Exploring the World of Functional Integrative Medicine

doctor and patient discussing nutrition to illustrate integrative medicine
Medically Reviewed
February 26, 2024

In the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, functional medicine and integrative medicine have emerged as attractive approaches. They prioritize treating individuals as a whole, diving into the root causes of illnesses rather than merely treating symptoms.

But is there a difference between the two approaches? What conditions do they treat, and how do they differ from conventional Western medicine? And what exactly is functional integrative medicine?

Keep reading to understand these two paradigms’ main differences and synergistic relationships. We’ll delve into the principles of functional medicine and integrative medicine to shed light on their shared goals of optimizing health and wellbeing through a holistic approach. The reason? This route paves the way toward a more comprehensive and personalized approach to healthcare.

What is Integrative Medicine?

What is Functional Medicine?

How Do Functional Medicine and Integrative Medicine Work Together?

How Are Integrative and Functional Medicine Different from Conventional Medicine?

Choosing Your Approach to Healthcare


What is Integrative Medicine?

woman discussing integrative medicine with patient

Integrative medicine is a whole-body, patient-centered approach to healthcare that emphasizes the importance of treating the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – rather than just focusing on isolated symptoms or diseases. That means there’s no one-size-fits-all or band-aid solutions with this perspective. Integrative medicine aims to treat the patient as a whole – so integrative medicine services are customized to individual needs.

But what is integrative medicine services in this context? Let’s look at this next.

What is Integrated Medicine Services?

“Integrative medicine services” encompasses treatments that blend conventional medical approaches with evidence-based complementary therapies and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities. These services address your body’s specific and holistic needs, promoting health and wellness while treating acute and chronic illness. Some standard integrative medicine services include:

  • Nutritional counseling.
  • Mind-body therapies to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve mental wellbeing. Examples include mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, biofeedback, deep breathing techniques, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Acupuncture.
  • Massage therapy.
  • Herbal medicine and supplements.
  • Physical medicine modalities, such as chiropractic care, osteopathic manipulation, and physical therapy.

So, in summary, integrative medicine seeks to treat you as a whole. From this perspective, anything that happens in your body, mind, and spirit is interconnected – and it affects your integrative health and can possibly trigger health conditions and chronic disease.

The 4 Pillars of Integrative Medicine

For this reason, the healing process in integrative medicine considers various factors that may contribute to your health, including lifestyle, environment, genetics, and emotional wellbeing. This is based on four pillars:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Stress management
  3. Regular exercise
  4. Sleep

Integrative medicine focuses on improving each of these pillars. This empowers you to take proactive steps toward integrated health and make informed decisions about treatment options.

acupuncture needles on a hand to illustrate integrative medicine ideas

Integration with Other Modalities and Therapies

These lifestyle interventions are often integrated with other healthcare modalities and complementary therapies. The aim is to create a personalized treatment plan to address your unique needs and treat some health issues like:

  • Chronic disease and chronic pain, like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and migraines.
  • Stress-related disorders, including anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
  • Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Metabolic conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
  • Cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.
  • Women’s health issues, including menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, and fertility concerns.
  • Cancer-related symptoms and side effects of cancer treatments.
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and neuropathy.

But how about functional medicine? Is functional medicine the same as integrative medicine? Let’s check it out now.

What is Functional Medicine?

group of women exercising to illustrate successful functional medicine

Integrative and functional medicine overlap in many aspects, including the principle that your body is a whole, and any imbalance or dysfunction in one area will disrupt other imbalances and dysfunctions that may turn into diseases and chronic conditions. From this perspective, functional medicine focuses deeply on the underlying causes of health conditions. That’s why it’s also known as root-cause medicine.

The functional medicine approach focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying causes of illnesses, considering your body as an interconnected network of systems, where imbalances in one system can impact multiple bodily systems and lead to various health issues. This means that, for functional medicine, one root cause can trigger multiple health conditions, and – conversely – one health condition can be influenced by several contributing factors.

Links Between Root Causes and Health Conditions in Functional Medicine

For example, chronic inflammation is considered a common root cause of many health problems, including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, metabolic syndrome, digestive issues, and neurological conditions.

