest in scientific and biomedical research coupled with an understanding of environmental factors and lifestyle to treat diseases and stop them from spreading further. It’s a system that addresses the patient as a whole rather than isolated symptoms and is particularly suited toward chronic illness and ailments. This, in turn, means that a visit to a functional medicine doctor is somewhat different from the typical doctor’s appointment many are accustomed to.
What Do Functional Medicine Doctors Do?
First of all, functional medicine doctors listen to patients instead of diving straight into tests. Going beyond medical history, functional medicine doctors will listen to their patients’ history of life stresses, gauging circumstances that led to their current ailments rather than purely focusing on symptoms. They dig deeper to understand a patient’s environment and lifestyle to determine how it affects their long-term health to gain a better understanding of the underlying cause of their disease.
Functional medicine practitioners consider a wide variety of factors when making their assessments, including nutrition and biochemistry. They’ll also often order lab tests based on their initial assessment. Some of these tests are similar to what’s used in conventional medicine; however, some, like micronutrient tests and SNP tests, are unique to functional medicine.
When it comes to tests ordered by functional medicine doctors, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. All tests ordered are based on a patient’s individual circumstances — further emphasizing functional medicine’s patient-centered approach.
Once test results are back and they’ve determined the root cause of a patient’s condition, practitioners will then recommend the best functional medicine treatments for their patient.
Naturopathy vs. Functional Medicine
Naturopathy and functional medicine are two medical practices often confused with one another. After all, functional medicine has its roots in naturopathy and functional medicine doctors often incorporate naturopathic remedies into their treatments. In the same way, many naturopathic doctors practice functional medicine, yet not all functional medicine doctors are naturopaths. While both practices are similar in many ways, they each have unique characteristics and differences.
Perhaps the main difference between naturopathy and functional medicine is that both follow different principles. Naturopathy focuses exclusively on natural remedies to treat diseases, whereas functional medicine focuses on the body as a whole and how it’s affected by environmental factors.
With that being said, no practice is “better” than the other, and whether a patient’s condition is treated using naturopathy or functional medicine all depends on a combination of personal preference and expert recommendations.
At Calgary Integrative Medicine, we focus on whole-body functional medicine with the goal of optimizing your health. Each patient has the opportunity to see a variety of health professionals, including naturopathic doctors, traditional Chinese medicine doctors, registered massage therapists, medical laser technicians, and skin specialists. Contact us to book your initial consultation and get started on your journey to wellness today.