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Functional Medicine - Truths and Myths!

Modern medicine has been going through some challenges recently.  The biggest challenge has been the trust of patients. Due to the notoriety of "big Pharma", patients are skeptical about pharmaceuticals and the medications they are often prescribed.

It is to be noted that in many cases these medications are essential to treat a disease or to cure an illness or to control the progression.

This has led to the emergence of a variety of alternative medicine.  We hear  the terms functional medicine, integrative medicine, lifestyle medicine,etc. which have become more popular in the 21st century.  The health and wellness industry has taken off in the last 2 decades with these complementary and alternative therapies and ways of approach to medical care.

While these are popular and certainly add to the overall health of an individual it is important for patients to understand what they are and what the differences are and what they are receiving under these umbrellas of care.

For example " functional medicine" focuses on identifying and treating the root cause of a problem.  The way this is done is by looking at a wide range of blood work , evaluating different systems and how they work together and also reviewing  how things are metabolized etc. in simple terms you will be evaluated with a broader blood work panel that will give a clearer picture of the problem at hand making it easier to identify and fix that issue.

The treatment often involves lifestyle interventions,  diet and exercise management, supplements management of stress alongside conventional therapies

Integrative medicine simply means using available alternative therapies and lifestyle interventions and stress management along with conventional medicine to treat or prevent  a problem


Lifestyle medicine focuses on preventing and managing chronic diseases by promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors again  the key principles here are nutrition, exercise, stress management, behavioral health .

As you can see they all overlap on the healthy lifestyle modifications, addressing nutrition and stress issues , to optimize health and wellbeing . They all have preventive health as the focus .


Most of these modalities and holistic approaches should be the way any traditional healthcare practitioner practices.  As a traditionally trained internal medicine physician I approach each patient differently based on their histories, risk factors, lifestyle and environmental contributors  etc.

This is also the best way to approach healthcare for optimal outcomes.  For Managing  illnesses and also for preventative care the practitioner needs a strong foundation in the traditional aspects of medicine.

It is important to have that knowledge to be able to identify interactions, prevent vitamin toxicities and  identifying "over supplementing " yes, there is such a thing. I see these issues all the time in my practice .


Also it is to be noted that even though these complementary medical modalities have been around and prevalent since the early 2000s , there  is not a recognized residency or fellowship specialty for these branches of medicine .Functional medicine as an approach to medical practice has been around since early 1990s but as of January 2022, does not have a recognized fellowship program.    However many institutions and organizations offer fellowship programs and courses for practitioners that would like to incorporate functional medicine principles in our practice similarly there is not a standardized residency or fellowship for lifestyle medicine as of Jan 2022 but organizations like American College of lifestyle medicine provide certification courses for professionals.


 on the other hand  there are fellowship programs and training opportunities in integrative medicine however  they might not be universally recognized like conventional medicine.  The bottom line here is the structure of training  for these programs can vary between organizations and institutions precisely due to that fact .


SOme of the benefits of universally recognized fellowship programs are standardized quality  assurance , patient safety and care quality ,credibility and trust and for the professionals opportunities for growth and development and mobility.



I am one  of those practitioners fortunate enough to be able to approach medicine in an integrated way in my practice.  However in any volume based insurance based traditional practice  this is very difficult or not feasible to do..  Insurance will not cover most of these extended blood work, supplements, alternative therapies.  


In the future I hope there is a way to make this cost and quality  effective for  patients and also for  providers to experience  and deliver  this kind of personalized care. Till a clearer picture is available , the goal is to educate our patients about their health and treat them individually with all and any available evidence based , therapies   and with utmost honesty .   


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