Physiology based approach, NOT a condition based approach
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine focuses on improving the physiological function as a primary method of improving the health of patients. Functional medicine deals with addressing underlying causes instead of just a symptom based treatment approach. Regardless of the condition or complaint a patient may have, a physiology based approach is taken. While there are certain universal principles, two patients with the same condition may have very different treatment plans. In other words, we treat the patient not their condition.
Functional medicine can be broken down into different subcategories. The major subcategories include:
- Functional blood chemistry analysis
- Functional endocrinology
- Functional immunology
Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis
Functional blood chemistry analysis entails performing a comprehensive blood chemistry panel to get an overall picture of the bodyís metabolism. A comprehensive blood chemistry will give information about kidneys, liver, blood sugar, cholesterol, calcium, electrolytes, proteins, red blood cells, immune cells, hormones, blood clotting, inflammation, and vitamin/mineral status. Below is a quote from Datis Kharrazian who is consider an authority on functional blood chemistry analysis.
"There is no general screening test that is more efficient, effective, and affordable than a comprehensive blood chemistry panel. A comprehensive blood chemistry panel will allow the healthcare provider to quickly assess the degree of health or disease in a patient. It is the ultimate tool in biomedical laboratory sciences to evaluate new patients. It allows the healthcare provider to establish a baseline of biomarkers that can be used to track the patientís health immediately and over time."
So how is a functional blood chemistry analysis different than what is done routinely by your conventional doctor? One of the big differences are reference ranges. When you have a blood test done you are compared to a reference range (for example, glucose 65-110). This reference range is based on an average of the individuals that had that test performed. Conventional reference ranges differ from region to region, are not standardized throughout the country (with exception of a few), and are not based on researched optimal or ideal.
Functional blood chemistry analysis looks beyond these "sick" ranges, and compares tests results to an "optimal" or "functional" range. It is a very common scenario to have an individual show symptoms yet their labs are reported as "normal" by someone untrained in functional blood chemistry analysis. When the labs are looked at through a different filter then the problem oftentimes becomes apparent.
Endocrinology is a branch of biology and medicine dealing with endocrine glands and the hormones they secrete, identifying deficient or non-functioning organs, and utilizing some type of drug or pharmaceutical to replace, suppress, or support.
Functional endocrinology is early identification of dysfunctional endocrine systems before disease states. These states are oftentimes ignored and untreated in conventional system despite symptoms. Functional endocrinology also involves getting to the root of dysfunction. Just like functional blood chemistry analysis, functional endocrinology includes work ups that look beyond the conventional reference ranges.
Immunology is a branch of biomedical science that covers the study of all aspects of the immune system in all organisms. It deals with the physiological functioning of the immune system in states of both health and diseases; malfunctions of the immune system in immunological disorders (autoimmune diseases, hypersensitivities, immune deficiency, transplant rejection).
Like functional endocrinology, functional immunology involves the early or more critical detection of dysfunction in the immune system. One of the most common dysfunctions of the immune system is autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is the 3rd leading cause of sickness and death today. Autoimmunity is when oneís immune system become overzealous and loses self-tolerance (attacks your own bodyís tissues). Many individuals with chronic health complaints unknowingly have autoimmunity, but do not get diagnosed in the conventional health care model until end stage disease. Just like functional blood chemistry analysis and functional endocrinology, functional immunology includes work ups that look beyond the conventional reference ranges.