What's In a Name? Functional, Integrative and Conventional Medicines -- By Dr. Stephen Stevenson

Updated: Jun 28, 2021


A rose is a rose is a rose, but medicine has far more variety. At Atma Clinic, we specialize in Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine, which are distinct from Conventional Medicine. Conventional Medicine's approach assumes that anyone with the same illness has the same issues and will respond to the same treatment. This is often a pharmaceutical for symptom relief – a pill for every ill. Conventional Medicine focuses mostly on treating an illness’s symptoms rather than investigating and treating the underlying causes and prescribing an individualized treatment.


Conventional Medicine can be very effective for short-term and acute problems and can be life-saving, such as when setting broken bones or installing new heart valves. However, it has shortcomings when addressing chronic health problems, such as long-term intestinal upset. Chronic health problems are often linked to underlying issues that need to be discovered before identifying an effective treatment. Furthermore, using drugs to suppress symptoms can create new problems, and in some cases, one drug to treat an illness can lead to another drug being needed to address issues caused by the first one.


As a physician for many years practicing Conventional Medicine, I was often frustrated with the limitations of treating symptoms instead of causes, and I did continual research on better approaches, which led me to Functional Medicine.


There's a lot of overlap between Functional Medicine and Integrative Medicine, so it can be difficult to point to how these two terms differ. In a nutshell, Functional Medicine is based on scientifically proven integrative therapies, while Integrative Medicine involves a larger umbrella to include what's scientifically proven and more.