What is Functional Medicine?
Posted February 5, 2019 by Kristy Russell
Written by Doctor Aparna Hegde
What is it I do that is different to the usual GP? Why should you come to see a functional medicine practitioner?
Let me start by giving you some background.
The impetus for me getting involved in Functional or Integrative Medicine was a combination of treating a number of complex patients that were not being helped by conventional medicine, wanting to have a more holistic approach and getting older with a few health issues myself. Don’t get me wrong, being a functional medicine practitioner does not preclude being a conventional GP. Having a sound background in conventional medicine is fundamental and has served me well. I am always brought back to the reality of this with my experience in finding an adrenal tumour in a patient who had been diagnosed with “adrenal fatigue” by the naturopath. Incidentally this tumour was also missed by the endocrinologist involved. The patient had been convinced there was something wrong and required someone to listen, go back to basics and order the appropriate investigation. In this case an abdominal ultrasound picked up the tumour.
My definition of Functional Medicine is that it is an approach that caters for the individual and aims to restore balance to the way the body functions. This includes addressing any physical deficiencies, nutrient imbalances, issues with detoxification, hormonal irregularities, mental stressors and restoring a sense of purpose. The aim is just not to treat the current health problems but address the causes to prevent any that may occur in the future due to genetic, environmental and physiological traits. If you don’t look, you don’t find. If you don’t find, you can’t treat and all you can do is manage symptoms.
I have done additional training in functional medicine by completing the AustralAsian Certification in Anti-ageing Medicine (ACCAM) through A5M. This is an association of functional medicine practitioners that provide further training independent to companies promoting products and kickbacks common in this field. To be honest, I was blown away by how much there was in the training content that I had not been taught at university and it was all evidence based! I found there actually is a great deal of evidence for the use of dietary modifications, supplements, adaptogenic herbs, bio-identical hormones, intravenous chelation and nutritional therapy, pro-biotics and basing treatment on the results of investigations such as genetic testing. This approach is often dismissed as “whacko” by those who have not reviewed the literature or had further training and I fully admit I was one of those critics prior to starting in this field.
I have found instituting the principles of functional medicine has been very beneficial to my practice and I get better patient outcomes. I always start with the basics of eliciting a thorough history and examination, order appropriate investigations and institute changes that would benefit everyone first before thinking about expensive investigations and supplements. This includes ensuring a nourishing diet, establishing routine, regular daily exercise, maintaining good dental hygiene, reducing harmful environmental exposures, stress management interventions and gaining restful sleep.
Additional investigations, treatments and supplements are often required for the management of complicated conditions and I rely upon the close relationships I have with other service providers such as compounding chemists, naturopaths, nurses, physiotherapists, exercise physiotherapists and psychologists to optimise patient care.
I continue to be an active member of A5M and have ongoing involvement in delivering their training and workshops. If you feel you would benefit from a functional medicine approach in either addressing your current health issues or to maximise your quality of life and longevity, please book in with me at Azure Medical for a long appointment. These appointments will not bulk billed, however you will find our rates are very reasonable when compared with other functional medicine practices.