The term Functional Medicine has become a buzzword. This is only a natural phenomenon; several practitioners have built lucrative Functional Medicine practices that are becoming well-known and receiving a lot of attention. Practiced correctly, it truly is the next wave of medicine, or at least we can only hope. Naturally, many practitioners want to catch the wave and “cash in”.
The only problem is, many practitioners who say they are practicing Functional Medicine aren’t really doing so. They have attempted to bend the term to fit their practice, without really adapting or changing anything they were doing.
When practitioners use one term to mean several different things, the public gets confused. So, since we already know what Functional Medicine is, I thought I’d ease the above situation by spelling out what Functional Medicine is NOT.
Truth #1: Functional Medicine is not bioidentical hormones. In fact, bioidentical hormones are not even utilized in genuine Functional Medicine, because exogenous hormones (i.e. hormones that the body itself did not make, that come from the outside of the body) is, by definition, an allopathic treatment. (That’s not to say that you don’t need them or they won’t do some good. It simply means that someone who claims to be a Functional Medicine practitioner simply because they give you Armour instead of Synthroid to jumpstart your thyroid is full of baloney.)
Allopathy is the branch of medicine that most doctors practice – they seek to eliminate symptoms by introducing a substance that changes the body’s internal chemical environment such that it can’t sustain the disease or symptoms. For example, the standard allopathic treatment for diabetes (high blood sugar) is to introduce insulin (which lowers blood sugar). High cholesterol is treated with statin drugs that lower cholesterol. In the allopathic approach, little thought is given to the cause of the problem; the focus is on eliminating symptoms through biochemical manipulation.
Back to bioidentical hormones… Bioidentical hormones may indeed be beneficial and they may be necessary. They may also indeed be superior to synthetic hormones. I don’t disagree with that one bit. And Functional Medicine DOES aim to balance hormones, after all. What I DO find problematic, is when a doctor says they practice Functional Medicine because they balance hormones using bioidentical hormones. That is NOT Functional Medicine. The litmus test is this: do I need a prescription to obtain any of the remedies the doctor wants me to take? If the answer is yes, than it’s not Functional Medicine. Pure Functional Medicine can (and should) be practiced without any pharmaceutical medications. True Functional Medicine will approach a hormone imbalance by attempting to find out what’s wrong underneath the surface, by asking the question: WHY are the hormones out of balance?
Truth #2: Functional Medicine is not HCG weight loss or any other fad diet. HCG, whether in the form of the actual hormone or a homeopathic essence, is also allopathic. This topic will most likely get its own post, because there’s more to say about this than is appropriate for the scope of this post. For now, suffice it to say that HCG hormones are also allopathic and possibly harmful. True Functional Medicine will ask: WHY is the person overweight in the first place?
Truth #3: Functional Medicine is not a quick fix. While I’ve personally seen some miraculous results in just a few weeks using only true Functional Medicine and nothing else, it takes quite a while to normalize and regulate body chemistry, especially using non-pharmaceutical options. Medications are meant to force the body’s chemistry to change quickly, and they are very good at what they do. Natural medicine is very good at what it does, too, but its process is much slower.
Truth #4: Functional Medicine is not just glorified nutritional counseling. It’s an entire lifestyle modification program. Dietary modification and specific supplementation are indeed part of the major backbone, but there is much more to the story. Since most of today’s chronic health problems developed from multiple genetic and environmental influences, the complete solution that delivers the best results utilizes multiple neuro-metabolic therapies based on genuine diagnostic lab test results.