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A Medical Doctor Explains Why You Should Try Functional Medicine

Also called "personalized medicine," functional medicine treats a patient's condition from a holistic perspective!

Have you been experiencing recurring pain and discomfort—like a headache that won’t go away, high blood pressure, or just being overly anxious about everything around you? Have you already tried taking prescriptions to alleviate the discomfort, but even these seem to not do the trick?

If your answers to these two questions are yes, then you might want to try a new and revolutionary medical approach called Functional Medicine! (Read: Traditional Filipino Healthcare Practices: How Effective Are They?)

True enough, the human body is amazingly resilient. It can heal itself over time, fight viruses on its own, and block certain diseases. However, the body can also become too exhausted and not able to function to its full potential. So what do you do when this happens? The initial response is to take prescription drugs—but this too has adverse effects in the long run.

With functional medicine, doctors use a personalized approach by looking into the patient’s unique biology and biochemistry to assess what they should avoid, reverse, or improve on. Sometimes, this could mean taking out the patient’s medicines to better address the root cause of the illness. (Read: 4 Key Facts to Remember When Buying Health Supplements)

Curious? My Pope consults Dr. Ronnah Marie M. Ong, a functional medicine doctor at LifeScience Center for Health and Wellness, on what this relatively new medical approach is all about.

Photos courtesy of subject and Inspire Malibu

What is functional medicine?

Functional medicine is an approach that looks into the root causes of the disease. It involves what’s called a systems-biology perspective. Simply put, it is like gathering individual pieces of a puzzle and putting all of them together to give one a picture of his or her health. (Read: How do Erwan, Piolo, and Jasmine stay well in mind and body?)

How is it different from conventional medicine? 

Functional medicine is not really a deviation from conventional practice—rather, it adds value to it. For example, we may have patients with certain lifestyle diseases. Functional medicine involves—on top of prescribing the appropriate medications to manage their symptoms—looking into why they developed the disease and working with them to address those issues.

Can you explain why it is dubbed as ‘personalized medicine?’

It is “personalized medicine” in the sense that we try to collect data from different aspects of the body. This means that we look into other aspects apart from physical—such as emotional, mental, and spiritual—that contribute to a person’s well being. 

In addition, a person’s own life experiences, habits, and exposures can also help create a unique environment that sets him or her up for either disease or good health. (Read: Five habits you didn’t know can heal you)

Photos by Ann Danilina, Blubel, and Mariana Medvedeva on Unsplash

How will it help people with critical illnesses? 

Urgent medical needs of those with critical illnesses must be attended to first. As long as a patient is stable, it is possible to work on their lifestyle factors and also address underlying issues such as nutritional imbalances, hidden chronic infections, or exposure to and build-up of toxins. (Read: How do you eat healthy while in quarantine? We asked a nutritionist-dietician!) Working on these can change the body’s trajectory toward disease and maximize its capacity to move towards healing and repair. 

Who are qualified or advised to take functional medicine?

There is a growing number of training opportunities in functional medicine, and the leading organization would be the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), which is based in the US. (Read: We Asked Med Practitioners: What Motivated You to Become a Doctor?)

At our clinic in LifeScience Center for Health and Wellness, we have a care team of doctors, nurses, nutritionists, health coaches, and therapists who have been trained in the functional medicine approach. If you want to gain a better understanding of your body, know the root cause of your symptoms, and just learn more about how your body works, you can check out our clinic or also visit the IFM website for a list of certified FM doctors in your region. 

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