Functional Medicine as a Roadmap to Health -- By Dr. Stephen Stevenson

Functional Medicine's approach is about finding out what is causing the hole in the dam and then plugging that hole. This entails an individualized approach to both illness and prevention, knowing there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to our unique configurations of health as well as our body's history of disease, injury, trauma, and experience.

To this end, Functional Medicine is a collaborative process between doctor and patient, looking at the interactions among genetic propensities, environmental and lifestyle factors, and other issues that influence long-term health and chronic disease. This takes a doctor time with the patient to learn about his or her health as well as the best and more appropriate lab testing available to gather all the necessary research to put together a sound plan.

Functional Medicine, in combining scientifically-based integrative medicine practice with traditional medicine, focuses on making changes in our lifestyles, such as incorporating more therapeutic diets and stress relief techniques, botanical medicines or supplements to treat specific deficiencies, considering detoxification programs, and when indicated, pharmaceuticals.

Such research helps us tease out the root causes of a disease, taking into account that three people with the same diagnosis may have three very different root causes for that diagnosis. For example, Rheumatoid Arthritis may be caused by a gluten sensitivity in one person, exposure to an environmental toxin (such as a heavy metal) in another person, and Lyme's disease in a third person. The treatment plans for each of those causes would be different even if the symptoms of the disease appear similar.

Similarly, three different people can have the same root causes for an illness, but the illness can be expressed differently in all three. For example, gluten sensitivity may play out as diarrhea in one person, Rheumatoid Arthritis in another, and hypothyroidism in a third person.

For people interested in getting to the roots of their health issues, or honing how they promote and maintain good health, Functional Medicine is a great approach, helping people find the best changes to serve their well-being. Overall, this approach gives people a roadmap to health, supports them on their journeys, and helps them achieve a level of vitality they may never have imagined possible.