Let’s say, you have type-2 diabetes. You consult Doctor A. He does not investigate into what is causing the high blood sugar levels in your body. He recommends a general change in your diet plan (which he recommends to all his type-2 diabetes patients) and prescribes insulin medication to control your blood sugar levels.
Then you visit Doctor B. He is of the opinion that the insulin production by the pancreas is not the problem. The problem is insulin resistance. He suggests some further tests in order to identify the underlying dysfunction that is causing the insulin resistance. Once the cause of the imbalance is identified, he recommends a personalized plan that will reverse the disease for life and ensure that you are not dependent on medicines.
Which of the two doctors are you more likely to go with?
Well, that shouldn’t be a tough call, considering that anyone would want to live a disease-free life without having to ‘manage’ or ‘live with it’. But in case you’re still wondering as to why Doctor A and Doctor B have different approaches to treating the same disease, let’s spell it out for you.
Doctor A is a traditional allopathic doctor who practices a ‘conventional medicine approach.’ On the other hand, Doctor B is a functional medicine practitioner who uses a ‘functional medicine approach’ to curing diseases.
We are keen to understand the disease we suffer from and the treatment protocols involved, but some of us might have an aversion to medical jargon that makes things sound more complicated than they actually are. So let’s cut the clutter and understand in layman’s terms what is the two methods really are, and the difference between the conventional vs functional medicine.
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Conventional Medicine Approach:
Conventional medicine mainly treats diseases by identifying symptoms and using drugs to treat them. Consequently, it begins only after symptoms or disease manifest. This is a reactive approach.
In most cases, the treatment is restricted to the part of the body exhibiting the symptoms. Thus, this approach treats each body system separately and divides the body into a dozen or more unconnected systems. Furthermore, the treatment is generalized, which means that all patients suffering from the same condition are treated in the same way.
Health and wellness are not addressed in conventional medicine from a long-term perspective. The belief that most chronic diseases are ‘incurable’ and must be managed for life only keeps the symptoms in check.
The conventional medical system dominates the world at the moment. The biggest argument against it, however, is that while it treats traumas, emergency situations, and immediate surgical cases with high priority, it does not treat lifestyle-related illnesses with the same severity. In response to this lacuna, we are witnessing a rapid rise in lifestyle diseases across the globe, which is prompting an increase in people using functional medicine to combat these conditions.
Functional Medicine Approach:
According to the functional medicine approach, healing is a natural ability of every cell in the body, provided that all the circumstances are optimum. It is therefore important to maintain those conditions at their best. It is therefore a preventive approach to medicine, in which treatment is started before a disease manifests itself.
Functional medicine treatment approaches don’t just address symptoms, but also look for underlying dysfunctions such as dysbiosis, inflammation, infections, deficiencies, toxicities, etc. The treatment manages the dysfunctional process rather than treating the disease or the affected organ separately. Patients’ lifestyles and habits, as well as their lab test results, are taken into account by practitioners when determining the underlying causes of diseases. As opposed to conventional medicine, functional medicine specialist treats the underlying causes of disease. Gradually, the dysfunction returns to normality, reducing the symptoms and restoring health of the patient.
Functional medicine aims to restore an individual’s overall health and vitality. In contrast, conventional medicine struggles to admit the connection between chronic illness and the mind, body, and spirit.
The functional medicine practitioner treats the patient as a co-equal partner in attaining holistic wellness. This approach puts the patient first, as opposed to the conventional approach, which places the doctor and protocol first.
Some of the salient differences between conventional and functional medicine are enlisted as follows:
If you take a moment to consider the obvious differences between functional medicine and conventional medicine, it is obvious that the function medicine approach has several advantages over conventional medicine, especially when it comes to lifestyle diseases.