Functional medicine is very similar to naturopathic training. Emphasis is placed on the cause of disease rather than ways of masking symptoms. Functional medicine is also very personalized and aims to examine the underlying biochemical and physiologic terrain. Laboratory testing is a primary feature of this type of medicine. Functional medicine is really the same thing is naturopathic medicine, and it’s known that functional medicine tests are extremely helpful in giving the provider facts in lieu of guesswork.
Functional medicine does not typically diagnose diseases but instead will diagnose many underlying factors that contribute to disease. Common diagnoses through functional medicine are nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, or an intestinal parasite, to name a few. For instance, irritable bowel syndrome may actually be caused by an intestinal microbial imbalance, imbalanced nervous system, or food allergies. This would be an example of treating the cause. Often, standard conventional medicine tests do not look deep enough.
Functional medicine testing is a good fit for conditions that are not improving with conventional treatment, or for conditions that defy a diagnosis. The term functional applies to how the body functions.
What to Expect From a Functional Medicine Doctor
It’s especially important to see doctors trained in medicine, who have passed board exams, and who are licensed in your specific state. There are providers outside of typical medicine who receive functional medicine training, but occasionally there are problems with these providers. As a patient you don’t expect to fork out thousands of dollars on testing for conditions that don’t apply to your specific condition. Additionally, patients should ask what type of training the provider has.
Good questions to ask a functional medicine doctor are:
- “Have you completed the Institute for Functional Medicine certification program?”
- “How long have you been practicing functional medicine?”
- Also, don’t be afraid to inquire as to why a certain test is being performed
Functional Medicine: Legitimate When Performed Correctly
Is functional medicine a legitimate practice? Yes, when performed correctly. The testing is accurate, but it needs to be applied correctly. This is part of the art of medicine. Some tests are very straightforward, while others require years of training to properly understand. Also, a test is the easy part, but the follow-up action–the treatment–is the hard part. The legitimacy of functional medicine is mainly determined by the skill of the practitioner.