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Dr. Corinne: Functional Medicine; What is It and How it Differs From Conventional Medicine

Dr. Corinne Weaver : May 3, 2019

It's important to note that functional medicine does not reject conventional medicine, but uses it as a foundation on which to add new dimensions in the evaluation, management, and prevention of chronic disease.

Have you ever heard the term functional medicine? Today I want to share how it differs from conventional medicine and how it can play a role in your overall health. (Image: Pixabay)

First off, would you consider yourself to be "healthy?"

Defining health may seem simple. However, what it means to have good health has changed over the years. When asked to define health, some refer to the way a person looks or acts, yet others take into account someone's state of wellbeing.

In the past, health was defined as someone free from disease or illness. This would make sense when the leading cause of death was an infectious disease caused by bacteria and viruses. However, medical advances unraveled the mysteries of contagious diseases, the improvement of working and living conditions, and the invention of powerful medications led to the eradication of many infectious diseases.

Health today is closely linked to how we live, as the leading causes of death are related to lifestyle factors. This distinction has led to wellness being the primary factor of health. Wellness can be defined as a positive, whole-health approach that includes physical, social, intellectual, and emotional wellbeing.

This distinction becomes crucial as we delve into the difference between conventional and functional medicine.

Lifestyle-related diseases often have a long latency period, making them difficult to detect until a condition is in an advanced stage. The good news is non-communicable diseases are often preventable through better lifestyle choices.

In many ways, functional medicine is similar to conventional medicine. They are both practiced by licensed medical professionals; both are evidence-based, employ advanced diagnostic tests, and may use prescription medications and or nutritional supplementation.

Where the two styles of medicine differ is in the guiding philosophy. Conventional medicine is well equipped to correlate symptoms with an illness which is ideal for addressing acute and urgent medical conditions such as infectious diseases, broken bones, and physical trauma. However, the leading causes of death are chronic conditions that develop over a long period of time.

This is where functional medicine comes into play. While conventional medicine is focused on symptoms and treatment with the goal of turning symptoms off, functional medicine addresses illnesses by identifying and addressing the underlying cause.

Key differences

-Functional medicine is health-orientated; Conventional is disease-oriented
-Functional is patient-centered; Conventional is doctor-centered
-Functional is holistic; Conventional is specialized
-Functional focuses on prevention; Conventional focuses on disease detection

It's important to note that functional medicine does not reject conventional medicine, but uses it as a foundation on which to add new dimensions in the evaluation, management, and prevention of chronic disease.

Functional medicine offers a personalized and integrative approach to healthcare. The process involves prevention, management, and understanding the root causes of complex chronic disease.

Because of the dramatic shift from infectious to non-communicable disease, functional medicine is needed to address chronic lifestyle-related illness. With functional medicine, healing the patient replaces treating the patient.

The foundation of functional medicine is based on three main pillars of healthcare.

Patient-centered care is the practice of caring for patients, and their families, in ways that are meaningful and valuable to the individual patient. This involves creating a client-doctor partnership for creating an individualized care plan.

Functional medicine utilizes the latest evidence in medical research and clinical expertise. The complex web of genetics, medical history, physiology, and lifestyle create an "inside-out" approach to identify any physiological imbalances.

Functional medicine often combines traditional Western medical practices with other types of therapeutic approaches from around the world. The integration of multiple disciplines emphasizes:

-prevention of disease through nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle,
-use of the latest laboratory testing and diagnostic techniques, and
-Access to combinations of medications, botanicals, supplements, therapeutic diets, exercise plans, rehabilitation plans, detoxification programs, and stress management techniques.

The most important element of the functional medicine approach is the prevention of disease. As the adage goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

The goal is to help the body to function optimally with the intent to support self- healing. Rebalancing the body once a disease has progressed is more involved and may require medical intervention which is why prevention is preferred.

The tools utilized by functional medicine reach far beyond pharmaceuticals and surgery. Detoxification programs and stress management techniques are often used and tailored to what the individual patient needs.

The partnership created between physician and patient allows the patient to become an active participant in the healing process, providing the patient to be in control of improving their health and achieving optimal wellness.

Systemic disease is a term used to describe conditions that affect the entire body, rather than a single organ or body part, opposed to an infection that affects only one body part or organ is called a localized infection.

Many diseases can be considered systemic. Some common systemic illnesses include:

Chronic fatigue syndrome
Diabetes mellitus
High cholesterol Hypertension

A vital aspect of addressing disease and illness is first identifying the root cause. While there can be any number of factors causing an illness, a few common root causes of many health issues include:

-improper sleeping
-poor diet
-immune imbalances
-negative thought patterns
-lack of regular exercise
-digestive problems
-toxin exposure

Functional medicine is specially equipped to address many different diseases and health issues such as:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Heart Disease
High Blood Pressure
Autoimmune Disease
Chronic Pain

Do you suffer from any of these common health concerns?

When you visit a functional medicine practitioner, you can expect to spend a lot more time with them than you would with a conventional provider. You can also expect to do most of the talking. A functional practitioner is trained to listen to patients while gathering a detailed personal and family history, the circumstances around your first symptoms, and your lifestyle habits and health behaviors.

The reason for such a detailed account of your health is to uncover the underlying causes of your health problems and determine which types of physical examination and laboratory testing are best suited for your individual needs.

