Out of sheer need, healthcare is evolving from a traditional disease-centered, symptom based focus to a more patient-centered, systems-oriented, functional approach.
This is 21st century healthcare. Functional medicine practitioners work together with their patients, listening to their personal health histories, looking at a variety of factors including diet, lifestyle and environmental elements that adversely affect long-term health and lead to the onset and advancement of chronic disease. Only by addressing an individual patient and his or her personal health can real inroads be made and true health and wellness be achieved.
Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Although we are seeing an increase in the number of patients suffering from these illnesses, we are not seeing a commensurate rise in the number of primary care doctors who are comfortable treating these illnesses. A 2013 survey conducted by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) revealed the following:
64% of family physicians stated they are “uncomfortable” or “stressed” when diagnosing autoimmune disease in patients.
73% do not believe they received adequate training in diagnosing and treating autoimmune diseases.
57% reported they had only one or two lectures on autoimmune disease in medical school.
The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care, the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom.
Unfortunately, the acute-care approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases it does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society.
There’s a huge gap between research and the way doctors practice. The gap between emerging research in basic sciences and integration into medical practice is enormous—as long as 50 years—particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness.
Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.
Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of chronic disease.
The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care, promoting health as a positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the practitioner brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.