Functional Medicine – The Multi-System Approach to Wellness

Doctor Marilyn Walkey, a Portland, Oregon physician practicing for 33 years, said, “I began to see the serious problems in the western medicine paradigm. In fact, the corruption seemed so insurmountable to me, that I quit western medicine [after 21 years].”

Returning to medical school (the National University of Natural Medicine), Walkey obtained her master’s degree and embarked on a holistic medical practice. According to her website, she now works only with patients who suffer with severe, chronic medical issues where western medicine has been unsuccessful. Walkey is a functional medicine doctor.

She’s a member of the Academy of Integrated Health and Medicine (AIHM), which she describes as “the most forward thinking, and advanced organization teaching medical doctors how to move out of “band-aid” medicine, and into the healing arena.”

What is it about functional medicine that inspires such passion in these doctors? In what ways is functional medicine different from conventional medicine? Is functional medicine the same as integrative medicine, or is it different?

What defines functional medicine?

According to Mark Hyman, ND, the Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, functional medicine “seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease, and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties. It treats the whole system, not just the symptoms. [It] addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.”

Simply put, functional medicine is patient-oriented, not disease-oriented; it’s cause-oriented, not symptom-oriented. But, no one explains the difference between conventional and functional medicine better than Dr. Hyman himself. View his short video here.

Functional medicine is deep-science based. In fact, a great number of functional medicine practitioners came from conventional medical backgrounds. Many of these MDs, along with naturopathic physicians and chiropractors, now integrate the best practices of medicine—whether conventional, traditional, or leading-edge—for the best possible outcomes for their patients. This is functional medicine.

So, is functional medicine also integrated medicine?

That all depends on your concept of integrated medicine. If you’re thinking that integrated medicine is conventional medicine served with a cup of green tea (as it often seems to be), then, no. All integrated medicine models are not functional medicine.

Nevertheless, functional medicine is integrated medicine. Functional medicine is more likely to include detoxification, dietary and nutritional changes, moderate exercise, and other non-conventional approaches, along with conventional when appropriate, to support all the interrelated systems of the body to facilitate healing. Functional medicine is particularly successful when treating patients with chronic disease—as Dr. Walkey expressed at the beginning of this post.

To learn more about functional medicine or to find a practitioner near you, you can go here.

If any of you have received care from a functional medicine practitioner, would you please tell us what differences you noticed about the functional medicine approach in the comments? Thanks~ Deb

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