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Doctor sitting at desk and writing a prescription for her patient

Integrative Medicine vs Functional Medicine

Integrative and functional medicine are two up and coming forms of medical care. Each aim to address the patient’s physical, emotional and mental needs, but they have slightly different approaches. Integrative medicine works to understand the individual as a whole, applying many forms of therapy to improve wellness, while functional medicine creates individualized therapies to treat underlying causes of chronic illness. Does that sound similar enough to be confusing? We’ll explain.

What is a functional medicine doctor?

A functional medicine doctor looks at the patient as a whole person, trying to determine the underlying causes of illnesses influenced by genetics and environmental factors. Functional medicine seeks to identify exactly what is causing the problem and whether the issues developed before the disease, or are the result of treating chronic illness. The idea behind functional medicine is that one condition can have many causes, but one cause can also have many conditions. For instance, a patient suffering from depression may also be suffering from heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, and all of these conditions may be due to inflammation. On the other hand, the patient may just be suffering from depression caused by a vitamin deficiency, low thyroid, and antibiotic use. Understanding that the body is a complex set of systems that ae all interconnected, functional medicine takes a broad view of the body, treating patients holistically. Functional medicine doctors seek to form a rapport with their patients, gather information, determine unhealthy patterns in order to get to the root cause of the problem. They then create personalized treatment plans and recommend lifestyle modifications, in order to treat the illness. The goal is to restore balance and function within the body. This is different from traditional medicine, which treats the body as a collection of parts, each with a specialist to treat it. But how does functional medicine differ from integrative medicine?

What is integrative medicine?

Like functional medicine, integrative medicine looks at the patient as a whole person, rather than a disease. This form of medicine analyses all the factors that can influence a person’s health, including physical, emotional, mental, social, and environmental elements. Seeing the patient as a combination of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs, all interdependent, and all affecting the person’s wellbeing. Treating all of these different parts requires a combination of therapies like acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, behavioral therapy, homeopathy, and energy work. Natural and minimally invasive interventions are preferred, treatment is tailored to the unique individual, and the patient and practitioner are seen as equal partners in the healing process. And while natural therapies are preferred, traditional treatments are still used when necessary. Integrative medicine encourages patients to develop healthy behaviors and skills, practicing the self-care techniques required to keep them healthy and disease free.

Different Disciplines that are Significantly Similar

Ultimately, functional medicine can be viewed as a type of integrative medicine. This is because both disciplines take the same approach, looking at the patient as a whole person and taking a broad overview of the body. Functional medicine is more specialized, because it deals specifically with chronic health conditions and diseases. Therefore, it’s considered an applied form of integrative medicine.

Which is right for you?

Understanding the differences and similarities between functional and integrative medicine, how do you decide which is the best option for you? It may not surprise you to learn that many practitioners use a combination of the two methods when evaluating a patient, and both are sometimes needed for the best care, treatment, and recovery. Both are somewhat unconventional practices that attempt to avoid surgical intervention and too much medication, and each type of treatment can be beneficial.

Because functional medicine is more specialized, integrative physicians generally offer more services. Functional doctors tend to focus on one form of treatment, or one subject, like lifestyle coaching or functional testing. This may be the right choice for you if you want to make significant changes in your life, and you want someone whose primary goal will be to coach you through it. On the other hand, if you want to use a number of services in your healing process, integrative medicine may be a better option. Do your homework, learning as much as you can on both types of practices, and the doctors who provide these services, so that you can make an informed decision and be prepared for the recommendations and requirements of the specific physician you choose.

Treating the Whole Person

At Advanced Functional Medicine, an integrated medical clinic, we exclusively practice functional medicine. A full functional medicine approach to healing uses a comprehensive diagnostic screening to get to the root of a patient’s issues. Our whole body approach to medicine utilizes all-natural, researched-based nutritional approaches to optimize the body’s natural healing abilities, rather than just using medication to treat symptoms. Each individual receives unique and customized care, formulated based on the latest scientific resource, and we have a 96 percent success rate in patient outcomes. As a medically driven, patient-focused health clinic, we support our patients’ individual health goals, providing natural relief for symptoms of chronic factors and expert guidance about the decisions affecting a patient’s long-term health. It is our goal to help reverse chronic disease without resorting to dangerous or unnecessary drugs or surgical interventions, promoting healing from the inside out, in its truest, healthiest form. To schedule an appointment or learn more about how we can help restore your health and strengthen your body’s unique physiological functions, call 858-500-5572 or contact us through our website.