Functional medicine doctors provide care in a more patient-centric manner, viewing the patient as a whole and treating the underlying causes of conditions rather than simply treating symptoms.

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About Functional Medicine

Functional medicine physicians have completed training in traditional medical specialties, but provide more patient centered care (as opposed to traditional care, which is typically centered on treating symptoms). Instead of treating patients for each specific symptom, doctors that practice functional medicine are concerned with the underlying causes of symptoms and conditions. These physicians provide total care for the patient, taking into account the physical, emotional, mental, societal and environmental factors that may be adversely affecting a patient’s health.

When providing care for patients, functional medicine doctors attempt to engage patients in an open dialogue, fostering a close and honest doctor-patient relationship. By allowing the patient to open up to the practitioner, the physician is more capable of providing total medical care and treating the causal agents of disease and illness. The Institute for Functional Medicine states that the field of functional medicine “addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.”

Functional medicine physicians focus their care on the patient, as patients are the ones who have the greatest ability to impact their own health. Doctors that practice functional medicine techniques promote healthy lifestyles, including a proper diet and exercise regimen, in addition to maintaining a good state of mental, emotional and social health. In addition to traditional “Western” medical practices, some functional physicians may integrate additional forms of “alternative” or “integrative” medical techniques, utilizing practices such as acupuncture.

Functional Medicine Education & Training

Physicians that practice functional medicine may be trained in a wide range of medical specialties. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from a four year college and subsequently receiving an MD or DO degree from an accredited medical school, a fellowship or residency is required for certification by a medical specialty board accredited by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

After completing their education, an MD or DO may choose to be a practicing functional medicine doctor by basing their care on uncovering the underlying cause of illness and disease and developing an extremely close relationship with patients. This close relationship helps the functional medicine doctor to more precisely understand how the patient’s body works and uses this information to develop personalized plans for each individual patient.