October 1, 2019

How Functional Medicine Differs from Conventional Medicine

The approaches involved in conventional medicine differ markedly from those in functional medicine. Maybe you’re like many Americans who aren’t familiar with functional medicine, but as more young people begin to try alternatives to traditional medicine, leading medical schools are incorporating functional medicine practices into their training.

Statistics show that twice as many millennials than baby boomers are using some type of alternative medicine.

Conventional medicine approach

Most Americans are familiar with conventional medicine. At this type of medical appointment, the practitioner focuses on your symptoms in order to diagnose a condition or disease and then recommends a drug or other treatment.

Conventional medicine targets specific body systems. The American health care system rewards specialists, so many doctors pursue training in various specializations. You may see a gastroenterologist for digestive problems; an endocrinologist for hormonal problems; an orthopedist specializing in hands for a hand issue. Doctors work in their own professional silos and may take a narrow focus to specific, presenting problems.

You may often feel rushed during your doctor’s appointment. Many of today’s doctor’s visits last about seven minutes.

Functional medicine approach

On the other hand, doctors who practice functional medicine are trained to see the body as an interconnected system in relation to the larger environment.

Individualized treatment

Functional medicine physicians focus on the individual, not simply the presenting symptom. Instead of relying on prescription drugs and surgery to combat the health problem, the physician works with you to focus on the importance of lifestyle and diet choices. For example, some patients can reverse the need for blood pressure medication by losing weight.

Functional medicine physicians often run more extensive lab tests than physicians practicing conventional medicine. The lab tests usually cover more vitamin and mineral deficiencies and hormonal and other body imbalances, which can reveal underlying causes of your health issue that conventional medicine may miss.

If you’re one number away from being “high” or “low” on a lab test, you’re classified as “normal” in conventional medicine. But these results tell functional medicine physicians that a body system is moving away from the norm. Your practitioner investigates to get to the root of the problem and start preventive action before you’re classified as having disease.

A holistic view of health looks at more than the affected body part

A health condition can result from more than one factor. Sometimes underlying causes are hidden. When evaluating symptoms in one system in your body, physicians trained in functional medicine take a broader, holistic view of your health than most doctors who practice conventional medicine.

For example, instead of just diagnosing a degenerating hip as arthritis from an X-ray and recommending drugs and other treatment prior to an eventual hip replacement, a physician trained in functional medicine examines all aspects of your health.

This physician may find that you have an undiagnosed case of scoliosis that has made one leg shorter than the other, advancing degeneration in your hip. In this case, your practitioner might recommend an orthotic that has a lift for the shorter leg, easing pressure on the hip. This may help prevent further degeneration of the joint so that a hip replacement may never be needed.

Amount of time of the medical appointment

As noted above, conventional medical appointments are invariably short. You may even leave the office forgetting to mention one or more of your concerns.

Visits with a functional medicine physician can take up to an hour, maybe even more. You’re not rushed. A health concern is evaluated in light of the functioning of all body systems — not only the particular body part presenting a problem.

Call or book an appointment with Robert Watson, MD, at WellCentric Health & Aesthetics for holistic, thorough medical care.