Why Naturopathic and Functional Medicine?
I am often asked: “What is naturopathic medicine?”, “What is functional medicine?”, and “How do they differ?” Both naturopathic medicine and functional medicine are focused on understanding and treating the underlying cause of disease. They differ from the “one-size-fits-all” treatment approach, and are individualized and patient-centered. In many regards naturopathic and functional medicine are similar, and yet, there are some nuanced differences.
Here’s my best explanation:
Naturopathic medicine is a practice focused on using a blend of modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It takes into consideration an individual’s mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. The modalities that naturopathic physicians may use include diet, nutrition, botanical medicine, acupuncture, naturopathic manipulation and pharmaceuticals. In BC, naturopathic physicians complete eight years of post-secondary education, and are regulated under the Health Professions Act.
Functional medicine was born out of a desire to address the root cause, rather than just suppress symptoms. Through obtaining a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical and lifestyle factors, it focuses on providing personalized treatment plans to address the whole person. Functional medicine uses evidence-based diagnostics and treatments, while also creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise.
There are various different practitioners that practice functional medicine including MD’s, ND’s, chiropractors, TCM practitioners, nurse practitioners, dieticians and nutritionists.
Why do I practice both?
For me, functional medicine offered a model that I had been seeking to organize my naturopathic education. It is grounded in evidence-based research, understanding the whole person, and taking a proactive approach. It is a model I understand, and given my naturopathic training, one that resonates with me.
In many regards, I feel like functional medicine exists at the intersection of our conventional medical approach and naturopathic medicine. It values gaining a thorough understanding of an individual’s concerns via history, a physical exam, and diagnostic testing, and it recognizes the importance of diet and lifestyle.
Our communities are demanding integrative and patient-centered forms of health care – ones that prioritize prevention, and promote health beyond the absence of disease. For myself, utilizing both functional medicine and naturopathic medicine allows me to provide this type of health care, and to integrate the best practices of both traditional and integrative medicine.
What does my practice look like?
With each patient I take an hour to review their history and current symptoms. I use the functional medicine matrix to map out their concerns, and to illustrate the different contributing factors. At the foundation of every treatment plan is a focus on prevention, nutrition and lifestyle. The use of different modalities is then catered to the individual’s specific needs and guided by diagnostic testing. I will often use a combination of botanical medicine, supplements, acupuncture, and prescription medication.
If you’re interested in learning more about how a naturopathic/functional medicine approach could benefit your health, I offer complimentary 15-minute “meet and greet” visits for BC residents.