Modern medicine is awe-inspiring, from eradicating many diseases to introducing effective ways to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries. We reached this point through constant innovation and discovery. That same pioneering mindset is the idea behind functional medicine.
Also known as holistic or integrative medicine, functional medicine builds on the foundation of traditional medicine and gives it more dimension, depth, and scope.
Dr. David Larson of SourceMD: Integrated Wellness Solutions offers this comprehensive approach to his patients in Encinitas, California. We’re changing the definition and expectations for health care by taking a holistic, patient-centered approach. To help you get a better idea, here are the main differences between functional medicine (FM) and traditional medicine (TM).
The first difference you may notice between these two health care approaches is how the appointment is handled.
TM: When you arrive for your traditional doctor appointment, you expect to wait. One study shows that 20% of patients get up and leave before ever seeing a doctor, and 30% of them change providers altogether.
If you do endure the wait, the most you can hope for is about 17-20 minutes of face-to-face time with the physician.
FM: Our fundamental approach to the doctor appointment is different. We never double book our patients, and you will never have to wait for Dr. Larson. Your first appointment is a private 3-4 hour session with no interruptions. This allows you and Dr. Larson to get to know one another and for him to hear your unique story.
The next difference you may notice is the depth, purpose, and goal of each treatment approach.
TM: Despite all the technological advances in traditional medicine, it has remained fundamentally focused on the same goals for centuries: the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and injuries. Your doctor’s health assessment typically asks about your symptoms, what makes them worse or better, your family’s medical history, and what medications you’re taking.
FM: Knowing that treating your symptoms is only a temporary fix, Dr. Larson seeks to find the root cause of your symptoms so he can address it and stop your symptoms for good.
To do this, Dr. Larson dives into your entire health history and every aspect of your unique physiology, environment, and lifestyle. He understands that your symptoms may stem from more than one condition, and that one condition may lead to multiple other conditions.
Reaching a diagnosis should be an investigatory process. But sometimes, it can feel as if your doctors already had their mind made up before they walked in the room to see you.
TM: Traditional medicine relies on accepted theories and past experiences when it comes to diagnosing your condition. So, if your symptoms fall into a certain category or existing diagnosis, then you are prescribed medication for that condition.
FM: Functional medicine, on the other hand, looks at multiple aspects of your life, including your genetic makeup, diet and exercise habits, relationships and moods, likes and dislikes, environment, sensitivities, sleep patterns, dental health, and a long list of other factors.
Because any combination of these things can give clues to your condition, they are all explored independently and in context with your symptoms. This is why functional medicine patients often find a cure, rather than just relief, from their symptoms.
Both traditional and functional medicine providers want to stop your symptoms, but traditionalists tend to treat the symptom rather than treating you.
TM: Pharmaceuticals are an important aspect of modern health care, but traditional medicine practitioners rely on it almost exclusively. That’s part of the reason for the opioid epidemic crippling the nation. Because drugs treat symptoms, but often not their cause, you keep coming back for more medication.
FM: While Dr. Larson believes there is value in some medications for certain conditions, his functional medicine approach includes a host of drug-free tests and treatments that takes into consideration your overall health picture. This is how he finds and treats the conditions you may not even know you have -- the true culprit for your symptoms.
The best way to encapsulate the difference between traditional medicine and functional medicine is the relationship between doctor and patient.
TM: Traditional doctors rarely develop relationships with their patients — there just isn’t time, and that’s not their goal.
FM: Dr. Larson believes that a strong relationship with you is an essential part of your health care. He gets to know you and your health so well that you can call for his help no matter where you are. He can even come to your home if need be. This is the most personal, individualized, complete health care you’ll find anywhere.