The Difference Between Functional and Integrative Medicine

Functional and integrative medicine are current methods of care used today by medical professionals. To understand how they work, what role they play, and their differences, it's important to first learn how and why they're used in the chain of modern medicine.

The most common method of treatment and medicine is what we know today as Conventional Western Medicine. Conventional medicine is the basic process of elimination in diagnosing and treating illnesses, diseases, and other health-related issues. When you go to the doctor with multiple symptoms, they will ask you many questions. Some questions seem relevant, other questions seem far-fetched in having to do with your symptoms; however, they are all, in fact, relative. Using medical logic, and the process of elimination with your symptoms, a diagnosis is made and treated.

On the other end of the medical spectrum, we have Alternative Medicine. Alternative medicine uses a strict philosophy of natural healing and therapeutic methods to treat illnesses, diseases, and other health-related issues. Thus, alternative medicine is the alternative to conventional medicine. In alternative medicine, patients are treated with methods such as:

• Chiropracty - A physical therapy method for patients that have joint and general mobility issues.
• Aromatherapy - A plant oil method used to treat issues such as stress and depression.
• Herbal Treatment from Different Cultures - Herbs from around the world, most prevalent in China, used to treat and cure various illnesses of all types.
• Acupuncture - A physical puncture method of treatment which targets unbalance within the body.
• Ayurvedic - A body detox treatment that includes a strict diet and exercise regime to help overall health.

In recent years, physicians have theorized that the use of both conventional and alternative medicine could assist patients in a more effective way of diagnosis, treatment, and health. This combination of medicinal methods is Integrative Medicine.

Integrative medicine can use any combination of the following modern medicinal methods depending on the patient's diagnosis, and personal needs and/or beliefs:

• Western - Conventional method of diagnosis and treatment.
• Holistic - A method that treats all aspects of the patient's health, including physical, mental, emotional, economic, and social aspects.
• Osteopathic - A method similar to conventional medicine that differs in the fact that it targets all possible health issues that a patient experienced from their date of birth on.
• Allopathic - Uses the conventional medicinal method as a basis for diagnosis, but focuses on the use of prescription drugs to treat and cure illnesses.
• Regenerative - A method that incorporates the creation of new tissues and organs in order to repair damaged tissues and organs.
• Functional - A method that focuses on the physical and emotional needs of a patient in order to determine the best results.
• Naturopathic - A medicinal method that strictly uses natural remedies to treat various health issues of patients.

So where does functional medicine come into play? Functional medicine, as earlier defined, is a medicinal method in which the patient is diagnosed and treated as a whole. The patient's symptoms are not the only thing used to diagnose and treat the illness. Practitioners of functional medicine believe that in order to provide the best treatment, every aspect of the patient's life must be considered. This includes their genetics, living environment, physical traits, lifestyle, and health history. Thus, this method is very individualized.

As stated earlier, one end of the medical spectrum is conventional medicine, and the other is alternative medicine. Integrative medicine is found between the two, combining them both to create the most effective diagnosis and treatment plan for the patient. Functional medicine is one of the methods used for integrative means. Functional medicine is unique and difficult to categorize, since it is a combination of both conventional and alternative medicine itself.

More physicians believe that functional medicine is the best method today. It's argued that conventional methods do not target a patient as a whole; that other physicians are only temporarily treating a health issue. Functional medicine is used to permanently treat all issues, ensuring an overall healthy body and lifestyle.

Doctors that practice functional medicine use a list of personalized steps in order to diagnose and treat illnesses. Generally, these steps include:

• Learning the lifestyle and health history of the patient.
• Observing weakness found within the body's tissues and organs.
• Combining all considerations to learn what's ailing the body.
• Creating a personal diagnosis.
• Determining the best therapeutic and medical treatments for that diagnosis.
• Evaluating the patient's health progress during treatment.
• Observing and evaluating the effectiveness of treatment that patient is receiving in order to determine if new forms of treatment should be used.
• After observing the patient's progress from treatment, assessing and determining what happen to the patient's body to create the original illness.
• Observing the patient after treatment.
• Determining how the patient's body heals as a whole after completion of diagnosis and treatment.

Functional medicine incorporates a lot of effort in terms of patient care and personal observation. Treatments used within this method vary drastically. Functional medicine will include any form of treatment, be it conventional or alternative. The treatment is based on all aspects of the patient's body, health, and lifestyle, so any sort of treatment can be expected, depending on the patient's beliefs and acceptance.

In conclusion, there isn't a difference between integrative and functional medicine, because functional medicine is a method used in integrative medicine. Integrative is a term used to describe the combination and addition of extra forms of medicinal methods in order to ensure the best patient care. Functional is a term used to describe the personalized method of medicine. Of course, there are patients who only use functional medicine, and no other methods. To these patients, functional medicine is not integrative, but the only form of medicine they choose to receive and believe in. Some physicians use all forms and methods of medicine to determine the best patient care, while other physicians strictly practice one medicinal method. All methods of medicine have proven to be effective depending on the patient and illness.