Functional Medicine: Does this cure have substance?

Functional Medicine is an alternative treatment that involves customised lifestyle and diet plans. But is it a credible cure?

Functional Medicine: Does this cure have substance?

Do you have a headache, chronic condition or gastrointestinal pain that just won’t go away?

An alternative treatment called Functional Medicine claims to cure these stubborn ailments, without the acute-care approach that conventional medicine adopts.

Its “systems-orientated” methodology addresses a person’s physical condition as a whole, rather than tackling an isolated set of symptoms.

According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), what this means is that each person is assessed and cared for based on his/her unique physiological characteristics. This serves as an alternative to traditional, generic treatments that serve to remedy a specific illness or symptom.

Nonetheless, regardless of its benefits, one question still stands: Can Functional Medicine truly cure its patients?

Uncovering the roots of Functional Medicine

Functional Medicine was pioneered in 1991 by Dr Jeffery Bland, a former biochemistry professor and researcher, who has authored numerous publications on the topic of Integrative Medicine.

With the help of his wife Susan, he subsequently set up the IFM as a division of his nutritional supplement company, HealthComm. Apart from offering educational products (e.g text books, videos and audio recordings), the institution is also responsible for training and certifying Functional Medicine practitioners worldwide.

Customising your way to wellness

In line with its mission of providing personal care, Functional Medicine encourages practitioners to have close working relationships with their charges.

For this reason, consultations often begin with a private interview or meeting to help them better understand an individual’s mental and physical well-being.

This is used at Singapore-based nutritional consultancy Nutra Nourish, that has a Functional framework to help individuals find and sustain a healthy lifestyle.

“Before their first session, clients will be given a health and nutrition questionnaire to fill up,” says founder Menka Gupta.

“This is followed by a 60 to 90 minutes-long consultation, where more detailed questions will be asked to grasp a clearer picture of a client’s situation,” she explained.

These discussions usually touch upon a slew of wellness-related practices, ranging from detoxification to sports nutrition.

“Information gathered at these interview sessions are then utilised to generate tailored nutrition and lifestyle plans for our clients,” Ms Gupta added.

After possible underlying causes of health problems are identified, additional physical examinations, laboratory tests and supplements or detox treatments may be prescribed, according to IFM.

Does it work: What’s the verdict?

In spite of its meticulous approach to medical diagnosis, Functional Medicine has detractors that claim it is a marketing scheme for its heavy emphasis on health product use, and the ‘discussion seminar’ approach of training practitioners.

On the other hand, proponents of Functional Medicine truly believe that it is a viable alternative to conventional treatment.

“The idea is that there are people for it, and those who are against it,” stressed Ms Gupta.

“The Functional approach makes it easier to come up with a tailored plan that tackles any chronic issues that they may have,” she added.

Regardless, it is advisable for patients to seek professional help in the face of a persistent medical disorder or condition. Alternative treatments should not be a patient’s first line of defence, as far as critical illnesses are concerned.

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