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What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is an approach to identifying and addressing the root cause – or causes – of diseases. It is a systems biology-based approach that concedes that a disease can have many causes, and one cause can contribute to many conditions.

The above graphic illustrates the functional medicine approach to diagnosing and treating illnesses. Not only does the example show that depression can be caused by many root conditions, but also shows that a root condition can cause or worsen other conditions.

Functional Medicine Approach to Discovering the Root Causes of Chronic Health Conditions

A patient-centered approach to diagnosing and treating health conditions is what sets functional medicine apart from more traditional practices that use a disease-centered focus. Disease-centered medicine practices may diagnose an illness, and then treat that illness using a standard “one-size-fits-all” treatment standard.

Functional medicine begins by asking “What caused this illness in the first place?” and identifying the root causes of the illness itself or its symptoms. This can help to identify and eliminate the causes of the health condition, instead of simply treating its symptoms.

What is Function Medicine?

Examples of Functional Medicine Approaches

What is Functional Medicine?"]

Source: The Institute for Functional Medicine | ifm.org

Let’s use depression as the example health condition. Whereas traditional medicine may see the depression as solely a pre-existing condition, of-which symptoms must be treated; functional medicine looks deeper to see what issues are causing the depression, and treating those, in order to treat the causes of the condition, rather than the symptoms.

Perhaps the cause of the depression is due to environmental factors such as allergies or contaminants in the air you breathe. These causes can lead to inflammation in the body, and the body can respond to the inflammation in a way that leads to symptoms of depression. In this case, treating the symptoms of depression is not necessary if you remove contaminates and environmental factors that are causing the inflammation.

In this way, functional medicine can take a more pro-active approach to the prevention of chronic illnesses, and offer a better and more effective way of addressing the health condition – avoiding many of the side effects and symptoms that treating depression through the use of antidepressants could bring.

The Functional Medicine Model of Holistic Patient Care

The ultimate goal of functional medicine is to not only treat the health conditions in a patient, but to do so while providing patient-centered care. A lack of patient-centered care in traditional disease-centered medical practices has led to many patients feeling alienated at a time when they need to feel understood and cared for.

When a patient is diagnosed with a possibly life-threatening disease, they want to be treated respectfully by their doctor, they want to know that their concerns are being heard by their caregiver, and they want to be treated as a person with a health concern – not a container for that health concern or disease. With the patient-centered approach that functional medicine offers, patients can see the difference from their first visit.

Why Functional Medicine is needed and Can Offer Better Treatment Options

Traditional doctors and general practitioners cannot be completely blamed for their lack of patient-centered care, Western medicine has long focused on a disease-centered approach to deliver acute care. This means that doctors take an approach to medicine that quickly finds and diagnoses the disease and offers the fastest effective care model recommended for that disease. In short, the doctors do not – and often are not adequately trained-to – take steps to prevent or treat the underlying causes of complex diseases.

While this approach effectively treats the disease, the treatments aren’t always the right fit for a person, and rarely take into account quality of life. So why don’t more doctors take the time to understand their patient’s complex case and look for more effective solutions to treating diseases?

Traditional doctors use medicine practices based off research that is often outdated, and aren’t able to take into account new and emerging research into chronic and complex diseases. Functional medicine practitioners, however, do take these things into account and utilize a variety of treatments that are considered safe and effective, but are outside the standards of Standard Medical Care.

How Synergy Lifestyle Medicine Uses Functional Medicine for Natural and Alternative Treatments to Common Illnesses

With our patient-centered care practices, Synergy Lifestyle Medicine bridges the gap between Western medical practices and alternative medical practices. We rely on an integrated approach that uses best medical practices for treating diseases such as cancer, and will consider alternative and integrative medical practices when they can offer a higher benefit to the patient as a whole.

Functional Medicine Doctors in Mesa, AZ

Synergy Lifestyle Medicine is one of Arizona’s leading providers of functional medicine. We use combined therapies to heal the entire person: mind, body, and soul. Led by Dr. Maggie Gama M.D. – Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner – Our Mesa, Arizona integrative medicine practice specializes in treating complex diagnoses of autoimmune disorders, chronic illnesses, and late stage and stage 4 cancer.

Though our functional medicine practice is located in Arizona, many of our clients seek our treatment and care from outside of Arizona. Patients looking for a provider of compassionate treatment for complex conditions will find that our philosophy for patient care is just what they have been searching for.

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