Americans spend $3.3 trillion every year on health care. What’s even more astounding is that 90% of the health care costs in the U.S are for people with chronic conditions like diabetes and arthritis.
Numbers like that led the medical profession to explore alternative ways to approach health and healing. Their focus is on treating the causes of chronic conditions. What is functional medicine and how is it different from traditional medicine?
Read on for more information on ways it’s changing the medical landscape.
What Is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is an approach to healthcare that focuses on the causes of chronic conditions, rather than on simply treating the symptoms. For example, a person diagnosed with high blood pressure would likely be prescribed medication under traditional medicine.
In functional medicine, health care professionals would first look at things like lifestyle choices, environmental exposures, and genetic influences to try and figure out the “why” behind the diagnosis.
The idea behind functional medicine is that humans aren’t hardwired for conditions like heart disease and epilepsy. There must be a reason for the development of these conditions. The thinking is that our genes can be altered by what’s happening in our environment, our diet, our physical activity, and our stress levels. If you want to learn more about the history of functional medicine, you can find more info here.
How Does It Work?
When a patient is seen in a doctor’s office or other medical settings, the traditional model addresses the symptoms first. The patient has high blood pressure, therefore medication to treat it often comes first.
In the functional medicine approach, the medical professional looks for the cause behind the symptoms. This approach treats the individual, not just his disease.
A patient might be asked about his stress levels, his activities, his family history, and his diet. The idea is to get at why a set of symptoms is there in the first place.
What Does Treatment Involve?
A treatment plan may involve one or more therapies, including dietary interventions like a low glycemic-load diet or one high in organic fruits and vegetables. Simple changes in a person’s diet can help boost his immune system.
The plan may involve a course of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and botanicals. It may involve the patient in developing lifestyle changes designed to improve his sleep, decrease his stress and help him quit smoking.
Is It Effective?
Six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease, like heart disease, cancer, stroke or diabetes. Most chronic diseases can be prevented by eating well, being physically active and avoiding tobacco and excessive drinking.
Functional medicine taps into that by concentrating on all the factors in a person’s life that contributed to his condition. For example, a person with persistent back pain might be prescribed a muscle relaxer under the traditional model of medicine.
Functional medicine examines why a person is suffering. It treats the cause with things like exercise, diet changes and perhaps chiropractic treatments to alleviate the pain.
One recent study showed a variety of stress, fatigue, and quality of life issues can be improved through functional medicine.
We hope this has answered your question, what is functional medicine? Essentially, it was developed to try and catch chronic conditions early, when intervention is possible. It always includes significant lifestyle changes as part of the treatment plans. Patient involvement is the key to a successful outcome.
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