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The Functional Medicine Approach

Collaborative, holistic, healing-focused—this is the Functional Medicine approach to healthcare. If it sounds different than what you’ve experienced in the conventional setting as a patient or practitioner, that’s because it is. Purposely. Our current medical model can’t stop the chronic disease epidemic, the biggest health threat we face today; it was never designed to. But Functional Medicine can, precisely because its methodology addresses the root cause of chronic illness to foster real wellness in its patients, as well as its clinicians.

What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional Medicine is true healthcare. Conventional medicine is really disease management: its doctors focus on controlling illness once it has already occurred, usually by suppressing symptoms with prescription drugs.

Functional Medicine practitioners approach wellness from the other way around, implementing the very highest level of care. They work closely with patients to help them prevent disease from happening in the first place; if it does, they act as “health detectives,” investigating the whole body, then treating the underlying cause to reverse the diagnosis as completely as possible, often without surgery or medication. Ultimately, patients not only get well, but stay well. Learn more about how the Functional Medicine approach differs from conventional medicine.

Find Out More about Functional Medicine

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The Problem with the Conventional Approach to Care

Six in 10 U.S. adults have a chronic disease; four in 10 suffer from two or more. Why? Because conventional medicine itself is outdated and completely ineffective against today’s chronic illness epidemic.

It’s the wrong paradigm and the wrong delivery model. Conventional medicine evolved during a time when acute diseases—like infections that were relatively simple to cure—brought people to the doctor. Now, most patients visit the doctor with a full-blown chronic problem that’s difficult to treat. The strategies for reversing these conditions, and not just masking their symptoms? Diet and other lifestyle shifts. Yet the conventional system, with its 10-minute appointments, makes supporting patients through behavior change nearly impossible. Fortunately, the Functional Medicine approach prioritizes such support, for prevention and healing.

Why the Conventional Approach Won’t Solve Chronic Disease

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The Functional Approach

In Functional Medicine, practitioners search for the source of disease—the root cause—whether that disease is anxiety or Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps surprisingly, more often than not the underlying explanation isn’t genetic. Rather, it has to do with the exposome: the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, even our social connections and the environment we live in.

For example, a Functional Medicine practitioner might uncover a nutritional deficiency as the cause of your condition, which can be corrected with vitamins and dietary changes, or find that it’s due to stress and recommend mindfulness. Although clinicians don’t rule out medications or surgery when necessary, the Functional Medicine approach prescribes nutritional, lifestyle, and behavior modifications first.

See the Functional Medicine Approach in Action

Revolution Health Radio podcast, Chris Kresser

RHR: The Functional Medicine Approach to Anxiety

Anxiety impacts quality of life. Conventional medicine focuses on balancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Functional Medicine looks for the root cause. Here are the three pathologies that contribute to anxiety and how to correct them.
Revolution Health Radio podcast, Chris Kresser

RHR: A Functional Medicine Approach to PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that affects many women. Today I’m talking with Dr. Amy Nett about the Functional Medicine approach to PCOS and how it differs from the conventional model.
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The Functional Medicine Approach to High Cholesterol

The message that “cholesterol is bad” is out of date and doesn’t match the most recent scientific evidence. Today I discuss the six underlying causes of high cholesterol and how to address them.
Revolution Health Radio podcast, Chris Kresser

RHR: Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer’s from a Functional Perspective—with Dr. Dale Bredesen

In this episode, Dr. Bredesen of the Buck Institute explores Alzheimer's disease and how it can be prevented and treated with diet and lifestyle changes.
Revolution Health Radio podcast, Chris Kresser

Scaling Functional Medicine: The Berkeley Fire Department Wellness Program

While Functional Medicine is gaining in popularity and reputation, the costs associated with it are still prohibitive for many people. Tune in for a roundtable discussion on the Berkeley Fire Department pilot wellness program.
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RHR: The Functional Medicine Approach to ADHD, with Dr. Jim Greenblatt

When it comes to treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), we need a radically different approach—one that gets to its root cause, instead of relying solely on medication to suppress symptoms. In this episode of Revolution Health Radio, Dr. Jim Greenblatt and I discuss the benefits that the Functional Medicine approach provides to the way we understand and treat ADHD.
Find a Functional Medicine Provider
Search the Kresser Institute directory to find an ADAPT-trained Functional Medicine provider in your area. These practitioners have completed the year-long ADAPT Practitioner Training Program.
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