The term functional medicine comes from a place of observing how biological parts of the body are functioning as a whole system.
Very rarely, if never, does one biological part not affect the system as a whole, for we live in an intricate world of cohesion.
Where functional medicine differs from conventional medicine is in its all-encompassing approach to treating the body as a whole, while conventional medicine has the tendency to operate from a reductionist model. For example, identifying a symptom and prescribing a medication to treat one part fails to swim upstream and treat the imbalance in systems, or source of the problem.
The following organ systems—cardiology, pulmonary, urology, hepatology, immunology, neurology, gastroenterology, and endocrinology—can be organized into the following functions below.
digestion, absorption, microbiota/GI respiration
DEFENSE AND REPAIR
immune system, inflammatory processes, infection and microbiota
energy regulation, mitochondrial function
BIOTRANSFORMATION AND ELIMINATION
endocrine, neurotransmitters, immune messengers, cognition
cardiovascular lymphatic systems
From the subcellular membranes to the musculoskeletal system
Not only do these systems and organized roles within the body live in network with each other, but they also live in a direct relationship with the environment, lifestyle factors, and personalized genetics and epigenetics.
This involves further assessment of realms such as environmental exposure, sleep hygiene, movement, nutrition, stress, relationships, and genetic testing.
Examples of dis-ease could include an imbalance in hormones, a dysbiotic gut microbiome, dysfunction of neurotransmitters, poor immune function, imbalanced inflammatory response, toxic overload, imbalanced detox pathways, nutritional deficiencies, poor lymphatic drainage, genetic weaknesses, and etc.
By utilizing extensive functional medicine testing to test these many functions, we become one step closer to identifying the upstream imbalance.
Once many labs are assessed, imbalances may be addressed in many ways such as recommending supplements, improving diet and lifestyle, recommending IV therapies, and using bio-identical hormones.
Another growing area of treatment includes peptide therapies to enhance certain functions in the body. Peptides are created to mimic naturally occurring proteins in the body and can be injected, topically applied, nasally inhaled, or taken by mouth. The most commonly known peptides include insulin and endorphins. We now have various developed peptides for the following functions: weight loss, anti-aging and tanning of skin, increased libido, wrinkle reduction, improving anxiety, depression, and concentration, improving GI health and inflammation, increased immunity, joint repair, hair growth, and increased energy.
Overall, functional medicine offers a deep dive into what is going on inside the systems of the body. It takes into account all of one’s symptoms and seeks to define which functions are imbalanced. Feelings of overwhelm, frustration, and pain that come with chronic illness and mystery illness, are known too well by patients who seek the support of functional medicine.
It is my hope that functional medicine shines a hopeful and guiding light on those who are suffering of symptoms left unexplained by conventional medicine and that medicine as a whole begins shifting to that of a more cohesion-based biology.
However, just as parts of the body contribute to the whole system, so does that of functional and conventional medicine—each having important roles.
Perhaps it is important to remember that when one provider has no answers, another has a million. When the question is sought—the inner guide seeks to find the right teacher.
In good function,
MSN, FNP-C, APRN
BioRenew Functional Medicine
The Institute of Functional Medicine. (2015). The Functional Medicine Tree [Pamphlet].