Home Medical

What is the difference between a functional medicine doctor and an integrative medicine doctor?

Two of the most rapidly growing forms of medical treatment include functional and integrative medicine, which intend to address your physical, emotional and mental needs. While functional medicine emphasizes developing personalized therapies tailored to treat underlying causes of disease, integrative medicine aims to understand the individual as a whole and applies several types of therapy to improve wellness. While both functional and integrative medicine are similar in nature, they have unique differences that can help you on your journey to healthier living.

The Functional Medicine Approach

Functional medicine typically uses individualized treatments to identify exactly what is causing your problem and implements special testing to examine whether imbalances formed before the illness or were a result of treating chronic illness. The functional medicine approach centers around the idea that one illness can have many causes or on the other hand, that one cause can have many problems. A lot of functional medicine providers use the GOTOIT framework to get to the source of a person’s issues. “GOTOIT” stands for Gather, Organize, Order, Initiate and Track, and each of these steps is followed by the doctor to develop rapport with their patients, identify unhealthy patterns, identify the source of their problem and develop individualized treatments and lifestyle changes to treat their condition. This approach is important in identifying imbalances before the onset of illness and restoring maximum function between all physiologic functions in the body.

How Integrative Medicine Differs

On the same hand as functional medicine, integrative medicine functions in a similar, although different, way as it aims to analyze the patient as a whole and not only as a disease. Integrative medicine views the individual as a combination of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs that are interdependent on each other and also impact the entire well-being of the individual. Because there are so many different parts to address, an Integrative Medicine Doctor will often utilize a combination of multiple treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, behavioral therapy, homeopathy and energy work to provide comprehensive treatment in all areas. Some of the basic principles of integrative medicine consist of:

  • The patient and physician are equal partners in the healing process
  • Natural and less invasive interventions are preferred
  • All aspects that affect one’s health are taken into consideration, including mind, body, spirit and community
  • Treatment is tailored to the patient’s unique needs, condition and situation
  • All healing sciences are incorporated to promote the body’s natural, inherent healing responses

A good way to describe integrative medicine is taking the conventional approach to health and combining it with less traditional therapies. Natural therapies are preferred over conventional techniques, however traditional therapies are still implemented when natural options have been exhausted/aren’ t working. Integrative medicine also promotes healthy behaviors and skills that will be needed for the individual as they follow through with the self-care strategies needed to remain healthy for the rest of their lives.

Picking Which Method Works Best For You

Now that we know how functional and integrative medicine differ, how do you determine which method is best for you? In all honesty, many doctors use a combination of the two when assessing a patient, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that both are required for optimal care, treatment and recovery. Both forms aim to provide the individual with less traditional options for treatment that prevent surgery and medication overload, and each can help your life differently.

If you’re looking for somebody who focuses just on lifestyle coaching, functional medicine is for you. If you like to use as many services in your healing process as you can, then integrative medicine will be your best option. Do your research on integrative and functional medicine and who offers those services in your area before scheduling an appointment. Educating yourself on the benefits of both approaches will help you make a better-informed decision and will prepare you for the recommendations and requirements that particular doctor will expect of you.