The whole is greater than the sum of its parts (what exactly is “functional medicine”?)

The body is an amazing symphony – string, brass, woodwinds, and percussion – masterfully combined. The harmony and integration of these diverse musical instruments into one whole make it miraculous.

The concept of the body as a cohesive integrated system, as an interconnected ecology defines the functional medicine perspective and dictates the way we treat and heal.

Traditional medicine sees the patient as discrete parts. As I shared in my book “The Whole Brain,” I observe flaws in traditional medicine. Back in medical school when all medical students needed to carve cadavers, it was easy to see the body as separate parts if you are cutting away the heart from the lungs, the thyroid from the adrenals. Medical students, then, choose their specialty based on this training and decide to be a cardiologist, pulmonologist, gastroenterologist, etc. Each of these specialties has their own set of pharmaceuticals, protocols, and approaches.

If you as a patient comes in with symptoms that are a cross between specialties or systems, traditional medicine doesn’t know what to do with you.

It is easier to say the patient is crazy than to believe that there is something wrong with the way doctors are viewing the body. Doctors only know their component, which means that for the most part, traditional medicine treats symptoms and not the entire system.

Without looking for underlying causes, a person with a GI problem is given a pill – with adverse side-effects. The physician is not asking why this is person presenting these symptoms. Digging (much) deeper, as we do in functional medicine, we find the root cause. For example, if that same patient presents themselves with GI problems the first thing we do is ask why that problem is there in the first place. What is the root cause of this person’s distress? If we do not identify the root cause, then we are not healing.

My intent is not to cast aspersion; that is just what traditional medicine practitioners were taught. But now’s the time to gain a new perspective. One of the goals of functional medicine is to teach people to look at their health with new eyes and get off the symptom train. You are not a bunch of symptoms. Throw out those old ideas. The paradigm shift is gaining speed. Functional medicine is making inroads where traditional medicine absolutely failed. (See my article on Non-Thyroidal Illness Syndrome (NTIS) for more detailed information.) Even dreaded diseases like dementia can be reversed. When we dig past what traditional doctors are trained to see, we are making huge leaps beyond medicine of the past.

Fortunately for those of us who have made it our life mission to cure through functional medicine modalities, the phrase “alternative medicine’ is less in vogue. Why is this so important? The word alternative has the connotation of marginal and has been interpreted as “less than.” Common comments were “Why would you see an alternative doctor when there are so many ‘regular’ doctors you can see?” This phrase created a lack of faith in people who could benefit greatly from what functional medicine has to offer. Fortunately, the vernacular has changed to reflect a change in acceptance of a newer and improved medical model.

Functional medicine represents science at its most advanced. Our testing is proven, cutting-edge medical technology that moves us far ahead of the medicine of the past. We can actually improve underlying cellular function and create a state of wellness where organs and systems work together to produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Once you know this, the whole trajectory of your life can change. Remember, your body is the symphony and when the elements work together it is as if magic has happened and time has reversed itself. You feel renewed.

I invite you to contact us at The Kellman Center for Functional and Integrative Medicine. We look forward to guiding you back to health.

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