Or, if you’re obese or depressed, these could be influenced by a combination of genetic predisposition, environmental factors, lifestyle habits, dietary patterns, vitamin D deficiency, stress levels, gut dysbiosis, and the list goes on. So, just like integrative medicine, functional medicine focuses on treating the causes of your discomfort rather than the discomfort itself.

By addressing root causes such as inflammation, hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, oxidative stress, gut dysbiosis, and lifestyle factors, functional medicine practitioners aim to restore balance within your body. They do this with treatments like hormone replacement therapy, nutritional guidance, and others tailored to your specific needs.

Fundamental Principles of Personalized Functional Medicine

This personalized and comprehensive approach allows for developing targeted interventions that address your body’s specific needs. It also supports your body’s natural healing mechanisms based on the following fundamental principles:

  • Individualized care
  • Systems biology approach
  • Addressing root causes
  • Promoting health and prevention
  • Integrative and evidence-based approaches

Using these principles, functional medicine aims to empower you to take an active role in your health while working collaboratively with practitioners to address the underlying cause of your conditions.

And now, if you’re wondering how a functional medicine doctor uncovers the underlying cause of a health condition, the answer lies in technology, evidence-based approaches, and advanced testing.

What Tests are Performed in Functional Medicine?

nurse taking blood from a patient for testing in functional medicine

Functional medicine uses a variety of specialized tests and assessments to help identify underlying imbalances, dysfunctions, and contributing factors to health conditions. These tests are often done to comprehensively understand your unique biochemical, physiological, and genetic makeup. The approach allows practitioners to develop personalized treatment plans tailored to your individual needs.

Some common tests and assessments performed in functional medicine include:

  • Comprehensive blood panels
  • Food sensitivity testing
  • Gut health assessments, such as comprehensive stool analysis
  • Nutritional testing, like the Metabolomix
  • Hormone testing, like the DUTCH test
  • Genetic testing
  • Comprehensive metabolic testing
  • Cardiovascular testing
  • Neurological testing, like the WAVi Brain Scan

These tests are often used in combination with thorough clinical evaluations and medical histories to provide a comprehensive understanding of your health status.

The tests may vary depending on your symptoms, health concerns, goals, and preferences. But they’re typically conducted in collaboration with qualified healthcare practitioners experienced in functional medicine.

Now, let’s explore the relationship between functional medicine vs. integrative medicine.

How Do Functional Medicine and Integrative Medicine Work Together?

Now that you have a general overview of integrative and functional medicine, let’s see how they can work together to promote positive health outcomes.

As mentioned, functional and integrative medicine share common principles and goals, making them complementary approaches to healthcare. While they have distinct methodologies, they can work synergistically to provide comprehensive and personalized patient care. This collaboration allows for a multidisciplinary approach to your health. By working together, functional and integrative medicine physicians can share insights, expertise, and resources to develop holistic treatment plans that address your unique concerns.

So, in summary, functional and integrative medicine may complement each other to provide you with holistic, personalized care that addresses the underlying root causes of your illness, promotes wellness, and supports optimal health. By combining their strengths and perspectives, functional and integrative medicine doctors can offer you a more comprehensive approach to healthcare. It’s one that empowers you to take an active role in your own health and wellbeing.

Now, let’s see how these approaches differ from a Western approach to medicine. What’s the relationship between integrative and functional medicine vs. conventional medicine?

How Are Integrative and Functional Medicine Different from Conventional Medicine?

young docotr communicating with an elderly patient about integrative and functional medicine

Patients who choose functional medicine and integrative medicine over conventional or internal medicine do so because they seek personalized care and want to avoid band-aid solutions for long-lasting health concerns.

Despite the invaluable contributions of conventional medicine for treating diseases, its traditional methods differ from functional medicine and integrative medicine in several key ways. These include their underlying philosophies and approaches to diagnosis and treatment:

Conventional medicine

Conventional medicine, also known as Western or allopathic medicine, is based on diagnosing and treating symptoms and diseases using traditional interventions. These include surgery and medication overload. Conventional medicine typically focuses on managing symptoms and treating acute health conditions rather than addressing underlying root causes.

