Optimal Health Guide Part 1: Functional Medicine Vs Conventional Modern Medicine


In this 4 part series, we are going to empower you with everything you need to know to get the best healthcare possible to optimize your health and those of your loved ones.

  1. Filling in the gaps in healthcare from our modern medical practices: the next evolution of medicine: Functional medicine.

  2. How to navigate and get the lab testing you need to truly understand and optimize your health

  3. The foundational practices you can do without ever seeing a specialist to maximize your health potential

  4. How to find the help you need when the foundational practices aren’t enough to allow you to THRIVE.

Whatever health issues that may be affecting you or your loved ones, you should know that there are significant gaps between modern conventional medical practices and our actual understanding and ability to address disease and promote wellness.

The practice known as Functional medicine (FM) is filling these gaps.

FM is a modern branch of medicine that has evolved from practitioners and patients who recognize that health comes from far more than just trying to control disease and symptoms with medications.

Functional medicine evolved as practitioners and patients sought to connect the divide between research and medical practice. In-depth analysis into research on areas of how the body works, including physiology, biochemistry, genetics, epigenetics and immunology. FM seeks to elucidate the mechanisms that lead to issues like inflammation, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, pain and autoimmunity, not just medicate their symptoms.

What are the differences between current medical practices and Functional medicine?


A great example of how ‘diagnosis’ in conventional medicine aren’t actually diagnostic is irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. This diagnosis not only doesn’t tell you why your bowel may be “irritable,” it also is very non-specific and can refer to a wide range of bowel or digestive issues, from constipation to diarrhea to reflux to bloating. It has no actual laboratory diagnostic criteria but is a diagnosis of exclusion of other causes or conditions. Treatment is meds to try and control each of these individual symptoms.

Conditions are also named after the person who first recognized a collection of symptoms and/or lab criteria and categorized it as a disease, for example: Crohn’s disease (Dr Burril Bernard Crohn’s) or popularized its awareness (ALS: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Charcot’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Other examples include:

  • Arthritis: “joint-inflammation”

  • Multiple sclerosis: many sclerotic plaques, in the brain

  • PCOS: polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can include any number of other issues.

  • Hypothyroid: low thyroid functioning

  • Cardiovascular disease: disease of the heart/cardiovascular system

  • Diabetes mellitus: “Siphon-honey/sweet.” In reference to the high glucose in urine and copious urine output characteristic of those with DM.

  • Migraines: from the Latin “hemicrania” or “pain in one half of the head.”

  • Menopause: from the Greek word for “month” + -pause.

  • And so on...

Any 100 people with the same conventional modern medical diagnosis may have different underlying causes.

This is epitomized by autoimmune diseases. Any same autoimmune disease has many different patterns of expression, severity, recurrence and response to medications. This obviously tells us that different things are going on in each person’s body. For example, Susan B and John H may both have a diagnosis of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) ulcerative colitis. But susan has diarrhea and bloody stools, while John H has constipation and lots of mucus. Susan responds to Humira and avoiding trigger foods, while John requires additional meds and has more significant periods of flares that don’t seem to correlate with what he eats.

Same disease name, different expressions, different underlying drivers of the disease.

We need to be asking: Why?

  • Why is my bowel “irritable?” (IBS)

  • Why do my joints have inflammation? (Arthritis)

  • Why is my head signalling there is pain? (Migraines)

  • Why do my ovaries have cysts, am infertile, or have insulin resistance? (PCOS)

  • Why is my bowel inflamed? (IBD) It didn’t used to be….

In Functional medicine, we recognize that most ‘diseases’ are symptoms. Various expressions and places of inflammation, fatigue, PMS, migraines, are signs of the underlying dysfunction of key systems in the body. These interacting systems include

When we understand and support these systems, the symptoms or “disease” either go away or become far more manageable.

Have questions? Need professional guidance? Want any particular topics or health conditions discussed? Let me know! Email me at: Tressa@InHealthRVA.com

Tressa Breindel