What is Functional Medicine

What is functional medicine? It’s Denver’s proven, practical approach to resolving chronic illness

People are often referred to our Denver practice after they’ve all but given up on finding a solution to their chronic health issues. They’ve “heard” that a “functional medicine doctor” will likely dig deeper to find out what’s going on. There is some truth in that but we feel it’s critical that you understand what a functional medicine doctor does as well as what functional medicine actually is! At Omnia Health you will certainly see a “functional medicine doc” but you will also benefit immensely from the team approach we take to functional medicine.

Functional medicine definition

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease using a systems-oriented approach that engages the patient and doctor in a therapeutic partnership. This 21st-century approach is an evolution in the practice of medicine, which better addresses the healthcare needs of active Denver lifestyles.

Functional medicine in a nutshell:

  1. Shifts the traditional disease-centered focus of conventional medical practice to an individualized, patient-centered approach.
  2. Addresses the whole person, not just a constellation of isolated symptoms.
  3. Is highly personalized, because it supports the unique expression of health and vitality for every unique individual.
  4. Involves spending significantly more time with patients. Functional medicine doctors listen deeply to their patients, discuss their comprehensive health history, and look at interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. These factors can influence long-term health and chronic disease.

Why choose functional medicine? It’s the medicine of “WHY.”

First, let’s examine the current landscape of life in Denver, Colorado. Today’s widespread standard of care – traditional, conventional medicine practiced by most doctors – continues to be mired in a 20th-century viewpoint. Think of it this way: Conventional medicine focuses on “WHAT”: What are the signs and symptoms? What is the diagnosis? What is the disease or illness that needs to be treated? Essentially, the goal is to name it and be done!

Alternatively, functional medicine – the medicine of the 21st century – focuses on “WHY.” Why do you have this chronic illness or condition? Why is your system out of balance and, once we know this, how can we restore function in your body? (Note that “restoring function” is a vital goal in functional medicine.)

Bottom line: “WHAT” is all about naming symptoms and arriving at a diagnosis. But this is only the first step! We need to dig deeper and figure out the “WHY.” This approach gives us the ability to develop a plan to get you to the level of health and vitality you deserve.

Let’s look at an example of functional medicine in action…

Let’s say you’ve been struggling with a wide variety of symptoms for some time: stomach pains and cramping, alternating constipation and diarrhea, gas and bloating, food intolerance, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. The medicine of “WHAT” says: “We’ve identified this condition as IBS. We’re done.”

That approach managed to name your constellation of symptoms, but it doesn’t explain WHY you have IBS. There are many possibilities! Do you have:

  • Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO)?
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?
  • Food allergies or sensitivities?
  • Dysbiosis in your gut?
  • Toxins that are destroying your gut microbiota and creating autoimmunity?
  • Chronic reflux
  • Biotoxin illnesses (mold illness)

There could be many different reasons “WHY” you have IBS. Clearly, identifying the “WHY” will directly impact your treatment plan. Simply naming the condition doesn’t help us to truly resolve your illness – and ensure you experience an improved quality of life.

How is functional medicine different from conventional medicine?

The traditional, conventional standard of care practiced by most physicians in the Denver area today is oriented toward acute care: diagnosing and treating trauma or illness that’s typically of short duration and requires urgent care. Good examples are appendicitis and a broken leg. Physicians apply specific treatments such as prescription medications or surgery to treat the immediate problem or symptom.

Additional aspects of traditional, conventional medicine include the following key points:

  • The acute-care approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools to prevent and treat complex, chronic disease. In most cases, conventional medicine doesn’t take into account the individual’s unique health history or lifestyle factors, which can directly influence chronic disease. In fact, most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of chronic disease and apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to treat and prevent illness.
  • Traditional, conventional medicine typically allows only 15-minute patient appointments. Worse, a shocking variety of conditions are treated with pharmaceuticals. The unvarnished truth is found in catch-phrases such as “treat ’em and street ’em” and “fit the pill to the ill.”
  • In the current standard of care, there’s a huge gap between research and the way doctors practice. The time it takes for emerging research and groundbreaking ideas to be integrated into medical practice is enormous. New data continuously pours in from distinguished studies, yet it’s been shown that it takes an average of 10-15 years for new data to filter through any given healthcare system before it reaches the physicians. In the vast majority of healthcare systems, administrators must evaluate, adopt, and implement new guidelines throughout the system before doctors are allowed to follow those “new” guidelines. This means doctors are practicing based on outdated guidelines – and they don’t integrate new research findings for a decade or more!

Alternatively, functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. Hallmarks of the functional medicine approach include:

  • Patient-centered care – Functional medicine focuses on patient-centered care, promoting health as a positive vitality beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the doctor brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.
  • A comprehensive, integrated, science-based approach to healthcare – Functional medicine practitioners look “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is considered along with lifestyle factors that affect total functioning. (Note that “restoring function” is a vital goal in functional medicine.)
  • Applying today’s best medical practices – Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with the newest and best evidence-based data, creating a systems approach that incorporates lifestyle factors (nutrition, exercise, stress management, etc.) in an individualized approach. Functional medicine focuses on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, and stress-management techniques.

Few functional medicine practices are so grounded in experience as Omnia Health in metro Denver.

Thanks to the team’s depth of experience and expertise, Denver-based Omnia Health offers the best of traditional medicine, functional medicine, and nutritional insights. You’ll find that the entire Omnia team – Dr. Jacqui, Gia (our nurse practitioner), and our certified health coaches – will partner with you to develop a plan that meets your health goals. Isn’t it time to enjoy the level of health and vitality you deserve in?

Schedule your Complimentary 15-Minute Consultation!