It may seem obvious that working with our physiology and biochemistry to help our bodies restore the natural balance that millions of years of evolution carefully put into place with awe-inspiring complexity and precision would be smart thing to do. How might that functional medicine (FM) approach to health and correcting disease compare to pharmaceuticals and the conventional medicine model? Some researchers sought to answer that question.
A JAMA study shows the unique health benefits that FM can provide. The research shows that a functional medicine approach can lead to a higher quality of life compared to the standard and traditional models of medicine.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, analyzed two groups of patients for a period of two years. Those groups included 1,595 patients treated at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine and 5,657 patients treated at a primary care health center. The study used the PROMIS questionnaire, a test designed to assess quality of life validated by the NIH through factors such as fatigue, physical function, pain, gastrointestinal issues, and emotional well-being.
In a period of six months, the study showed that 31% of medicine patients improved their global physical health scores on the PROMIS questionnaire by 5 points or more, whereas only 22% of primary care patients were able to raise their scores by this much.
According to the leader of the study Michelle Beidelschies, Ph.D, “this is a first-of-its-kind study to evaluate the impact of the functional medicine model of care on patients’ health-related quality of life. In the past, evidence to support the model has been primarily anecdotal, published as case reports.”
The sample of primary care patients also had a higher median income than the functional medicine group. This further reveals the benefits of functional medicine considering these patients’ higher financial status, they maintained a lower quality of life than the Cleveland Clinic group compared to those treated with functional medicine.
“Functional medicine practitioners have suggested that their patients are improving with a systems-based approach to chronic disease”, Beidelschies went on to say. “Now, they have evidence that their approach is associated with improved quality of life”.
We are hopeful that these results can pave the way for a new era of treatment where even the physicians most attached to traditional methods can come to respect integrative and FM and include it in their practices.