Functional and integrative medicine

Functional and integrative medicine, on the other hand, takes a whole-body approach to healthcare, emphasizing the integration of conventional medical treatments with evidence-based complementary and alternative therapies, focusing on addressing the root causes of illnesses rather than just treating symptoms.

Patient-centered not provider-centered

Another significant difference between functional medicine vs. Western medicine is the emphasis on patient-centered care, where patients are encouraged to be proactive and participate in decisions about treatment options. In contrast, in Western medicine, the healthcare provider makes decisions, and patients are expected to simply follow medical recommendations.

Overall, Western medicine remains an essential component of healthcare. BUT – integrative and functional medicine offer alternative approaches that prioritize holistic, personalized care and aim to address the underlying cause of diseases.

So, how do you choose which approach works best for you?

How to Choose Your Approach to Healthcare

group of medics to illustrate discussing integrative and functional medicine versus traditional medicine

Choosing the approach that works best for you is personal and depends on many factors, including your health goals, preferences, beliefs, and individual needs. But we gathered some steps to help you determine which approach – functional medicine, integrative medicine, or Western medicine – is most suitable for you.

Assess Your Health Goals

Consider your health concerns and goals. Are you primarily focused on managing acute symptoms, preventing future illness, or optimizing your overall health and wellbeing? Understanding your priorities can help guide your decision-making process.

Research Different Approaches

Take the time to learn about the principles, philosophies, and treatment modalities of conventional medicine, integrative medicine, and functional medicine. Consider how each approach aligns with your values, beliefs, and preferences regarding healthcare.

Investigate Practical Issues

Try to answer all your questions before deciding on the best approach. Here are some things you can ask yourself: What is integrated health? What does an integrative medicine doctor do? What is a functional medicine doctor? How to find a functional medicine doctor? Is functional medicine covered by insurance?

Consult with Healthcare Providers

Schedule appointments with healthcare providers from different backgrounds and specialties to discuss your health concerns and treatment options. Ask questions about their approaches to care, treatment philosophies, and experience working with patients with similar conditions.

Consider Your Lifestyle and Preferences

Consider your lifestyle, preferences, and willingness to use different treatments and therapies. Are you open to incorporating lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, or mind-body practices into your routine? Understanding your preferences can help you choose an approach that feels comfortable and sustainable for you.

How to Find a Functional Medicine Doctor

Talk to friends, family members, or trusted healthcare professionals for recommendations and referrals to practitioners who specialize in the approach you’re interested in exploring. Personal referrals can provide valuable insights and help you find experienced and reputable practitioners.

Be Open-Minded and Flexible

Be willing to explore different approaches to healthcare. You may find that combining Western medicine, integrative medicine, and functional medicine offers the most comprehensive and personalized approach to addressing your health needs.

Evaluate Your Progress

Monitor your progress and evaluate how well your chosen approach works for you. Pay attention to changes in your symptoms, overall wellbeing, and quality of life. If necessary, be willing to adjust your treatment plan or explore alternative options to better meet your needs.

Ultimately, the best approach to healthcare is one that feels right for you, empowers you to take an active role in your own health and wellbeing, and helps you achieve your health goals.

Experience Total Wellness: Embrace Functional and Integrative Medicine with Nava Health

Are you ready to unlock healthy longevity? Discover the transformative power of functional medicine and integrative medicine at Nava Health. Our holistic approach combines cutting-edge science with personalized care, empowering you to achieve optimal health from the inside out.

Take the first step toward total wellness with Nava’s root-cause approach to your health. Explore the world of functional medicine and integrative medicine with our team of experts who are ready to uncover your healthiest version.

Contact us today to schedule your consultation with a functional medicine practitioner and start your journey to a healthier, happier you.

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A Medical Director, and one of the first physicians to join the Nava Health & Vitality Center, Dr. Douglas Lord has made significant contributions to our Center and its founding principles. Dr. Lord has helped develop and implement the Nava Method™—Nava’s proprietary approach to total body wellness. He has also been instrumental in liaising with other expert practitioners to successfully implement Nava’s range of therapies, treatments, and products.

Article Name
Exploring the World of Functional Integrative Medicine
Discover the power of functional medicine and integrative medicine using cutting-edge tools to solve root-cause issues for a healthier you.