The functional medicine model

What is the difference between the conventional model of care and the functional medicine model?

If you have not yet heard of Functional Medicine (FM), chances are you will be hearing a lot more about it in the very near future. The FM model has been created by doctors for doctors, and for the wider healthcare community, to better manage the burgeoning landscape of chronic disease. FM doctors are fully qualified doctors who apply their clinical knowledge and training in a different way to the conventional model.

What is the difference between the conventional model of care and the functional medicine model?

In the conventional model, doctors are trained to make a diagnosis and provide treatment to manage the relative symptoms. Where a cause can be identified, such as bacteria or viruses causing an acute infection, medication is given to eliminate the cause and therefore restore health. When the cause cannot be identified, as is often the case with chronic disease, the main objective is to improve the patient’s symptoms, in other words to manage the end product of that disease. The underlying root cause is usually not sought.

The conventional medical model was created in the 20th century to manage acute medical and trauma presentations, and it rapidly excelled at this. The era of antibiotics allowed the medical establishment to effectively cure killer diseases such as infections or sepsis, but in doing so it also created a default single-intervention mentality: for each symptom a single drug or intervention is sought that will solve the patient’s complaint. Whilst this approach firmly remains the gold standard of treatment in the acute scenario, we are finding that it doesn’t extrapolate so easily or effectively to the management of chronic disease, with its complex, overlapping, interconnected elements.

The Functional Medicine model, conversely, is specifically suited to the management of chronic disease, because it addresses its root causes, which derive from lifestyle choices, environmental exposures, and genetic influences. Central to the Functional Medicine approach is the therapeutic partnership, which engages the heart, mind, and spirit of both practitioner and patient, and facilitates moments of shared insight that contribute to more comprehensive answers to stubborn, complex medical problems. Functional Medicine offers a paradigm shift in clinical practice, thus producing a more effective response to chronic disease.