As the awareness of Functional Medicine grows, many individuals are turning to functional medicine practitioners to look after their health instead of visiting their regular GPs.
With this shift in demand towards Functional Medicine or other “alternative” therapies many practitioners (including functional medicine practitioners) are claiming to be better than conventional doctors.
But is this true?
Differences In Appointments
It’s easy to see where people’s frustrations lie in going to see their doctors; it’s virtually impossible to get an appointment, especially sooner rather than later. When you do get an appointment you only have a very limited amount of time to see the doctor. As such the doctor doesn’t have time to thoroughly investigate your history. But more frustratingly most doctors seem to only treat you by giving you medications and don’t empower you to take control of your own health.
When you compare that to a functional medicine practitioner, they will often spend around an hour with you listening to your problems, looking into your whole history right up to your childhood and even your parents history. They will then offer you guidance and advice about lifestyle, nutrition, supplementation to empower you to improve your health rather than solely prescribe medication or generic advice.
So at a brief glance functional medicine is an attractive and tempting option. But this certainly doesn’t make the practitioner or the therapy any better than conventional medicine. There are other things that need to be considered before you make conclusions.
It Depends On The Patient
Conventional doctors knows all of the stuff functional medicine is claiming to be unique at; getting to the root causes of the problems and treating the patient as a whole. They just don’t have the time to go through everything with their patients. Not only that but patients don’t always want to make the changes that are needed.
It’s also worth considering that many of these patients may also be too far along a disease’s progression for a nutritional or lifestyle approach to make much difference and therefore medications could be the only thing that will stop a patient becoming worse.
Functional medicine is an incredible system which really empowers the patient as much as it does the practitioner. But it also only appeals to a small percentage of the population. These people are often very passionate about improving their own health. Quite often they have been left feeling let down and frustrated that their GP hasn’t been able to help them. And it’s those people who will speak highly of functional medicine; because they have finally felt listened to and these people will generally be willing to make the necessary changes.
That leaves the rest of the population still seeing their GP’s. These people may or may not need long term help. For those who do however, many will simply not be willing to put in the effort needed to improve their own health.
This situation in contrast with those who seek functional medicine practitioners appears to make functional medicine practitioners more successful in treating chronic disease compared to conventional doctors. However we must be mindful that some people will want to change their situation and they will seek guidance to do so, whereas others will be content living the same way and taking medication.
Functional Medicine Runs More Tests
Functional medicine has become popular and known for the incredibly thorough tests that can be run. Firstly the results for these tests are visually impressive. They are colourful and easy to interpret. These tests allow you to test for things that your doctor may never be able to run in their practices. But are these tests really worth spending the money on? In many cases these tests get us no further to uncovering the answers. They either confirm or deny the practitioner’s hypothesis. But does that mean it’s right?
Compare those tests to the ones your GP might run, which are basic and boring to look at. Again you can see where the appeal is. But you can actually deduce a lot from the basic blood tests if you look into them deep enough.
Unfortunately again this comes down to the time available to the GP.
Is There A Difference In Risk?
Then there’s also the potential risks that come with functional medicine.
Generally speaking functional medicine is incredibly safe; there are no prescriptions of pharmaceutical medications that are likely to cause side effects for a start. But it is possible that many functional medicine practitioners will believe they can solve people’s medical issues completely naturally and be unwilling to refer back to the doctor when their abilities are not suitable.
Hopefully this is not the case but as functional medicine practitioners we have to be mindful that there are certain situations where we simply cannot do enough and a medical intervention is the most appropriate next step.
Therefore perhaps the solution should not be a Doctor vs. Functional Medicine scenario but instead there should be an opportunity for both professions to work alongside each other.
- Functional medicine practitioners are not doctors and should be working alongside a patient’s GP rather than against them.
- Doctors do understand that many diseases are caused by a patient’s dietary and lifestyle choices but they don’t have the time with patients to go through everything in detail and oftentimes the patient is unwilling to make the appropriate changes themselves.
- Doctors generally only have basic nutritional knowledge and perhaps should recommend nutritionists if the patient wants further help.
- Functional medicine practitioners are a great resource that could potentially complement the GPs and working together could create fantastic results.
- Functional medicine practitioners can significantly improve someone’s health but there is a cost involved and also the practitioners should be aware when to refer back to the patient’s GP.
If you have decided that you want to take your health seriously and you are interested in Functional Medicine then you should book a free 15-30 minute consultation to discuss how functional medicine can help you.