For all those who believe that we are living in the age of advancement and discoveries, where we are able to identify problems and treat* them easily, have a look at the statistics below.
- 81% Americans take at least 1 medicine every day.
- 1 in 2 Americans may die of heart diseases.
- 3/4th of Americans are over-weight.
- 1 in 3 people born will suffer from diabetes.
- 1 in 5 children suffer from some type of a mood or behavioral disorder.
- 1 in 10 will experience dementia by the age of 65 years.
These statistics could not be worse. Yes, we are living in an age and time of development, progression, and over-achievement, where healthy living is one of the most underachieved goals.
Traditional Medicine Approach
From the time you are a child, you are taken to your local physician or a specialist for every health issue that you have encountered.
Be it fever, cold, cough, diarrhea, or jaundice, your doctors could easily resolve the issue with a few medications and you would be back to your daily routine with the disease not affecting you in any way.
The traditional approach of treating the disease with disease-specific medication worked well and gave the desired result. However, things changed as you grew older. When the concerns changed from fever and flu, to diabetes and obesity, no medication could resolve the problem permanently.
The Reason Why The Traditional Approach Falls Short
When it comes to the conventional healthcare system, the diagnosis of the disease is based on the symptoms that a person presents with. More the symptoms, more the number of diagnosis, and more the number of medications you are given to manage them.
Post-diagnosis, the treatment involves prescription of drugs that play a role in the treating the condition. However, in this approach, treatment of a disease is synonymous with getting rid of the symptoms.
So be it high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol, thyroid hormones deficiency, or diabetes, the basic approach to treatment is the same- correcting what is abnormal, replacing the deficiency with supplementation, or eliminating what is excess in the body.
Traditional medicine often lacks in identifying and treating the root cause of the disease which is unknown for a vast majority of conditions today ranging from diabetes to autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, or Alzheimer’s. Thus, all individuals suffering from diabetes are given similar medications (in most cases, the same medications).
This approach works well for acute diseases occurring due to trauma, infections, etc. but is not very effective when it comes to chronic disorders, which affect nearly 125 million Americans alone.
Why Functional Medicine Can Fill The Lacuna?
By the efforts of molecular research, it is now known that we all are genetically non-identical. Every individual has its own unique genetic makeup, which with the help of environmental influences results in the phenotype of the individual.
Thus, it can be said that diseases are the result of basic biological processes that occur at molecular levels governed by our genetic makeup.
Every system in our body is interconnected with each other by means of complex biochemical pathways. There is a cascade of molecules, which is interdependent and vital for the smooth functioning of every system.
It can be likened to an enormous jigsaw puzzle, which cannot be completed even if a single piece is misplaced. Thus, a holistic approach to treatment is what is needed today. Functional medicine uses this approach to treat* diseases.
It is an evidence-based systemic approach that aims to identify primary underlying causes of clinical symptoms. In this approach, the underlying mechanism of the disease is more important than the manifestation of the disease that results in clinical symptoms.
For example, when treating diabetes, conventional medicine aims at keeping the sugar levels under control for lack of an answer as to why they are high in the first place. This helps prevent symptoms as well as complications.
However, functional medicine mainly focuses on why the sugar levels are elevated than just trying to keep them under control.
Thus, where traditional medicine includes specialists and super-specialists that deal with one specific system or type of diseases, those involved in fundamental medicine can be called ‘super-generalists’ that try to understand the awry processes in the fundamental functioning of the body as a whole.
How Does Functional Medicine Work?
Doctors practicing functional medicine are qualified medical professionals. The process of treatment begins with an extensive medical and family history, which includes emotional and mental history taking too.
Extensive lab tests are performed, which aim to identify genetic makeup and biomarkers. Genomic studies are carried out that help to understand the genetic make-up of the individual and to identify the loophole that needs to be fixed to resolve a disorder. This ensures that the treatment is tailor-made for individuals.
Functional medicine should not be confused with alternative therapies such as homeopathy and Ayurveda which are based on completely different principles.
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2. Hyman, Mark. Systems Biology, Toxins, Obesity, and Functional MedicineAlternative Therapies in Health and Medicine; Aliso Viejo Vol. 13, Iss. 2, (Mar/Apr 2007): S134-9. Available at: https://search.proquest.com/openview/52ecb8f402ddec1a10e79c4d535a80c3/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=32528