Blog: Functional Medicine, a different approach to patient care

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.

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  1. ROsalie Guttman July 29, 2016 at 12:21 pm · Reply

    This is a good blog. The approach makes so much sense — better than ingesting toxic medications and suffering from side effects.

  2. How many functional medicine doctors are there in the Advocate Medical umbrella???? How can we search for them???

  3. If they were seeing someone else, they might be started on an antidepressant after a 45 minute clinical contact. They can expect to take that antidepressant for the rest of their lives because few prescribers are experienced in medication discontinuation. On Thursday, Kathy continues her interview with Dr. Brogan, sharing more information about the role of diet on the childbearing woman’s mental health and how the functional medicine approach can help to improve perinatal mental health and provide help to those who need it. – SM

  4. Vital Life Wellness October 29, 2021 at 5:00 am · Reply

    It is a pleasure worth reading this article as it provides us information on practicing compassionate medicine.It is one of the best options to read from here in detail. I would go for this site even in future when needed. Great blog indeed, will visit again future to read more!!

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About the Author

Dr. Marc Fine
Dr. Marc Fine

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.