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Sep 17, 2018

What is Functional Medicine and How are Practitioners Trained?

Functional medicine is a systems biology-based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. In theory, each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual's illness. Functional medicine has its roots in Naturopathy. Jeffery Bland, the founder of Metagenics was on the board of Bastyr University when he created the functional medicine courses. He wanted to train M.D.s, nutritionist, and other practitioners to be more like naturopathic doctors and treat by getting to the cause of a disease and using natural therapies. Thus, many of the functional medicine courses were developed by naturopathic doctors.

I have practiced functional medicine for the past twenty-one years. Recently more practitioners are claiming that they do functional medicine. Unfortunately, this can mean they took one class or a few weekend classes as anyone can state they are a functional medicine practitioner without even taking a class. Many of the less well-trained functional medicine practitioners do a lot of lab testing (see the article above on labs) and do not take a thorough history to determine the cause of the patient's health problem. This is not how functional medicine works. If one does not take the time to do a comprehensive history and physical exam (up to 1 1/2 hour) you will never get to the cause. Many new functional medicine providers put everyone on the same supplements and order a lot of unnecessary lab tests.

Since the functional medicine label is now so loosely used, be cautious of this term. Ask about the practitioner’s training in detail. If the practitioner is not a doctor, determine if they have the education and training to diagnose disease. It is important to know who you are going to.