What Is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms.
Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic diseases. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
Why Do We Need Functional Medicine?
Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, dementia, autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, and troublesome conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
The treatment that patients receive for these and other chronic conditions is often inadequate. This is due, in part, to:
- Focus on acute care. The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care—the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis or a broken leg. The acute-care approach to medicine lacks the proper methods and tools to prevent and treat complex, chronic diseases.
- Gap between research and practice. The way many doctors practice isn’t up-to-date with new research. The gap between emerging research in the basic sciences and its use in medical practice is enormous—a few decades or more—particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness.
- Shortfalls in training. Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.
How Is Functional Medicine Different?
Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic diseases. Hallmarks of a functional medicine approach include:
- Patient-centered care. The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care, promoting health as a positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease.
- An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. 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 both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.
- A combination of best medical practices. Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with what are sometimes considered “alternative” or “integrative” medicine, creating a focus 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, or stress-management techniques.
Working with a Text2MD Functional Medicine Practitioner
Functional medicine practitioners promote wellness by focusing on the fundamental underlying factors that influence every patient’s experience of health and disease.
Why Do We Need Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend more time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions between environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors that influence health.
The functional medicine practitioner will consider multiple factors, including:
- Environmental inputs: The air you breathe and the water you drink, the diet you eat, the quality of the food available to you, your level of physical activity, and toxic exposures or traumas you have experienced affect your health and well-being.
- Mind-body connections: Psychological, spiritual, and social factors can all have a profound influence on your health. Considering these areas helps the functional medicine practitioner see your health in the context of you as a whole person, not just your physical symptoms.
- Genetic makeup: Although individual genes may make you more susceptible to some diseases, your DNA is not an unchanging blueprint for your life. Emerging research shows that your genes may be influenced by your environment, as well as your experiences, attitudes, and beliefs. That means it is possible to change the way genes are activated and expressed.
By understanding the genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors unique to each person, a functional medicine practitioner can identify which bodily processes are affected. Some occur at the cellular level and involve how cells function, repair, and maintain themselves. Others are related to how your body processes and uses nutrients. These processes include:
- How your body rids itself of toxins
- Regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters (nerve messengers)
- Immune system function
- Inflammatory responses
- Digestion and absorption of nutrients and the health of the digestive tract
- Structural integrity
- Psychological and spiritual balance
- How you produce energy
Any of these bodily processes can become imbalanced or disrupted, which can cause symptoms and accelerate disease.
A Comprehensive Approach to Treatment
The good news is that most imbalances can be addressed to restore or substantially improve a person’s health.
- Prevention is key. Nearly every complex, chronic disease is preceded by long-term disturbances in function that can be identified relatively early on and effectively managed.
- Changing how the systems function can have a major impact on health. The functional medicine practitioner examines a wide array of available interventions and customizes a treatment plan, including those with the most impact on your health.
- Functional medicine expands the clinician’s tool kit. Treatments may include combinations of drugs, botanical medicines, nutritional supplements, therapeutic diets, or detoxification programs. They may also include counseling on lifestyle, exercise, or stress-management techniques.
- The patient becomes a partner. As a patient, you become an active partner with your Text2MD functional medicine practitioner. Such a partnership allows you to be in charge of improving your health and changing the outcome of disease
Benefits of Telemedicine for Functional Medicine
Reduces Barriers to Care
Telehealth makes it easy for virtually anyone who needs functional medicine care to receive it. Taking time out of a workday, commuting to and from the office, or trying to find childcare are all common reasons patients don’t make appointments or have to cancel often. With telehealth, none of these have to be a concern, as patients can join virtual appointments from the comfort of their own home.
For patients to make positive progress towards their goals, it’s crucial that they have consistent appointments with their provider. Telemedicine has been shown to have a significantly lower rate of cancellation than in-person appointments, at 3.82% vs. 5.44% for in-person. With telemedicine, it is easier for patients to consult with a Text2MD Functional Medicine practitioner build up a rapport, work through any struggles, and make a plan for moving forward. Patients will feel more connected to and supported by their provider with consistent appointments, and providing functional medicine through telehealth is the perfect strategy for doing so.
Allows Time for High-Quality Care
In-person doctor visits are a commitment, often taking unexpected hours out of the day. Long wait times, both in the waiting and examination rooms, easily drag a quick checkup out longer than it has to be. Additionally, doctors and nurses are often bouncing between patients, with little focus or efficiency, resulting in lower-quality care than patients require. Visits can feel rushed and be surface-level, not providing practitioners with the time and tools to curate an individualized intervention for their patients.
However, telemedicine eliminates these wait times and allows practitioners to focus on one patient at a time, for a designated amount of time. Providers can seamlessly transition from patient to patient and dedicate all of their attention to the individual and their intervention. Iin a discipline that takes discussion, discovery, and teamwork to uncover the root cause of the disease and come up with a solution, telehealth is essential providing that time for both provider and patient. Those who choose to pursue functional medicine are clearly ready to take an active stance in their health, and virtual services allow them to do so in a productive way. Studies suggest that telemedicine visits are, in fact, just as effective as in-person, with patients consistently reporting high levels of satisfaction. They appreciate the high quality of communication with their provider and the time they saved by using video conferencing.
Expands the Reach of Holistic Care
While every person in this country needs easy access to quality healthcare, unfortunately, not everyone has it. Whether patients live in a rural area, with no way to travel to their doctors, or patients are elderly or chronically ill and cannot take themselves to their appointments, certain demographics can greatly benefit from the advent of telehealth. Telemedicine allows providers to reach patients far beyond their immediate vicinity, without having to relocate, from the comfort of their own office.
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