What is the definition of Functional Medicine?

Functional Medicine is a systems-based approach to evaluating and treating chronic health conditions. It addresses the whole person, not just their symptoms.

Systems-based medicine involves the functional assessment of the hormonal, immune, digestive and elimination systems to determine how these systems may be compromised and contributing to the cause of the disease process. Patient assessment involves an extensive clinical history, evaluation of significant events along a personal timeline and a determination of the relative interactions among genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that have a lasting impact on health and the development of chronic conditions. Specialized testing helps determine the cause or contributory factors of chronic conditions and allows us to unravel the complex matrix of many seemingly disconnected symptoms. A Functional Medicine treatment program involves dietary and lifestyle modification and hormone, immune and detoxification support with well-researched herbal remedies and nutritional supplements.

Functional Medicine was introduced to the world of medicine over 25 years ago by Susan and Jeffrey Bland, PhD who started the Institute for Functional Medicine to train doctors and practitioners in the science and applicability of Functional Medicine. This sensible, systems-based approach has piqued the interest of many conventional and alternative practitioners looking for a better way to evaluate and treat the increasing numbers of patients with chronic diseases who cannot find relief in the conventional medical model. This is truly the future of medicine and wellness and provides us with a logical and well-researched basis from which to evaluate our patients, remove obstacles to healing, provide personalized health care, support the body’s ability to heal, prevent disease and slow the aging process.

What is the definition of Naturopathic Medicine?

As a distinct medical profession, Naturopathic Medicine has been in existence for over 100 years. Founded by Dr. Benedict Lust in 1901, Naturopathy was based on the core principle of the healing power of nature and involved the use of nutritional therapy, lifestyle modification, botanical medicine, homeopathy, manipulative therapy and acupuncture. There are currently five schools in North America conferring a naturopathic medical degree and naturopaths are currently licensed in 21 states along with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Naturopaths are also licensed in several provinces of Canada.

There are six core principles of Naturopathic Medicine that provide guidance in how we assess and treat a patient.

  • The Healing Power of Nature – trust in the body’s inherent wisdom to heal itself.
  • Treat the Cause – look beyond the symptoms to the underlying cause.
  • First Do No Harm – utilize the most natural, non-toxic and non-invasive therapies.
  • Doctor as Teacher – educate patients in the steps to achieving and maintaining health.
  • Treat the Whole Person – view the body as an integrated whole in all its physical and spiritual dimensions.
  • Prevention – focus on overall health, wellness and disease prevention.

Naturopaths practice in varying capacities depending on the interest of the practitioner ranging from general naturopathic medicine to the specialty of naturopathic oncology. Some Naturopaths specialize in a treatment modality such as homeopathy, nutritional therapy or manipulative therapy. Our approach to assessment and treatment of a patient is very similar to practitioners of Functional Medicine in that we evaluate the whole person and look for the underlying causes of their health issues. There is a lot of crossover between Naturopathic Medicine and Functional Medicine. Where the two professions differ may be in the scientific basis of Functional Medicine and the reliance on testing. Naturopathic Medicine has existed for over 100 years and is rooted in traditional therapies that have withstood the test of time. However, with the increased interest in natural and non-toxic therapies, Naturopathic Medicine is advancing very rapidly with a broadening knowledge base and verifiable science to back the therapies that have existed for so long. This is an exciting time for Naturopathic Medicine!

There is a difference between a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and a Traditional Naturopath. A licensed ND has attended an accredited Naturopathic Medical School, attended classes at the college and participated in extensive clinical training as part of their program. Traditional Naturopaths, while adherent to the principles of Naturopathy, have usually participated in a distance learning program that does not provide clinical training and oversight by experienced clinicians. Both professions have a place in the world of natural medicine but it is important to know who you might be seeing and the extent of their knowledge and training.