Blog: Functional Medicine, a different approach to patient care
Functional Medicine is a different approach to patient care. It originally surfaced in the 1800s, and Dr. William Osler, the father of modern medicine, articulated nicely its core principle when he said, “It is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease has a patient.”
Since Functional Medicine relies on a systems biology, the focus is on how a disease process has come about, looking upstream at the patient’s genetics, habits, environmental and drug exposures – modifying these first – and using drugs only if and when needed. A systems biology approach recognizes that organs and organ systems are all interrelated, and as a disease process begins, if one organ or organ system is affected, chances are, other organs and organ systems will be affected. Therefore, in order to heal, all systems must be balanced.
For example, in the field of gastroenterology, a disease like irritable bowel syndrome, which accounts for about 25 percent of all referrals to gastroenterologists, would be treated with things like diet, fish oil, probiotics, fiber, stress reduction, sleep therapy and digestive enzymes before medications are started.
The physician would first develop a timeline of the patient’s disease process and explain where the antecedents, triggers and mediators of the disease fit in, so the patient understands their disease, how it started, progressed and how the treatment approach will influence these factors. The physician-patient interaction becomes richer this way. The patient gains more knowledge about their care and is more actively engaged in the healing process.
This type of therapeutic program is ideal for the treatment of chronic disease, which currently afflicts 50 percent of the U.S. population. It is designed to help the body heal on its own and achieve body balance with limited side effects from medication and a greater active role by the patient in their care.
Dr. Marc Fine is a gastroenterologist who practices functional medicine at the Center for Digestive Health at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Fine is the only gastroenterologist who practices functional medicine at the Center for Digestive Health at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.