What Is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine is a form of Nutritional & Environmental medicine that focuses on optimising cell health in order to support the body’s numerous and interconnected systems (metabolic, immunogical, neurological, digestive, endocrine).
Very simply, Functional Medicine assesses the need of the individual patient (through testing of blood, urine, stool, hair, tissue) and prescribes individualised treatment to optimise nutrient intake (minerals, vitamins, amino acids, essential fatty acids) and maximize excretion of toxins (heavy metals, PCBs, bacterial by-products and all environmental toxins).
By focusing on the cell, the emphasis is on treating the cause (nutrient deficiencies and toxin overload) versus treating symptoms (headaches, joint pain, indigestion, depression, inattention, skin irritation, moodiness).
In general, Functional Medicine identifies and treats 2 common and interrelated patterns in modern disease (heart disease, Autism, depression, cancer, asthma) which are Oxidative Stress and Inflammation. Oxidative Stress is the body’s way of rusting. Inflammation is the immune system’s response to Oxidative Stress and its attempt to prevent the rusting.
How Does It Work?
A well-trained Functional Medicine practitioner starts with a long first consultation that includes a thorough case history and assessment of symptoms. Typically lab tests (blood, urine, stool, hair, tissue) will follow so the practitioner can assess less visible patient needs.
In general there are 4 key areas;
- Digestive Health – Treatment often begins with the “gut” because it plays a vital role in metabolising and absorbing nutrients while staving off toxins.
- Diet – Individualised diets are often prescribed depending on gut health, allergies, food sensitivities, metabolic issues and genetic interplay.
- Supplementation – A range of nutrients may be prescribed based on individual needs. As the gut heals, some of these supplements may be reduced or eliminated. But in cases where there are metabolic and/or genetic issues, supplementation may be required long-term.
- Detoxification – There are numerous ways to detoxify including diet, supplementation, exercise, epsom salt baths and chelation. Most practitioners believe the choice of method depends on the degree of toxicity.
Who Is It For?
Everyone may benefit because Functional Medicine both treats and helps to prevent disease. Functional Medicine principles maintain that poor cell health is behind all disease and providing nutrients, detoxing and eliminating infections may get to the root cause of many conditions including but not exclusive to;
ADHD, Allergies, Anxiety, Asthma, Autism, Behaviour, Cancer, Celiac, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Diabetes, Digestive Disorders, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Eating Disorder, Eczema, Food Intolerances, Heart Disease, Infections, Learning Delay, Obesity, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Pyroluria, Schizophrenia, Sensory Integration, Speech-Language Delay.
Children especially may benefit from Functional Medicine because it helps to ensure that the body and brain have essential nutrients during critical developmental periods.
What Are The Benefits?
Functional Medicine treats each individual according to their personal needs.
Functional Medicine focuses on treating the core cause of illness such as nutritional deficiencies, toxicity and infections versus treating symptoms such as poor concentration, moodiness, fatigue or runny nose.
Functional Medicine helps in disease prevention. By treating the cause of a current illness, you can prevent future disease that might arise if underlying conditions are not addressed.
Functional Medicine treats holistically. By focusing on cellular health it supports the entire body. Supplementing with zinc, for example, can help improve digestive and metabolic function. At the same time, Zinc can help treat acne and fussy eating.
Functional Medicine can enhance neurological and behavioural therapies by improving cognitive function. This also serves to reduce length and cost of therapies.
Functional Medicine recognises that many nutrients work best in combination. Magnesium for example, enhances the absorption of calcium. This is why diet (obtaining nutrients and their cofactors from food) is an important part of Functional Medicine.
Functional Medicine recognises the limitations of science and our knowledge about the human body and works to support the sophisticated natural processes that have evolved over millions of years.
What are the costs?
Costs of Functional Medicine treatments vary and are best assessed by a skilled Functional Medicine practitioner. They would likely include consulting fees, lab tests, supplements, some books (with recipes), special foods and consulting from an allied professional (e.g. nutritionist).
Where can I find a practitioner?
Finding a well-trained Functional Medicine practitioner requires research. You can reference the lists below for one in your area and should consider checking references and interviewing several before you select one.
Defeat Autism Now! trains Functional Medicine practitioners (and carers) around the world who specialise in childhood neurobiological disorders (Autism, ADHD, allergies), but who would understand Functional Medicine as it relates to all disease. If they cannot treat you, they might be able to refer you to someone who can. A list of trained practitioners can be found at the Autism Research Institute.
The World Anti-Aging Academy of Medicine can help you find Functional Medicine practitioners throughout the world.
The American Academy of Anti-Aging has a directory of doctors, spas, clinics and products that support Functional Medicine treatments for all disease.
The American College for the Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) trains practitioners in complementary, alternative and integrative medicine. which incorporates Functional Medicine.
Australia & New Zealand
The Australian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) trains practitioners in Nutritional & Environmental Medicine (incorporating Functional Medicine) in Australia and New Zealand.
The Australasian Integrative Medical Association (AIMA) has a membership of Functional Medicine Practitioners in Australia & New Zealand.
Mindd Foundation trains practitioners in Integrative Healthcare and Functional Medicine in Australia and New Zealand.
Where Can I Find Support?
Detoxification & Healing
Children with Starving Brains
Changing The Course of Autism
Healing the New Childhood Epidemics
What’s Biomedical Treatment (Generation Rescue)