ArticleWhat is Functional Medicine? - Take care of your body - Valia Makropoulou - Nutrition & Functional Medicine

Functional Medicine represents an evolution in the way practitioners of health sciences approach patients, diagnosis and treatment and the way the view health and disease. It is a science-based, patient-centered, holistic framework that has been rapidly gaining popularity due to its effectiveness in helping individuals suffering from chronic conditions. Over the last decades, the study of Functional Medicine has been fueled by amazing advancements in the field of systems biology . which have provided fundamental elements necessary to map the dependencies and processes of the human biochemistry, exposing the interconnectivity between individual’s unique ecosystem and their state of health.

Modern lifestyle with all its technological marvels, also means that the human body is constantly exposed to chemicals, toxins and pollution. Combined with a variety of individual lifestyle choices and inherent chronic stresses, health sciences can no longer ignore the effects of these elements on human health. In contrast to conventional medicine, where treatment is based on a specific disease or set of symptoms, functional medicine looks at the entirety of the individual’s ecosystem, in order to identify the root of the problem. By addressing the underlying cause of chronic conditions, Functional Medicine can help in defining more effective, preventive and long-lasting solutions.
According to the Institute of Functional Medicine, 50% of all adults suffer from at least one chronic condition and 25% suffer from at least two. In the US, as high as 86% of health care costs are attributed to patients with chronic conditions. Traditional treatments are based on a standardized, one-fits-all approach, that does not take into account the changing environmental and social elements affecting people’s health. With this in mind, a growing number of healthcare professionals looking into Functional Medicine for evidence-based, effective and sustainable interventions while more and more patients are looking for an alternative, comprehensive approach to chronic disease management,with more than one million searches being conducted in the IFM’s “Find a Practitioner” Database. Evidence indicates that when health professionals work side by side with Functional Medicine practitioners, the outcome of the treatment is exponentially more effective.

Success of the Functional Medicine approach is largely dependent on the therapeutic partnership created between the practitioner and the patient. The Functional Medicine framework, provides the practitioner with necessary tools for mapping and identifying the root causes of patient health conditions. During the initial consultation, the practitioner will look at the patient’s complete story including their lifestyle choices, experiences, medical history, diet, physical activity and psycho-social-spiritual factors, creating “maps” that will help identify the potential imbalances within the individual’s ecosystem. Practitioners can also request blood, urine and stool tests to gain further insight into the patient’s current issues. The art of correctly gathering and organizing relevant data and identifying the modifiable or adjustable dietary and lifestyle factors, combined with the therapeutic partnership and teamwork between the practitioner and patient are key factors in the effectiveness of the Functional Medicine approach, to increase the individual’s level of health and quality of life.

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