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What Is The Difference Between Functional Medicine And Integrative Medicine?

Functional Medicine

If you are looking for a healthcare approach that is patient-focused and emphasizes the whole individual, you might have come across two options: functional medicine and integrative medicine. According to recent studies, over 30% of adults and roughly 12% of children in America used health care approaches outside the common medical practices. The question then becomes, what exactly is functional medicine and integrative medicine? What sets them apart? How can understanding these styles of treatment benefit your health?

Understanding Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a medical practice or treatments that focus on optimal functioning of the body and its organs. It uses a systems-oriented approach, focusing on identifying and understanding the underlying or root cause of a disease. This style of medicine views every individual as unique, with each having different factors influencing their health. Therefore, it seeks to provide personalized care that addresses the individual-specific needs and health goals.

The principles of functional medicine are based on the integration of patient history, information from various sources such as physical examination and laboratory tests. It also takes into account genetic science, systems biology, and understanding how environmental and lifestyle factors influence the development and progression of disease. The goal is not just to treat the symptoms but also understand and address the root cause of the disease.

Practices in Functional Medicine

In functional medicine, healthcare providers use a variety of conventional and innovative testing tools to identify the root cause of an individual’s health issues. Once diagnostic tests have been done, practitioners will then use treatments such as diet, exercise, stress management techniques and sleep plans among others. In some cases, they may also use prescription drugs or supplements. They might also recommend therapies such as massage or acupuncture.

Understanding Integrative Medicine

Like functional medicine, integrative medicine too focuses on the whole person and not just the disease. However, integrative medicine combines both standard (conventional) medicine with alternative therapies to achieve a holistic healing process. The primary goal of integrative medicine is not only to treat illness but also to enhance overall health, prevent onset of sudden symptoms or diseases, and continue an enhanced quality of life.

One factor that distinguishes integrative medicine is its focus on the partnership between the patient and the healthcare provider. It promotes a patient-centered care model where patients are actively involved in their healing process. This cooperation allows the patient to take control of their own well-being, promoting healthier lifestyle changes.

Practices in Integrative Medicine

In integrative medicine, healthcare providers use a variety of treatment modalities depending on the patient’s individual needs. These modalities can be classified as either conventional therapies, such as medications and surgeries, or complementary therapies, such as botanical medicines, nutritional therapy, acupuncture, massage, yoga and mindfulness practices. The approach focuses on treating the whole person, including mind, body and spirit.

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Functional Medicine vs Integrative Medicine: Key Differences

While both functional medicine and integrative medicine share a focus on customized, individual care that looks beyond symptoms to address root causes of illness or disease, they are not exactly the same. There are key differences which primarily lie in their approach and methodology.

Functional medicine aims at understanding the origins of chronic diseases by taking a deep dive into the patient’s history and lifestyle. It then tailors interventions to address these issues, focusing more on systems biology and how core imbalances are affecting the patient’s health.

On the other hand, integrative medicine concentrates on a more holistic approach by combining both conventional and complementary treatments that go beyond just treating symptoms but also aim at enhancing overall health and preventive care. The focus is not only on the physical aspect of health, but also emotional, social, spiritual, environmental and lifestyle influences.


In conclusion, both functional medicine and integrative medicine offer more personalized care than conventional medicine. Functional medicine focuses on understanding the root cause of disease and uses a systems-oriented approach to address it. Integrative medicine, on the other hand, combines standard medical treatments with alternative therapies to achieve holistic health. They are different but not mutually exclusive. They both aim at a comprehensive approach to patient care which is individual-focused, science-based and in many ways can be used together to achieve optimal health. Understanding these two styles of treatment can help you make an informed decision about your health.

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