What is functional medicine?


An interview with Mike Woodley, R.Ph.:

What is it?

When I first start talking about “functional medicine” a lot of people ask me, “What is functional medicine?”

Functional medicine is a term used to describe a set of beliefs about the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. The idea is to look at the functions of the body that have been imbalanced or even lost, and how to restore that function to a natural state.

In the conventional health care model today, medication is used to get rid of symptoms.  If the patient stops taking the medication, symptoms generally return.  Functional Medicine approaches health problems differently. Instead of masking the problem, it aims to restore the body’s natural functioning.

Broken Arm Analogy

The symptoms of a broken arm are pain, likely swelling, perhaps bone protruding through skin, possibly fever. You wouldn’t just treat with antibiotics and pain killers; those just mask some of the symptoms. Nor would you set the limb in a cast and never remove the cast.

Looking to restore arm function means setting the arm correctly, thus treating the root problem. Additionally, using modern medications to cope with pain, fever, infection, and swelling.

The symptoms are important, as they help us know something is wrong, but they are just indicators of system imbalance.

Does FM replace my doctor?

Functional medicine is a philosophy your doctor uses to restore function to your body. It’s not a separate field of medicine, or a replacement for your health care providers.

Instead of asking “What drug matches up with this disease?” a doctor with a functional medicine point-of-view asks the vital questions that very few conventional medicine doctors ask: “Why has function been lost?” and “What can we do to restore function?”  In other words, FM looks to find the root cause or mechanism involved with any loss of function, which ultimately reveals why a set of symptoms is there in the first place, or why the patient has a particular disease label.

For more information, please check out our in-depth articles on preventing and healing chronic diseases utilizing a functional medicine approach. We also encourage you to subscribe to our distribution list so you can receive the most current scientific information on healthy aging and prevention of chronic disease.


Posted by Drew Mandish on


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