Looking up at a long, green tree with the sky and sun visible beyond

What is Functional Medicine?


For the next few weeks, I want to talk about different types of medicinal approaches. See, over here and in the States we are largely familiarized with Western medicine. However, there are other types of medicine. And – what I have learned the hard way – sometimes Western medicine does not always have “the answer”. You can check out my nickel allergy journey here. I have long advocated for not giving up if faced with a health challenge. So these posts are meant to show you a few different options of other types of medicines out there. Today, I want to talk to you about what is functional medicine.

A doctor holding a stethoscope in their hands
Nappy auf Unsplash

What is Western Medicine?

Before we dive into what functional medicine is, let us quickly cover what Western medicine is. In essence, it is a system where medical doctors and other health care professionals (e.g. nurses, specialists) treat our symptoms through diagnosis usually using drugs, surgery, or radiation. This string of medicine, as it is known today, is roughly 200 years old, so relatively young.

Tree showing its heavy roots
Felix Mittermeier auf Unsplash

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine works fundamentally different to simply treating symptoms. It tries to get to the root cause of a challenge or health problem and identifies the main culprit in order for it then to be eliminated. For example, you may have been diagnosed with depression. Now, this could have many factors. It could be that your thyroid is not working optimally. It could be that you are in depleted in vitamin D or even omega 3. A lot of people who are on antibiotics suddenly experience depression. We know that bouts of depression could also stem from not keeping our blood sugar levels stable.

Another example is inflammation. Inflammation may be the cause but it can lead to loads of different conditions. In fact, you and the person next to you may have high inflammation levels. But the symptoms could display themselves completely differently. High inflammation can be triggered by depression, heart disease, cancer, athritis, or (again) from not keeping our blood sugar levels stable and experiencing diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Functional medicine distinctly looks at someone’s individual genes, their environment (including toxins), and lifestyle factors in order to holistically establish an individual’s treatment plan that is specified towards their individual needs.

Budding flowers in spring
Floraf auf Unsplash

How Does Western and Functional Medicine Differ?

So, how do the two types of medicine differ? The main difference is in the way how the illness is identified, and then can also be treated. With Western medicine, your illness is identified and treated in the conventional way. With functional medicine, you do not only identify the illness, but you also dig deeper in order to find the source of the illness. By eliminating said source, you also prevent future illnesses or expressions of different kinds of illnesses and diseases. Coming back to the above example of inflammation, if you eliminate this as the source of illness or disease, you are also eliminating all the other expressions of disease as inflammation may show up as.

The treatment and identification process is also tailored specifically to yourself. It also may include other holistic forms or treatment, such as conventional medicine, chiropractic, oesteopathic, orthopedic, environmental intervention, lifestyle changes, etc.

A street lined with green trees, being lit by the sun
Richard Loader auf Unsplash

The Takeaway From This Post

There is no superior form of medicine. When I tore my cruciate ligament last year, I was more than glad for the opportunity of operation, x rays, and healing. But I also see more and more people (and also children) developing asthma, having (or in my case developing) allergies, being sensitive to gluten and dairy, etc. A lot of that is because of our lifestyle factors, our environment, and our food. And conventional/Western medicine may no longer solve these kinds of issues satisfactorily.

If you are currently struggling with a health predicament, especially one that you feel your conventional doctor is not able to fully explore or help you with, feel free to give functional medicine a try. Beautiful cover photo by Jon Moore on Unsplash.

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