Topics your practitioner may discuss with you--include:

-Simple lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and better sleep
-Testing for hormone imbalances or nutritional deficiencies
-Assessing family medical history and using FM as a means of prevention
-Strengthening the body's normal healing abilities rather than narrowly attacking symptoms or disease
-Eating whole foods instead of unhealthy processed foods

When addressing specific conditions, functional medicine taps into a number of core body systems to encourage natural healing.

The first step is often to optimize nutrition. The right balance and quality of macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) can kick-start the body's natural healing process.

It's true. We are what we eat. A diet high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods can cause the immune system to be overactive. A diet rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients from all the colorful pigments in plant foods, on the other hand, support our wellbeing.

Through functional medicine, you will work with your practitioner to create a diet that works for your lifestyle and provides your body with the fuel and protection it needs.

Hormonal balance is another core body system addressed through functional medicine. Imbalances can occur for any number of reasons including medication side effects, diabetes, stress, thyroid disorders, and more.

Hormonal imbalances can occur in both men and women and are responsible for a number of adverse health conditions. Symptoms can range from mild to severe including weight gain, fatigue, depression, and physical pain to name a few.

Depending on the type of hormonal imbalance in question, functional medicine utilizes a number of tests to confirm an imbalance including blood tests, hair tests, urine analysis, saliva assessment, biopsy, MRI, X-ray, thermography, thyroid scan, and more.

Inflammation throughout the body often accompanies a chronic disease. While inflammation plays a vital role in protecting the body from foreign invaders or abnormal cells, and overactive inflammatory response can cause illness.

Functional medicine addresses inflammation by correcting nutrient deficiencies and hormonal imbalances.

Our bodies are fueled by the foods we eat, which is why addressing issues of the digestive system is something that functional medicine takes seriously.

Digesting, absorbing, and assimilating all the food and nutrients we eat is critical for health. A breakdown anywhere in this process creates illness. Many conditions stem from a condition known as leaky gut syndrome.

The balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut plays a tremendous role in our health. By properly balancing the gut bacteria, many symptoms can be lessened or dissipate altogether.

The body is intelligently designed to eliminate toxins; however, today's highly processed diet and chemical filled environment can overwhelm the detox organs.

Functional medicine addresses issues with toxic burden and enhances the body's natural detoxification processes. A straightforward technique for aiding detoxification may be to drink more pure water. Many herbal remedies can also be utilized to promote optimal functioning of the liver and other detox organs.

Because functional medicine addresses more than just physical well-being, reducing stress is also an essential aspect of disease prevention.

Any number of stress reduction techniques can be utilized depending on what will fit into your personal lifestyle. I usually suggest incorporating a daily breathing exercise along with writing in a gratitude journal to help reduce stress.

Between the pressures of work, social, and home life, stress in an inevitable aspect of life. Finding natural outlets for reducing stress are recognized by functional health practitioners as an essential aspect of wellness. This is so crucial for your health.

While conventional medicine has been the methodology for treatment for decades, it may not be enough to address systemic conditions. Because chronic disease diagnosis has been on the rise, many people are looking to functional medicine to treat conditions systematically.

Functional medicine has been referred to as the medical care of the future because it takes conventional medicine to the next level by incorporating more holistic ideas and methods that actually work.

When all is said and done, functional medicine recognizes the need for a life in balance with connection, community, love, support, and a sense of empowerment as essential elements for achieving optimal health.

If you are struggling with your health, seek out a functional medicine doctor today.

I am deeply passionate about helping people become the very best versions of themselves. If you need any additional information, help, or questions answered, please email me at

If you want more healthy tips you can subscribe to my YouTube channel here Like and comment on my channel so I will know what tips and topics you want to know about. I am forming a community of people who want to take action in their own health with my social media channels and I want to know what health topics you want to hear. 

I hope my column speaks to you and you can wake up each morning with a purpose. What I do every day is a calling, and I give God the glory for allowing His gifts to work through me. I do believe in miracles, because I get to see them every day! Subscribe for free to Breaking Christian News here

Keep Breathing,
Dr. Corinne Weaver 



The Morrison Center 

Southwest Functional Medicine

Dr. Corinne Weaver is a compassionate upper cervical chiropractor, educator, motivational speaker, mother of three, and internationally bestselling author. In 2004, she founded the Upper Cervical Wellness Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Over the last 13 years, she has helped thousands of clients restore their brain to-body function. When she was 10 years old, she lost her own health as the result of a bike accident that led to having asthma and allergy issues that she thought she would always have to endure. Then, after her first upper cervical adjustment at age 21, her health began to improve thanks to upper cervical care and natural herbal remedies. This enabled her to create a drug-free wellness lifestyle for herself and her family, and she also enthusiastically discovered her calling to help children heal naturally.

Dr. Weaver was named one of Charlotte Magazine's "Top Doctors" in 2016 and is now a number-one internationally bestselling author to two books: Learning How to Breathe and No More Meds. 

Upper Cervical Wellness Center is known for finding the root cause of health concerns through lifestyle changes, diagnostic testing, nutraceutical supplementation, and correction of subluxation (as opposed to just medicating the symptoms). The practice offers cutting-edge technological care at its state-of-the-art facility, including laser-aligned upper cervical X-rays, bioimpedance analysis (measures body composition), digital thermography (locates thermal abnormalities characterized by skin inflammation), and complete nutritional blood analysis, which is focused on disease prevention

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