Advantages of Functional Medicine vs. “Traditional” Medicine

What’s the difference between functional and traditional or conventional medicine? According to patients, plenty. Functional medicine delves into what causes illnesses or diseases and the pathophysiology or how the body is impacted. It treats more than symptoms. Functional medicine explores the causes and influences that contribute to the development of an illness or disease process.

Functional medicine takes a holistic approach to treatment rather than focusing merely on symptoms. For example, if you experience chronic migraines, traditional medical practices may concentrate on alleviating the symptoms by offering pain medications. In functional medicine, the physician will determine what is causing the migraine headaches.

Functional medicine seeks to get to the roots of the problem. Such a physician will not only discuss current symptoms and issues, but all aspects of lifestyle, dietary habits, environmental toxins, exercise, as well as “emotional stuff” going on in your life. This aids the functional physician in achieving a diagnosis. For example:

  • Are environmental factors influencing your migraines?
  • Have you been exposed to toxins that might be causing the migraines?
  • Is stress wrecking havoc on your hormone levels?
  • Are chemicals or ingredients in your diet triggering your migraines?
  • Does your family have a history of migraines?

Traditional medicine typically treats the symptoms

Traditional medicine is also known as modern or conventional medicine, combining historical with contemporary medical practices for the treatment of illnesses and diseases. In many cases, drugs are the first “go to” when it comes to treatment. And most modern medicines are synthetic and manufactured in laboratories.

Traditional or conventional medicine generally focuses on a specific disease process, or its pathophysiology. This is not to suggest that modern medicine doesn’t have its place in healthcare today, because it does. Functional healthcare also has its place.

Benefits of functional medicine approaches to care

Functional medicine seeks to determine whether food allergies, immune system dysfunctions, chemical or hormonal imbalances, pathogens and other internal or external factors, such as nutritional deficiencies, may be contributing to the development of illnesses and its symptoms.

Functional medicine explores in great depth the principal causes of illnesses and development of disease processes in the human body:

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Neurotransmitter malfunctions
  • Oxidation
  • Toxicity
  • Autoimmune issues such as disrupted inflammatory or immune functions
  • Digestive, maladaptive absorption of nutrients, or even microbiological issues
  • Pathogens or a bacteria, virus or other microorganism that can cause diseases
  • Structural imbalances

Functional medicine is a branch of modern medical care that strives to find solutions for the relief of chronic conditions including but not limited to:

  • Allergies
  • Digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Migraines
  • Joint pain
  • Menopause
  • Hormonal imbalances

The functional medicine approach to care will help patients decrease the number of prescription drugs they take to treat symptoms while at the same time employing a whole-body approach to disease relief and enhanced quality of life.

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Dr Waldo

Ralph Waldo, M.D. is a functional and integrative doctor practicing in Carmel, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana University with degrees in biology and psychology, following which he received an M.S. in Physiology and Biophysics.  In 1999 he obtained his medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine.  

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