What is Functional Medicine?

“ It is more important to know what person has the disease than which disease the person has.”

William Osler

Osteopaths look to employ a variety of strategies in their decision making process that supports the continuity and expression of homeostasis (the complex and dynamic self‐regulation process in the body that ensures metabolic equilibrium) and its related sense of wellbeing and healthy metabolic function for their patients. One of the ‘systems based’ approaches used to do this, includes those as described and delivered through the functional medicine model.

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Functional medicine has evolved to encourage an exchange of validated approaches to supporting wellbeing and health across disciplines. Each practitioner utilises the principles and philosophies within the context of their own professional training. The Functional Medicine model was Developed conceived originally in 1991 in the United States by a group of researchers, and clinicians, headed up by Jeffery Bland PhD.

Functional medicine training continues to reflect the following key principles, which are reflective across all disciplines and seeks to facilitate a collective and systems biology driven analysis of each individual’s needs. Functional Medicine is anchored by an examination of core metabolic and functional processes and pathways required to ensure the optimum function of an individual. This requires detailed evaluation of environmental inputs such as the diet and nutrients (including air and water), the effects of exercise and physical activity generally, as well as psychological and psychosocial factors such as stress and trauma, the effect of which is influenced by the way in which information is processed by one’s body, mind and spirit, through a unique set of genetic predispositions, attitudes and beliefs.

The fundamental physiological processes include biochemical and bio‐energetic communication, both outside of, and within, the cell; biotransformation, or the transformation of food into energy; replication, repair, and maintenance of structural integrity, from the cellular to the whole body level; elimination of waste; protection and defense; and transport and circulation.

The core clinical objective is to help maintain the proper function of the following complex and interrelated systems:

• Hormonal and neurotransmitter balance

• Oxidation‐reduction balance and appropriate mitochondrial output

• Waste regulation and biotransformation

• Healthy immune modulation

• Healthy Inflammatory balance

• Digestive, absorptive and microbiological balance

• Structural balance, from the cell membrane to the musculoskeletal system level.

Achieving and maintaining metabolic and bio‐energetic balance in these complex systems is a prerequisite to optimising health.

Functional medicine is not a unique and separate body of knowledge. It is grounded in scientific principles and information widely available in the fields of medical, nutritional and environmental science today. But it uniquely very usefully integrates the fruits of various disciplines into highly detailed yet clinically relevant models of health optimisation and effective clinical management. Functional medicine emphasises a definable and teachable process of integrating multiple knowledge bases within a pragmatic intellectual matrix that focuses on functionality at many levels, rather than a single treatment for a single diagnosis.

Functional medicine deals with the whole person, rather than just specific organs or body systems, using the client’s story and related functional information as key tools for developing the most appropriate clinical approach for that particular individual.

For further information please refer to The Institute for Functional Medicine.