What is functional medicine?

Welcome to the first ever SMC blog! I am so thrilled to be able to share my passion and knowledge about this clinic, which I started over 12 years ago, what it is we do and what the clinic has to offer.

The number one question people ask is “What is functional medicine?”

Functional medicine is an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to collaborate together to address the underlying root cause of disease and promote optimal wellness and vitality. This isn’t “new medicine” and we certainly are brewing up concoctions in the back office. In fact, it is really just focusing on health care and NOT disease care. Functional medicine focuses on prevention and underlying physiology versus symptoms of chronic disease. Don’t get me wrong, we love medicine and believe in medicine; however we want to get to the root cause and the “why” so we can create customized treatment plans to improve our patient’s outcome, whether that be with a prescription or not. We see ourselves as “medical detectives.”

Most ask us “Why doesn’t my regular doctor practice functional medicine or even know what it is?” The practice of medicine is just that: conventional providers are trained to treat disease though the prescription of medication and if needed through the use of surgery. There is no belief in or focus on the efficacy of what is now being called “lifestyle medicine.” The idea of getting patients to make lifestyle changes that require huge alterations in behavior has been something conventional medicine has avoided for decades. Ignoring the benefits of exercise, healthy food, supplements, relaxation and sleep has led to a vague disdain for these ancient and traditional healing methods.

However, it is really not their fault. No one goes to school with the aspiration and hope of helping people by over prescribing drugs that are largely ineffective and often risky. Allowing drug companies to completely take over the dissemination of information through co-opting all the major medical journals and medical societies, by allowing them to release grossly inappropriate advertising on television, by allowing them unlimited profiteering opportunities. Letting our main governmental regulatory body, the FDA, be run by drug company executives. It’s like a group of five year olds let loose without adults in an ice cream shop. Of course it’s a mess. People need boundaries and rules and we have not provided insurance companies, hospitals, drug companies or doctors with anything but an open checkbook for the last 50 years. It’s important to note this is a relatively recent problem. Prior to 1945, the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries barely existed.

Even just attempting to describe what functional medicine IS can be challenging, expressed in either a complex litany of physiological heuristics or as a “here’s what we do” type of answer. To sum it up, the ultimate goal is wellness, not maximizing medical interventions. We hope to teach and inspire our patients along the way.

Kate Gassaway, RN, MSN, APRN-BC Nurse Practitioner and Founder of Solutions Medical Center