A Comparison of the Approaches of Functional and Conventional Medicine

Below is an example of a how conventional medicine would treat a case compared to how we would treat it with a functional medicine approach. The patient is a 56 year old male, struggling with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heartburn, joint pain, and type 2 diabetes.

Conventional Medicine Approach Functional Medicine Approach
Prescribe blood-pressure medication: have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, back pain, and headaches Evaluate and address stress, gut health, nutrient status, toxin exposures, sleep quality. High blood pressure is often the result of nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, and chronically elevated stress hormones.
Prescribe cholesterol medication: increases risk of type 2 diabetes and joint pain; only decreases risk for heart-attack by less than 2% Evaluate and address gut health, phase 1 and 2 Detox pathways in the liver, nutrient deficiencies, toxic burden, stress hormones, and meds that may be contributing to endocrine dysfunction. Suboptimal thyroid function is often a contributor to elevated cholesterol levels, as is inflammation, gut dysbiosis, and high toxic burdens.
Prescribe diabetes medication although insulin: can actually worsen type 2 diabetes in the long run Evaluate and address gut health, detox pathways, nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, sleep quality, adrenal function and stress hormones, toxin exposures, etc. Diabetes is an inflammatory condition with many lifestyle and environmental mediators.
Suggest non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for joint pain such as ibuprofen: can damage the all-important gut lining and lead to bleeding ulcers, heart attacks, and strokes Evaluate and address gut health and GI function, adrenal function, hormonal balance, etc.  Encourage anti-inflammatory foods and supplementation. Consider possible food intolerances and have patient complete an Elimination and Reintroduction Diet.
Prescribe acid blockers for heartburn: this inhibits the stomach’s ability to make acid needed to digest food and resist harmful bacteria; long-term use is linked to osteoporosis and nutritional deficiencies Monitor and maintain improvements: if heartburn does not clear up after a whole foods diet, integrate digestive enzymes, strategic probiotics, bone broth and other gut rejuvenation therapies. Consider having patient complete an Elimination and Reintroduction Diet. Eliminate alcohol and caffeine, address stress and sleep.
Taking all of these drugs together can cause adverse interactions or toxicities such as confusion, which can be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s in older patients By avoiding the “pill for an ill” approach, our patients can avoid the long-term effects these medications eventually cause such as neuropathy, depression, heart disease, and thyroid disorders. Treating the root causes of symptoms and conditions can help patients avoid using medications that have many side effects.

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