Can You Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Using Functional Medicine?
22 April 2020

Functional Medicine vs Integrative Medicine: What Are the Differences?

There is a lot of overlap between functional medicine and integrative medicine. In this article, we'll explain ways the two differ.

In a world where new medicines, treatments, and philosophies are springing into the mainstream all of the time, it's tough to know where one type of medicine ends and the next begins.

If you plan to take on an approach or use a particular kind of medicine, though, it's important to know the distinctions that make each one unique. Different approaches are used in specific ways, and having a nebulous idea of your treatments can prevent them from working.

We're going to discuss the difference between functional medicine vs integrative medicine in this article. We'll go into detail about each, explaining to you their root philosophies as well as the differences between them.

Functional Medicine vs Integrative Medicine

Functional and integrative medicine are two approaches that often get mixed up in people's minds. Because both are relatively modern, it's easy for people to use the two terms synonymously.

This is also due, in part, to the fact that there is a little bit of overlap between the two practices. That said, the approaches are distinct from one another and do take different routes to health and wellbeing.

We'll start with integrative medicine, as it is the term that most people are familiar with.

Understanding Integrative Medicine

As the name suggests, integrative medicine uses a combination of traditional treatments and holistic ones. The scientific and holistic are integrated in the way that the practitioner and patient see best fit.

Where a strictly traditional medical approach looks at specific illnesses, their causes, and their treatments, an integrative approach looks at the broader picture to gain a deeper understanding of the issue.

Looking at the whole individual allows practitioners to understand which factors in their lives might be contributing to specific illnesses. The illness, then, is only a symptom of the deeper issue, which is then approached with more nuanced practices.

In addition to medicine, patients are instructed to try methods like yoga, acupuncture, meditation, and more to address their underlying physical and psychological issues.

It's important to note that while research is improving, some of these methods aren't scientifically proven to be effective. This in no way means that they aren't effective, but it speaks to the skeptical attitudes that some people have about integrative medicine.

Physical, Social, Psychological, Spiritual

The term "health," in it's truest sense, refers to a state of complete wellbeing. That does not mean that the person isn't experiencing an illness, it means that they are thriving in a number of areas. Namely, that person is physically, socially, psychologically, and spiritually well.

Integrative and functional medicine are conceived with this definition of health in mind. The body is just one crucial piece of the whole human.

Spiritual sickness can contribute to physical disease, and vice versa. When you take a person out of their social environment they can suffer psychologically. Conversely, a psychological disorder can contribute to isolation.

These are very broad strokes, but the idea is that all of these areas of life can be isolated and identified as reasons for one sickness or another. Causes can be jumbled, difficult to identify, and esoteric, or they can be hyper-specific.

As a result of such an all-encompassing approach, unique and alternative practices are used often. While there may not always be volumes of research on each approach, evidence-based thinking tells us that the treatments are effective.

Functional Medicine

The spirit and philosophy of functional medicine have a lot of overlap with those of integrative medicine.

Primarily, they share the idea that you must treat the individual and not a specific illness. In almost every case, an illness is the fruit of a web of issues or circumstances in a person's life. If a person had their life in perfect order, with no disturbances or unhealthy environmental factors, they would likely be a great deal healthier.

The reality of cause and effect is taken into deep consideration in functional medicine. There's a large focus on genetic and environmental testing to identify the absolute root cause of an issue.

As human understanding of genomics, epigenetics, and nutrition expand, so does our understanding of the nature of chronic illnesses. The more we dig, the more we know about relationships between seemingly unrelated illnesses, diseases, states of mind, and behaviors.

Functional medicine aims to understand the specific functions of those ailments. When practitioners identify deep-rooted genetic causes of symptoms, true healing can occur.

A plant can't grow if there's a powerful toxin in the soil. Similarly, human beings have a hard time flourishing when there's something preventing them at the most fundamental level.

Illnesses with Multiple Causes

Identifying the root causes of illnesses often leads to new insights that reveal connections to other illnesses.

Let's say that a person is suffering from depression and looking for a diagnosis. Analysis might show that there are a few reasons that a person is suffering, including inflammation.

Inflammation can be a contributing factor to depression, but understanding a person's inflammation as a symptom can cue practitioners into other illnesses that exist as symptoms of that inflammation.

For example, diabetes, cancer, and depression are all possible outcomes of prolonged inflammation.

The Advantage of Functional Medicine

The value of functional medicine comes from the fact that it uses thinking and ideologies that other forms do not. Further, functional medicine incorporates medical knowledge on top of alternative wisdom.

If you're at the end of your rope looking for an answer to why you're in pain, depressed, or afflicted with some ailment, it may be wise to get an assessment through the lens of functional medicine.

You may find that your illness is a symptom of a deeper issue and that your issue could be resolved with the use of a few behavioral changes, medicine, or spiritual practice that targets your root causes.

Want to Learn More?

The functional medicine vs integrative medicine comparison could go on and on. They are two distinct practices, although there is a good deal of overlap in their philosophy.

If you think you could benefit from functional medicine or want to learn more about it, explore our site for the information you need to move forward.