Paradigm Shift from Standard Medicine to Functional Medicine There are different terms being bantered about that describe what Dr. Michael Carter has been focusing on for many years. He addresses the many factors associated with the development of disease processes and what can be done to forestall and prevent those processes. This is compared to the commonly accepted “sick” medicine approach that focuses on treating patients after they get sick instead of preventing disease. Perhaps the most appropriate term to describe Dr. Carter’s approach is “functional” medicine. He addresses such often overlooked factors as hormonal imbalance, dietary deficiencies, stress tolerance, environmental involvement and appropriate exercise. Many more doctors are beginning to incorporate this kind of thinking as it more appropriately addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. Focus is diverted from the typical sick medicine model to a more health-centered approach as functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just a disease process with an isolated set of symptoms. Dr. Carter spends time with his patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions between all the factors that can influence long-term health and contribute to the development of chronic diseases. Accordingly, functional medicine supports an individual’s long term health that, in turn, can add quality years to their life. Why do we need Functional Medicine? Some say that our medical system is the best in the world, but is it truly the best it can be? If one sincerely believes that that is no room to improve, then that person is simply ignorant, in denial or dangerously arrogant. The problems of the traditional sick model of medicine need to be solved and functional medicine is a positive step in the right direction. We are witnessing an explosion of many disease such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, auto-immune diseases and mental conditions. Why is this happening particularly when we are supposed to have the best medical model in the world. It is because our focus is not on health, but on disease and what new expensive drug can be prescribed to treat the symptoms. The standard and commonly accepted system of medicine is focused on immediate care that includes the diagnosis and treatment of injuries or diseases that are of recent onset that require urgent care, such as pneumonia or a fractures. Using the sick model approach, physicians are trained to provide treatment, such as drugs or surgery, that are designed to treat the immediate problem or symptom. The immediate care sick model approach to medicine lacks the proper tools for preventing the development of life changing diseases or conditions. In the majority cases, because of the focus of training, most doctors do not take into account the unique factors such as environmental variants, unhealthy diet, inappropriate or lack of exercise, hormonal starvation and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the dramatic increase in chronic diseases. The gap between research and the way doctors practice is very wide—as long as 50 years—particularly in the area of promoting health and preventing disease. Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess or prevent the underlying causes of most diseases or conditions. Instead, it is far more expedient to write a prescription for the latest and greatest drug to treat symptoms and to avoid strategies that include awareness of environmental toxins, hormonal balancing, nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these diseases and conditions in their patients.
How is Functional Medicine Different? Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions. As opposed to traditional sick oriented medicine, a functional medicine approach include: Patient-centered care as opposed to disease symptom care. The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care, promoting health as a common sense way of improving the quality of one’s life thereby adding years to their life. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the doctor involves the patient in the health achieving process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.
An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. Functional medicine doctors consider the “big picture” by incorporating the patient’s history, habits, diet, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to disease. Integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine is a combination of traditional Western medical practices with what is sometimes referred to as “alternative” or “integrative” medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, hormonal balancing, avoidance of harmful environmental agents and exercise; use of appropriate laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of drugs, hormones and/or supplements, proper dietary combinations (beyond the pressure of mainstream advertising and traditional thinking), detoxification programs, and stress-management techniques.