What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional Medicine

The Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine (CCCFM) describes this approach as “patient-centered care that focuses on treating or preventing real health problems, not just the symptoms.” A patient might see a doctor with symptoms of an undiagnosed condition and leave with a prescription for a drug, but with the knowledge that they also may improve their diet, exercise routine, or social wellbeing to help alleviate their discomfort.

During a visit to a practitioner of functional medicine, an entire health history is typically reviewed and a variety of tests are often run to better understand the root cause behind their symptoms. This can include a full blood workup, salivary or urine hormone testing, gastrointestinal tract analysis, micronutrient deficiency testing, hair mineral analysis, DNA testing and more. Many of these tests are considered out-of-network by insurance companies, but patients can use their health savings account to cover these expenses.

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In contrast to traditional medicine, which spends about 15 minutes in a clinical setting discussing symptoms before recommending a medication, a doctor trained in functional medicine is much more individualized and involved with each patient. For example, a functional doctor may suggest that a patient take up exercising to help alleviate their depression, based on research showing exercise can lower anxiety and increase brain chemical serotonin levels.

Evans says that people tend to gravitate toward functional medicine because they’re tired of their medications and want to find a way to address the underlying issues. “They’re usually frustrated because they have a constellation of symptoms that their primary care doctors can’t seem to put together into a diagnosis,” she says.

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