What is Functional Medicine and How Can it Help You?

Functional medicine is a type of alternative medicine that is gaining more popularity in the United States. It’s referred to as alternative medicine because it is not considered mainstream or orthodox, according to Western medical practices. However, functional medicine can play a huge role in the prevention and progression of chronic health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.

The defining characteristics of functional medicine differ from those of traditional Western medicine and are what benefit patients the most. So, what are the characteristics of functional medicine and how can they help you achieve optimal health?

Functional Medicine Seeks to Find the Underlying Cause of Medical Issues

Functional medicine is described as holistic because it looks at every organ system in the body in order to understand why and how a condition has occurred. Instead of treating symptoms, functional medicine practitioners look for the underlying cause in order to treat a condition at the root of the problem. This is because a diagnosis can be caused by more than one factor in the same way that a cause or a symptom can be associated with more than one diagnosis. For example, depression can be caused by multiple factors, like omega-3 deficiency or even inflammation. In turn, inflammation is associated with multiple conditions, including diabetes, arthritis, or depression.

Functional Medicine Uses Systematic, Comprehensive Laboratory Testing

In order to investigate the cause of symptoms, functional medicine practitioners prescribe laboratory testing. Lab tests that your practitioner may diagnose include:

-Comprehensive functional blood testing: The most comprehensive blood chemistry test available — analyzes more than 50 blood markers, compared to 10 or 15 in conventional blood tests — that provides a “big picture” view of your overall health.

-Micronutrient testing: Test done to identify deficiencies in antioxidants, essential fats, minerals proteins, and vitamins.

-Food and chemical sensitivity testing: Test done to check for reactions to certain foods or substances.

-Hormone and adrenal gland testing: Test that measures levels of “unbound” hormones — hormones that are ready to be used by the body’s tissues.

-Stool testing: Test used to analyze gastrointestinal health.

-Organic acids testing: Test used to examine metabolic health.

Functional Medicine Focuses on Lifestyle Changes

Functional medicine places a big emphasis on lifestyle changes as part of any treatment plan. Lifestyle changes can address things like:

-Diet and nutrition

-Emotional health

-Environment (work, home, etc.)

-Exercise and movement


-Stress management

-Sleep health

-Spiritual wellness

Functional Medicine Offers Personalized Treatments

Functional medicine recognizes that each person is a unique individual, with a unique family health history, a unique emotional and social history, and a unique way of living life. In order to maximize the positive results of a treatment plan, each treatment plan must be tailored to the unique and extensive history of each patient. During the first appointment, functional medicine practitioners spend extended time talking to the patient and organizing information pertaining to his/her personal, family, social, and medical history as well as organizing this information into a timeline. Each concern is noted and seriously considered when investigating the cause of symptoms and diagnosis.

Want to Learn More About Functional Medicine?

If you’re interested in learning more about functional medicine, or if you’d like to get started with a functional medicine-based health plan, contact Summit Health Pharmacy at 866-872-5430.