Integrative Medicine vs Functional Medicine: A Comparative Guidedoctormmdev
Are you battling chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, or inflammation?
Perhaps you’re even taking prescription medication, but feel you’re just masking the symptoms. Maybe you’re even experiencing new ones due to the side effects.
Conventional medicine excels at treating acute conditions. When it comes to treating chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune diseases, it falls short.
That’s because most doctors are trained to use prescription drugs and surgeries to treat symptoms and diseases. In fact, nearly 75 percent of doctor visits in the United States incorporate drug therapy.
When seeking alternative approaches to conventional care, people often confuse integrative medicine vs functional medicine. That’s easy to do because they share many qualities. Continue reading to learn about the differences.
What Is Functional Medicine?
Conventional medicine’s cookie-cutter approach makes it possible to see a high volume of patients in a short amount of time. This can lead to band-aid solutions consisting of medications that sometimes cause more problems than they solve.
Instead, the focus should be on the individuals and the root causes of their conditions.
As a result, many conventional doctors are turning to functional medicine as a means to provide better patient care. In turn, patients are seeking a functional medicine approach to finally get to the root of their health conditions.
Mark Hyman, board member of the Institute for Functional Medicine and author of several books, says that “We must learn to treat the person, not the disease; the system, not just the symptoms.”
Functional Medicine Components
Functional and integrative medicine share many qualities. Here are a few characteristics of functional medicine that differentiate it from other approaches:
- Concerned with finding the root of health conditions
- Lifestyle, nutritional, genetic, and environmental factors are all considered when looking for solutions
- Focuses on physiology and the optimal function of the body’s systems
- Incorporates lab testing to look at the function of the organs and systems to indicate early onset of disease
- Incorporates conventional treatments when necessary
If your labs fall in the normal range, conventional doctors probably won’t be concerned. A doctor who practices functional medicine, on the other hand, isn’t going to be satisfied with normal ranges.
That would be like saying it’s ok to get a C on your report card. The goal is going to be the optimal functioning of the organs and systems.
You’ve heard the cliche, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Early intervention is key to avoiding that D or F on your health report card in the form of disease down the road.
Treatment is easier in the early stages. By focusing on optimal ranges rather than normal ranges, doctors can detect issues before they develop into a full-blown disease.
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Integrative Medicine vs Functional Medicine
Now that you understand the functional medicine approach, let’s take a look at integrative medicine, which shares many of the same qualities.
Doctors who practice functional medicine may even combine the approaches because they are not in conflict with each other.
What Is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine is a mind-body-spirit approach that takes lifestyle into consideration, including nutrition and exercise.
An integrative clinic might have several clinicians with different approaches to healing in one clinic, such as psychiatry, fitness classes, and acupuncture.
The belief is that problems in one area of life, such as relationships, will affect other areas, including your physical health.
At the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, for example, coaches are trained to consider “primary foods.” This includes exercise, relationships, career, and spirituality. What you put on your plate is “secondary” food.
Both approaches are “holistic” because they treat the entire person rather than the symptoms. They also recognize the individuality of each patient.
Rather than just prescribing drugs and surgery, both approaches are likely to recommend both dietary and lifestyle changes.
The patient, not the disease, is the focus.
Because there’s so much overlap and many functional MDs incorporate an integrative approach, it’s easier to talk about the similarities than the differences.
The functional approach often has a greater emphasis on physiology, biochemistry, and lab testing.
In our clinic, for example, we use stem cell therapy to address chronic back pain. We also address hormonal imbalances with bio-identical hormones and IV therapy to treat nutritional deficiencies.
Although these are natural treatments, they may feel more “medical” in nature when compared to a purely integrative approach.
If you’re experiencing health challenges, such as problems losing weight, functional medicine assumes an underlying physiological problem.
First, the clinician will find the physiological root cause. Next, the practitioner will create an individualized course of treatment that will seek to heal the organs of the body’s systems. This is perhaps the main difference between the two approaches.
For example, you may be nutrient-deficient due to gut issues that prevent you from absorbing nutrients, regardless of how healthy your diet is or how many vitamins you take orally.
In this case, we may recommend IV therapy that puts nutrients straight into your bloodstream, bypassing your gut.
But we won’t stop there. We’ll work on restoring your digestive system by finding the cause of the digestive breakdown.
Is the issue rooted in chronic stress, hormonal imbalances, dietary choices, environmental factors, or a combination of many factors? The answer to these questions determines the therapy, not merely the symptoms.
What to Expect
Considering the differences between integrative medicine vs functional medicine can be confusing. We hope this article provided you with some clarity.
The goal of functional medicine is to heal the body so that these systems can function optimally, thereby preventing disease and helping people live to their potential.
Apex Advanced Medicine is a team of functional practitioners, including MDs, nutritionists, and coaches, who are ready to help you on your path to optimal health.
When you work with us, we’ll turn over every stone to find the root of your health issues and then recommend the appropriate treatments.
Schedule your consultation today to get to the root of your health concerns and get on the path to optimal health.
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