Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
Chronic disease is a food-and lifestyle-driven, environment- and genetics-influenced phenomenon. New approaches to management and prevention are required if we are to stem the rising tide of chronic disease, expected to outpace deaths from infectious disease twofold within the next decade. It can be conquered by integrating what we know about how the human body works with individualized, patient-centered, science-based care that addresses the causes of chronic disease, which are rooted in lifestyle choices, environmental exposures, and genetic influences. This is exactly what functional medicine does – it is indeed a medicine appropriate for the challenges of the 21st century.
The Hallmarks of a Functional Medicine
A patient seeing a functional medicine practitioner can expect to spend considerable time in the clinician’s office. Not only is critical information collected about factors that may have set the stage for (or may be contributing to) the present problems, but a comprehensive understanding of the patient’s habits of daily living, prior illnesses and traumas, environmental exposures, and genetic influences must be gained.
Patients may be asked to complete questionnaires on a variety of topics, such as toxic exposures at home and at work/school, a diet history, and characteristics of chronic and acute symptoms. Answers provide the clinician with in-depth health-related information that is difficult to gather by interview alone.