What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine is an approach to health care that addresses the root cause of chronic disease, illness and body system imbalances.
Chronic disease is almost always preceded by a period of declining function in one or more of the body’s systems. Restoring health requires reversing or improving the specific dysfunctions that have contributed to the disease state. Each patient represents a unique, complex, and interwoven set of environmental and lifestyle influences that have set the stage for the development of disease or the maintenance of health.
Functional Medicine concepts, practices, and tools reflect the dramatic growth in evidence based science by unlocking the key common pathways to disease. It also acknowledges the substantial role diet, environmental toxins, dietary toxins, emotional stress and lack of physical activity play in the progression of disease.
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, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- 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. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom.
- Unfortunately, the acute-care approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases it does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society.
- 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 disease. 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. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the practitioner brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that addresses the individual’s unique needs.
- 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.
- Integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with integrative medicine to create a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.
Working with a 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.
The Functional Medicine Approach to Assessment
As a Doctor of Functional Medicine, Dr. St-Denis will assess the patient’s fundamental clinical imbalances through careful history taking, physical examination, and laboratory testing. He will consider multiple factors, including:
- Environmental inputs – Environmental toxins, the particular diet you eat, the quality of the food available to you, your level of physical exercise, and toxic exposures or traumas you have experienced all affect your health. Lifestyle is a major factor; research estimates that 70–90% of chronic disease risk is attributable to lifestyle.
- Mind-body elements – Psychological, spiritual, and social factors, including how you deal with stress, can have a profound influence on your health. Considering these areas helps Dr. St-Denis see your health in the context of you as a whole person, not just your physical symptoms.
- Genetic makeup – Although your 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 everything in your environment, plus your experiences, attitudes, and beliefs. That means it is possible to change the way genes are activated and expressed.
- Fundamental physiological processes – These are the body’s processes that keep you alive. Some occur at the cellular level and involve how cells function, repair, and maintain themselves. These processes are related to larger biological functions, such as:
- how your body rids itself of toxins
- regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters
- immune system function
- inflammatory responses
- digestion and absorption of nutrients
- musculoskeletal integrity
- psychological and spiritual equilibrium
- how you manage stress
- how much energy you have
All of these processes are influenced by environment and by genes, and when they are disturbed or imbalanced, they lead to symptoms, which can lead to disease if effective interventions are not applied.
Schedule your complementary 15-minute consultation with Dr. St-Denis today!