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Working with a functional practitioner

Functional medicine practitioners promote wellness by focusing on the fundamental underlying factors that influence every patient’s experience of health and disease.

Why Do We Need Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set
of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend more time with their
patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions between
environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors that influence health.

The functional medicine practitioner will consider multiple factors, including:

• Environmental inputs: The air you breathe and the water you drink, the
diet you eat, the quality of the food available to you, your level of physical
activity, and toxic exposures or traumas you have experienced affect your
health and well-being.
• Mind-body connections: Psychological, spiritual, and social factors can all
have a profound influence on your health. Considering these areas helps the
functional medicine practitioner see your health in the context of you as a
whole person, not just your physical symptoms.
• Genetic makeup: Although individual genes may make you more
susceptible to some diseases, your DNA is not an unchanging blueprint for
your life. Emerging research shows that your genes may be influenced by
your environment, as well as your experiences, attitudes, and beliefs. That
means it is possible to change the way genes are activated and expressed.
By understanding the genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors unique
to each person, a functional medicine practitioner can identify which bodily
processes are affected. Some occur at the cellular level and involve how cells
function, repair, and maintain themselves. Others are related to how your
body processes and uses nutrients.


These processes include:

• How your body rids itself of toxins
• Regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters (nerve messengers)
• Immune system function
Functional medicine practitioners promote wellness by focusing on the
fundamental underlying factors that influence every patient’s experience
of health and disease.Version 3© 2022 The Institute for Functional Medicine
• Inflammatory responses
• Digestion and absorption of nutrients and the health of the digestive tract
• Structural integrity
• Psychological and spiritual balance
• How you produce energy
Any of these bodily processes can become imbalanced or disrupted, which
can cause symptoms and accelerate disease.

A Comprehensive Approach to Treatment

The good news is that most imbalances can be addressed to restore or
substantially improve a person’s health.
• Prevention is key. Nearly every complex, chronic disease is preceded by
long-term disturbances in function that can be identified relatively early on
and effectively managed.
• Changing how the systems function can have a major impact on health.
The functional medicine practitioner examines a wide array of available
interventions and customizes a treatment plan, including those with the
most impact on your health.
• Functional medicine expands the clinician’s tool kit. Treatments may
include combinations of drugs, botanical medicines, nutritional supplements,
therapeutic diets, or detoxification programs. They may also include
counseling on lifestyle, exercise, or stress-management techniques.
• The patient becomes a partner. As a patient, you become an active partner
with your functional medicine practitioner. Such a partnership allows you to
be in charge of improving your health and changing the outcome of disease.

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