What is Functional Medicine?

functional medicine
functional medicine

Functional medicine is an approach to healthcare that focuses on identifying and addressing the root causes of disease. This approach considers the whole person, including their environment, lifestyle, and genetic makeup, to create a personalized treatment plan. According to the Institute for Functional Medicine, functional medicine “addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.” This approach aims to promote optimal health and prevent chronic disease by treating the whole person, rather than just the symptoms.

Functional medicine emphasizes the importance of patient-practitioner partnerships, where patients are active participants in their healthcare decisions and work collaboratively with their practitioners to achieve their health goals. One of its benefits is its emphasis on preventative care. By addressing the underlying causes of disease and promoting healthy lifestyles, functional medicine can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Practitioners use the latest research and technologies to help diagnose and treat their patients. Advanced lab tests and imaging can provide a detailed understanding of a patient’s health, allowing practitioners to develop personalized treatment plans tailored to their needs.

Functional Medicine Qualifying Conditions:

Functional medicine practitioners focus on identifying and addressing the root causes of these conditions, rather than just treating the symptoms. A holistic approach to health can also help individuals who may not have a specific diagnosis but are experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and brain fog, it be used with traditional medical treatments or as a standalone approach.

What do studies say?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, functional medicine is “rooted in scientific principles and informed by the latest research” and “uses the latest lab tests and other diagnostic tools to identify imbalances and dysfunctions in the body.” This personalized approach can help identify the root causes of chronic conditions and provide patients with a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses their individual needs.

One study published in the Journal of Lipid Research found that a functional medicine approach was effective in reducing cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol, in patients with metabolic syndrome. The study authors noted that “the implementation of personalized lifestyle medicine [functional medicine] may have a significant impact on the primary prevention of CVD [cardiovascular disease].”

Functional Medicine Blood Testing

In functional medicine, laboratory testing is crucial in the diagnostic and treatment process.

Firstly, laboratory testing helps to identify imbalances and deficiencies in the body’s biochemistry that may be contributing to illness or disease. Through advanced laboratory testing, functional medicine practitioners can analyze a patient’s blood, urine, and other biological samples to assess their nutritional status, hormone levels, immune function, and other key markers of health.

Secondly, laboratory testing can help to identify food sensitivities and allergies, which are common underlying causes of many chronic health conditions. By identifying these sensitivities and allergies, functional medicine practitioners can work with patients to eliminate trigger foods from their diet and restore their gut health, reducing inflammation and improving overall health.

Thirdly, laboratory testing can help to identify and address the root causes of chronic infections, such as Lyme disease and chronic viral infections. By identifying these infections through advanced laboratory testing, functional medicine practitioners can develop individualized treatment plans to help patients overcome chronic infections and regain their health.

Fourthly, laboratory testing can also help to identify genetic mutations that may be contributing to an individual’s health challenges. By analyzing a patient’s genetic makeup, functional medicine practitioners can identify potential areas of weakness and develop personalized treatment plans to support optimal health.

Finally, laboratory testing provides a means for tracking progress and assessing the effectiveness of treatment over time. By monitoring changes in a patient’s biochemistry and other health markers, functional medicine practitioners can adjust treatment plans as necessary to ensure optimal outcomes.

In conclusion, laboratory testing is a critical component of functional medicine, providing valuable insights into a patient’s unique biochemistry, food sensitivities, chronic infections, genetic makeup, and progress over time. By leveraging the power of advanced laboratory testing, functional medicine practitioners can develop personalized treatment plans that address the root causes of illness and promote optimal health and well-being.


How is functional medicine different from traditional medicine?

Traditional medicine typically treats specific symptoms or diseases with medication or other therapies. Functional medicine takes a more holistic approach, considering the whole person and their environment, lifestyle, and genetic makeup. Rather than just treating the symptoms, functional medicine practitioners aim to address the root causes of disease and promote optimal health.

 Is this covered by insurance?

Some insurance plans may cover functional medicine services, but it varies depending on the provider and the specific services. Patients should check with their insurance provider to see what is covered under their plan.

How long does it take to see results?

The timeline for seeing results varies depending on the individual and the specific condition being treated. In some cases, patients may see improvement within a few weeks or months, while in other cases it may take longer. Functional medicine practitioners work with patients to create a personalized treatment plan tailored to their needs and goals.

How do I find a practitioner? 

The Institute for Functional Medicine and the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine both have directories of functional medicine practitioners. Patients can also ask their primary care physician for a referral or sign up for Heally, where we will connect them to a practitioner online. It is important to ensure that the practitioner is licensed and has the appropriate training and experience in functional medicine.

Functional medicine is a promising approach to healthcare that can help individuals address the root causes of chronic disease and achieve optimal health. It takes a whole-person approach to healthcare, focusing on individualized care plans that address each person’s unique needs, including their environment, lifestyle, and genetic makeup.

If you are interested in learning more, get connected with a Heally practitioner!


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