by Henri Roca, MD, Specialist in Integrative Functional Medicine
Functional medicine is the new language of medicine through which chronic disease can be reversed and health can be optimized. It is highly personalized and seeks to understand the individual’s entire history so that basic functions of the body can be brought back into balance, thus reducing or eliminating symptoms of chronic disease.
Functional Medicine honors the innate healing processes within each of us and is based on the most current science including the concepts of genetic individuality, biochemical individuality, and the web-like interconnections of all processes within the body. Functional Medicine recognizes that every biological process affects every other biological process. There is absolutely no separation between inflammation, digestive processes, neurotransmitter balance, structural balance, immune function, detoxification, or mental/emotional experiences. Everything is related and everything is interconnected. In order to understand the causes of illness, one must understand the individual’s history and the interactions among their biological systems.
My practice of medicine is organized through the precepts of Functional Medicine. Using this framework, I am able to practice conventional medicine in a comprehensive manner utilizing the most natural interventions possible. Functional Medicine uses your entire story from conception to the present moment to understand key processes that are dysfunctional, when they began to be dysfunctional, and how these dysfunctions triggered imbalances in other processes. Hence, I can create a timeline that explains how everything that has happened to you has brought you to this place and time. This framework, in turn, can lead us to create a program of interventions that can enhance your health and/or work to reverse chronic disease.
The beautiful thing about Functional Medicine is that it incorporates all of the natural and traditional healing modalities including acupuncture, mind-body therapies, herbs, vitamins, supplements, and most importantly nutrition in addition to pharmaceuticals and, as a last resort, surgery.
A key example of the functional medicine approach would be an individual who had a history of ear infections as a young child, later allergies, asthma and sinus problems as an older child, and then gastrointestinal issues as an adult. In this case, I would look to gut dysfunction and food sensitivities as the underlying biological processes that will need to be brought into balance. These issues will be made worse by stress, by deficiencies in nutrients reduce inflammation, and by the presence of toxic elements.
The following information is from the Institute for Functional Medicine
Functional Medicine honors the principles of:
- Biochemical individuality
- Patient-centered medicine
- Dynamic interaction of internal genetic factors and external environmental factors
- Web-like interconnections of physiological processes
- Health as a positive vitality – not merely the absence of disease.
- Promotion of individual reserve and resiliency as the measure of enhanced health and ultimately enhanced longevity
Functional medicine is anchored by an examination of the core clinical imbalances that underlie various disease conditions. Those imbalances arise as environmental inputs (including diet, nutrients, exercise, substance use, isolation, toxins and trauma) are processed by one’s body, mind, and spirit through a unique set of genetic predispositions.
The primary imbalances that arise from malfunctions within this complex system include:
- Hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances
- Energy production imbalances and mitochondrial toxicity
- Detoxification imbalances
- Immune imbalances
- Inflammatory imbalances
- Digestive, absorptive, and microbiological imbalances
- Structural imbalances from cellular membrane function to the musculoskeletal system
- Imbalances in mood as well as mental-emotional-spiritual processes
Improving the working of the fundamental processes within the person is the necessary first step in restoring health and involves much more than treating the symptoms. Functional medicine is dedicated to improving the management of complex, chronic disease by intervening at multiple levels to address these core clinical imbalances and to restore each patient’s functionality and health. Functional medicine is not a unique and separate body of knowledge. It is grounded in scientific principles and information widely available in medicine today, combining research from various disciplines into highly detailed yet clinically relevant models of disease pathogenesis and effective clinical management.