functional medicine ? .. huh ?

I was sitting in my Medicinal Food Science lecture at the beginning of the week when my lecturer used the phrase ‘functional medicine’. It made me think ‘isn’t all medicine functional medicine?’.

So here I was, puzzled thinking that there is this new branch of conventional allopathic medicine – called functional medicine – which had new methods, ideologies, philosophies and practice. She continued on, and then showed us this TEDMED talk with Dr. Mark Hyman as the speaker.

After watching, I realised I resonated with a lot of what Dr. Hyman had said but then wondered ‘hang on a sec .. what is the difference in approach of that of a Naturopathic physician and that of a Functional Medicine Practitioner?’ .. because it all sounded the same to me.

So I reflected..

Both take a patient-centred focus and engage the client in an encouraging, holistic therapeutic relationship; both are dedicated to achieving wellness and vitality through unravelling the cause of chronic and acute disease states; both address the client as whole entity rather than just systematically tackling symptoms; both investigate client history, lifestyle, emotional and environmental factors; both understand that every client is unique and individual and understand that treatment and health restoration is not a ‘one size fits all’ concept .. but functional medicine practitioners claim that ‘their’ fresh modernist medicine:

offers a powerful new operating system and clinical model for assessment, treatment, and prevention of chronic disease. Functional Medicine incorporates the latest in genetic science, systems biology, and understanding of how environmental and lifestyle factors influence the emergence and progression of disease. Functional Medicine enables physicians and other health professionals to practice proactive, predictive, personalised medicine and empowers patients to take an active role in their own health” (IFM, 2017).


This methodology isn’t new. It’s what naturopathic medicine is. That’s what naturopathic foundations and philosophies are built on. Rather than coming from a reductionist perspective, we take a holistic approach. As naturopaths, we encompass the human bodies innate and natural healing ability, with traditional, natural, non-invasive curative techniques, reinforced with an empowering, therapeutic, person-centred relationship. Our medicine is ‘both an art and a science‘ (ANPA, 2015). Naturopathic medicine is a really beautiful mix of old and new – using traditional therapies and philosophies, but applying it in a way which promotes and encourages safe and restorative healing backed up by evidence based medicine, clinical and scientific data, along with the utilization of the latest technological equipment in pathological diagnostic testing and systems.

So, the more I think and the more I wonder… Is the phrase ‘funtional medicine’ just a re-label for naturopathy? Has the word naturopathy been tarnished by false media attention, and therefore needed renaming? Is functional medicine just a new buzzword for natural therapies?

I would love to know what your thoughts are! Let me know below in the comments section.. let’s have a discussion.


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