What Is Functional Medicine?

Man holding an animated version of the human body

One of the least known medical visits deals with functional medicine, which includes a comprehensive evaluation of an individual’s health and history. Functional medicine’s goal is to help you, as the patient, identify the things that have triggered your symptoms and improve your overall wellness. By identifying our genomic makeup, combined with the environment we live in, we are better able to determine the causes of our illnesses and correctly treat them. Find out what a functional medicine visit entails and how you can prepare for it with these tips!


Conventional Medicine

When patients go to the doctor’s office, most will be treated with conventional medicine, which is the treatment of human disease with surgery and medication. During these appointments, you visit with the doctor, they diagnose you with an illness or injury, a recommendation for surgery or medication is prescribed and off you go. In fact, the U.S. legally requires that diseases be treated with conventional medicine, and as such, only certified medical doctors can prescribe medications or perform surgery to fix these ailments. Some conventional medicine examples include removing a cancerous tumor, prescribing medication for high cholesterol and performing heart surgery. Alternative medicine is another name that people associate with doctors, but it varies from conventional medicine. Alternative medicine refers to the array of treatments used as an alternative to conventional medicine, such as special diets, herbs or the use of vitamin supplements, that do not use surgery or medications as treatment. Treatments like acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathic medicine are all forms of alternative medicine that patients can opt in for that are considered more “natural”.


Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a form of alternative medicine that many medical doctors and providers are including in their practices to provide a comprehensive evaluation of antecedents, triggers and mediators of disease. Rather than treating a medical issue, such as chronic pain, with drugs and surgery, functional medicine focuses on making changes in diet, sleep patterns, nutrition, stress management and hormonal support to provide natural healing for the body. Another aspect of functional medicine is its focus on our individual genomic makeup and environmental influences that affect overall health and wellness. By diving deep into your personal, family, social and medical history, cause-and-effect relationships can be determined between your current health and past experiences. If needed, pharmaceuticals may be prescribed but only as a last resort.


To determine why a patient is feeling the way they do or identify potential illnesses, many physicians use the GOTOIT framework. GOTOIT stands for “Gather, Organize, Tell, Order, Initiate, Track” to develop a relationship with their patients, identify unhealthy patterns and create a specialized treatment plan. This process includes gathering a patient’s history, identify lifestyle factors, provide diet and nutrition tips/goals and monitor progress after a period of time. At the end of this process, providers will hopefully be able to have a clearer answer behind your symptoms and provide a step-by-step plan for you to improve your health.


What’s Included In A Functional Medicine PackageMedical doctors and staff discussing a patient chart

For patients, the functional medicine package includes four visits with the physician, which add up to about 5.5 hours of one-on-one time. Your first visit will be with the functional medicine provider for 2 hours, in which a physical exam is performed and your health history timeline is created. Later appointments will include one, 60-minute visit with an RN nutritionist to discuss your diet and provide lifestyle support, and another one-hour visit to review your GUT (gastrointestinal) health. Lastly, you’ll have a 90-minute visit to begin hormonal support that is designed to treat the root causes of your symptoms.


Throughout the four visits, aggressive screenings and lab work will be performed to check your cardiovascular health, lipid levels and inflammatory markers. You’ll also be tested for food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies, plus hormone panels will be taken to check your adrenal, thyroid and sex health. Levels of your vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and antioxidants will be evaluated, and breath, urine and stool samples will be collected to monitor your gut health. The overall process is rigorous and extensive, so patients need to be committed to making significant lifestyle changes whenever they begin functional medicine treatments.


Schedule An Appointment Today!

At Balanced Well-Being Healthcare, Dr. Alessi and her staff use functional medicine to treat their patients’ pain and disease to better understand what is going on, why it’s happening and how to fix it. You will go through the aforementioned steps during your functional medicine visits to truly get to the root of your problems. If you’re ready to commit to lifestyle changes that will improve your health, call our office today at (970) 631-8286 to schedule a consultation!