What Is the Difference Between Functional and Integrative Medicine?

This “blended” approach to health care emphasizes prevention.

This “blended” approach to health care emphasizes prevention.

Are your girlfriends all “my integrative medicine doc said” this or “my functional medicine practice recommended” that? And are you like, “hold up, your WHAT?”

Don’t worry, sometimes we all feel like everyone else is ahead of the wellness game. Here’s a quick catch-up to the well-party explaining what integrative and functional medicine are, how they are alike and how they differ.

How Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine are Alike

Both practices focus on a highly personalized approach, supporting the patient as a whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. “Integrative and functional doctors are all looking to provide effective solutions either a little bit or far outside the conventional options of just drugs and surgery,” says Dr. Dan Kalish, founder of Kalish Institute of Functional Medicine.

What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine aims to determine the underlying cause of disease by looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and chronic disease. lt uses a laboratory-based analysis to determine what is wrong.

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi, functional and integrative medicine physician at Revive Atlanta MD says, “Functional medicine gets to the root cause of the problem using different functional testing. Functional testing checks the biochemical pathway and tries to figure out what is really going on.”

As part of your general wellness visits or focused treatment, you may receive a detailed analysis of your genetic makeup; recommendations for nutrition, diet, and exercise; and be prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, hormone replacement therapy or stress-management techniques.

Dr. Kalish provides this example of a lab test that is specific to functional medicine: A functional test for heart health might detect low levels of antioxidants, whereas a conventional test for heart health might detect a blocked artery.

What Is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine incorporates holistic/alternative treatments with modern health care practices to promote wellbeing. Just like functional medicine, it takes into account the lifestyle habits, environmental factors and the mind, body and spirit connection of each individual.

“Integrative medicine uses other modalities of medicine, including Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, nutrition supplements and more,” Dr. Gandhi explains. These more natural, less invasive healing sciences help the body maintain wellness and heal, and work in conjunction with conventional medicine.

Dr. Kalish provides this example: “If someone had constant severe headaches, they might get a chiropractic adjustment, nutritional assessment for magnesium deficiencies and a food allergy test to see if diet was a trigger, and if they didn’t want to do an adjustment, they might end up with a massage for their tight neck muscles or acupuncture.”

Good to Know…

These kinds of practices are becoming more popular and available and can work as a great complement to conventional medicine. The not-so-fab thing about them is that they don’t always take your insurance, or your insurance may not cover certain treatments, making them pricier alternatives to seeing your GP.

Hopefully this clarifies things for you. Still have a question about functional or integrative medicine? Post below or send me a note. Do you see a functional or integrative medicine physician? Please share your experience, too!

Interested in incorporating some of these alternative wellness practices into your daily life? Find out more about Ayurveda in this blog about the top 10 Basic Food Principles of Ayurveda.


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