What is Integrative & Functional Medicine?

Well this certainly isn’t a new concept however this terminology may be new to you, so let’s break it down.


Integrative Medicine (IM), like the names suggests, allows for all qualified practitioner’s within the health care industry to interact and communicate about their treatment protocols and insights about the clients that they treat, as long as they have the clients consent.


The manner in which the specific practitioner uses their expertise will vary with each practitioner, although the holistic treatment of all of the body systems in a preventative health manner and by utilising different health care practitioners within the treatment of the individual is what sets this type of model apart from the rest.


Functional Medicine (FM) has the same definition as Integrative Medicine, and like the name suggests, it is functional – meaning that it works. This title is more popular in the USA and it is starting to gain traction within Australian, although the term “Integrative Medicine” is more commonly used in Australia.


The reasoning behind grouping all of the different health care models together under one simple title is to help simplify the healing approach and reduce confusion within the community. It allows for a structured approach to health care with reproducible outcome. The patient then understands that IM practitioners use a holistic & preventative approach to their treatment protocols. They are also willing to use different modalities to help their client regain their optimal health, rather than the practitioner only sticking to the original and sometimes limiting model that they have been trained in.


Why is it important?

Often health care practitioners work in isolation, even if they refer their client onto another practitioner for support. The lines of communication between the practitioners can be limited due to confidentiality issues and the lack of structure and protocol currently available for them to follow within the current health care model.


FM & IM allows for a more structured approach to the health care system and creates reproducible outcomes (meaning that it works & produces results when followed). This is important for not only an individual’s health but also their peace of mind.


How does it work?

The FM & IM model works on a 4 “P” infrastructure, which include;

  • Predictive
  • Preventative
  • Personalised
  • Participatory


I’m going to give you a quick look at how the Integrative and Functional medicine model works from a Naturopathic perspective. It’s about a holistic & preventative approach to health – looking firstly at the foundation of health, and then discovering the pathways to an individual’s health. We take a holistic look at the entire body system including the following spheres;

  • Physical
  • Mental / Emotional
  • Spiritual

As an overview, we identify an individual’s health timeline covering all of these areas of their body systems and then review the overall matrix that’s discovered. This allows a predictive look at where the client has been and where they may be headed on their health journey. It also allows us to use a preventative health care approach to help support and teach the client ways to make positive change towards their current situation.


Looking at the Physical sphere includes assessing aspects such as; Diet, lifestyle, exercise, environment, and time spent in nature, sleep habits / hygiene etc. as well as all system of the body such as digestive, immune, reproductive, nervous, endocrine, lymphatic etc. Basically we review all aspects that the individual participates in.


Looking at the Mental /Emotional sphere includes identifying things such as; Anxiety, depression, mood disorders or imbalances, mind chatter, excessive worrying etc. These aspects fall under the participatory and predictive approach especially when trauma, accidents, illness, injury, and stress are or have been present. Lifestyle choices and hereditary pre-dispositions will also affect this sphere.


When looking into the Spiritual sphere it can be harder to discern as it’s a personal insight into what the individual does and doesn’t allow into their life. For example you may ask yourself questions like; “why do I choose to do, say or act the way that I do?” Or “Is this relationship / job/ person / food / drink good for me?” What are your internal thought patterns like? Are they positive & reassuring or negative and pessimistic? Are you your own best support team or worst enemy? Again this is a combination of participatory and predicative outcomes and many factors influence them so they need to be identified and supported in a personalised way.


So with all of this in mind, what can Naturopaths do to help? Well there are a number of tricks and support tools we have up our sleeves that can include, and are not limited to any number of the following  are;

  • Function testing: A way of uncovering the reason why someone may have blockages to their optimal health & wellbeing. Some of the areas we may test are urinary pyrroles, gene variations, stool analysis, nutrient deficiencies and hormone imbalances. There are many more excellent functional medicine testing tools available depending on how the individual client is presenting. This form of testing contributes to the health care practitioner delivering the predictive and preventative components of the model.
  • Uncovering Nutrient deficiencies: This can have a major impact on how well the body system functions and some of the conditions associated with nutrient deficiencies can be tested with functional testing methods. Often the major treatment protocol is nutrient therapy on a micro and macro level and dosage and length of treatment will depend on the individuals personalised This also includes dietary review and advice, to ensure you are gaining the maximum amount of nutrients from your food, allowing food to be your medicine.
  • Resources and Homework: These are often given to the client so they can further investigate their own health issues, find solutions and provide support agents as an essential part of their participation towards their health goals. The participatory component of this model is crucial to feeling empowered and being at the centre of your own health and healing journey, which in turn helps to reduce fear and stress in your body. Participating actively to achieve your goals will help you to gauge your progress and help you to get to where you would like your health to be in a much faster, long term and holistic way.


Is it the future of Medicine?


I think so!


Join me to get your first-hand taste of Naturopathic IM with a one-on-one consultation if you live in the Byron Bay area and if you are somewhere else in this big, wide world then you can book in for a skype or phone consultation by clicking on the contact me page here.


Yours in wellness and progressive health



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