Functional Medicine is a new operating system in medicine that focuses on getting to the root cause of disease rather than just treating the symptoms. The approach is patient-centered rather than disease-centered, making it very individualized. The Father of functional medicine, Dr. Sidney Baker explains that “it is the individual, not the disease that is the target of our therapeutic efforts”. When the patient meets with the doctor they review the patient’s story and their life timeline in order to identify antecedents, triggers and mediators that may be intertwined with the onset or progression of disease. From this information, the doctor is able to conduct a root-cause analysis in order to identify why the patient became ill. If you picture each of us to be a tree, functional medicine therapeutic efforts begin in the trunk and at the roots of the tree. The roots of the tree include sleep, stress, nutrition, physical activity, environmental pollutants and toxic exposures.
A major component of functional medicine is focused on the nutritional status of each patient. Functional medicine uses a food first approach by removing inflammatory foods and incorporating mostly plant-based phytonutrients with healthy fats and oils and lean sources of protein. Patients are assessed for their nutritional status looking at food intolerances, nutrient deficiencies and insufficiencies, and digestive function. This way of practicing medicine is the way of the future as it has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for patients and decrease healthcare costs longterm.