The Health | November , 2020
| Alternative Therapy |
Growing interest in functional and integrative medicine
Incorporating safe , evidence-based alternative therapies into standard care for better patient health is gaining acceptance
Modern allopathic medicine
primarily relies on diagnosing illness and the use of pharmaceutical medications and / or surgery to suppress or treat symptoms of disease in a part of the body . It is not a whole-person approach that focuses on finding and correcting the cause of the symptoms except in the case of infectious diseases and injuries .
The focus on parts , disease and symptoms has earned the modern medical system the title of disease care , rather than health care .
Physicians are recognizing that standard allopathic practice cannot provide effective medical solutions especially in chronic diseases . A more holistic approach to treating patients is required and not just focusing on disease treatment and suppressing symptoms .
The term functional medicine was coined about 30 years ago by Jeffrey Bland , PhD to describe a specialized niche within the realm of alternative medicine . It embraces much of the philosophy of Integrative medicine but also employs a systems-oriented medical approach that works to identify and understand the underlying or root causes of a disease .
Functional and integrative medicine are gaining popularity in the 21st century . Their emphasis is on the cause rather than an immediate diagnosis and a one-shoe-fits-all treatment ; that there is a pill for every ill .
Why functional and integrative medicine ?
Integrative medicine looks at the how and the what but functional medicine also questions the why . Research into the patient ’ s background takes priority and it includes an analysis of their genetic makeup .
Functional medicine and integrative medicine practice overlap in several areas , but there are a few factors that make each discipline somewhat unique . Integrative medicine has a larger meaning and mission , focusing on health and healing rather than disease and treatment . It views patients as whole people with minds , bodies and spirits and includes these dimensions into diagnosis and treatment .
This discipline takes into account the personalization of healthcare , as each patient care plan is distinct and unique . The relationship between patient and practitioner effectively becomes a partnership ; every aspect of a patient ’ s medical history is reviewed in detail .
Integrative medicine addresses different aspects of a patient ’ s life such as physical , mental , social , emotional , and environmental influences . Imbalances in one or more of these areas may lead to
BY DR BENJAMIN GEORGE
Functional and integrative medicine are gaining popularity in the 21st century . Their emphasis is on the cause rather than an immediate diagnosis and a oneshoe-fits-all treatment ; that there is a pill for every ill .” health problems . By approaching a person ’ s health issues through this lens , integrative medicine heals the whole body rather than just symptoms associated with a single health problem .
Integrative medicine practitioners focus on a whole person , and selectively incorporate elements of complementary and alternative medicine into comprehensive treatment plans alongside with the conventional / modern methods of diagnosis and treatment for more better patient outcomes . Treatments may include such modalities as acupuncture , yoga , massage , detoxification therapies , nutritional therapy ( supplements , herbal & naturopathic medicines ), and regenerative medicine .
The Integrative approach also focuses on the nutritional and exercise habits of the patient to curb lifestyle related diseases . Patients and doctors work together to maintain health by paying attention to lifestyle factors such as diet , exercise , quality of rest and sleep , and the nature of relationships .
Functional medicine practitioners delve deep into the patient ’ s history and biochemistry to discover why a particular patient is ill . They recognize and understand that every individual is different – from genetics to biochemical makeup . Because of this , functional medicine has a personalized approach for each patient – with both diagnostics and treatment .
The standard mainstream medical care is the allopathic ( western ) care that is practiced by health professionals who hold a medical degree from a recognized medical college / or university . Generally , the norm is to frown on medical doctors who treat patients with therapies that are not in the form of medication or surgery . It is considered illegal to practice other than conventional allopathic medicine in some countries .
Complementary medicine therapies are considered non-standard forms of treatments but acceptable to some degree . e . g . acupuncture , Ayurveda , osteopathy , energy healing , homeopathy , massage etc .
Alternative medicine includes a whole spectrum of treatment that is practiced by non-medical doctors and include treatments like special diets ( nutrition ) for cancers instead of chemotherapy etc . This includes the traditional methods of treatment .
Integrative and functional medicine incorporates a new breed of medical doctors who practice allopathic medicine but also include acceptable CAM ( Complementary and Alternative Medicine ) that are generally evidence-based treatments .
In Malaysia , various organisations are being developed to bring together practitioners from within these groups and to recognize a medically trained doctor with an interest in functional and integrative medicine .
The Malaysian Association for Advancement of Functional & Interdisciplinary Medicine ( MAAFIM ) is one such registered organisation which encompasses out-of-box thinking healthcare professionals who are interested to incorporate safe , evidencebased alternative therapies into standard care for better patient health outcomes .
Scope for functional and integrative medicine
With a lot of influence from various races and cultures – Chinese , Indian , Malay etc – the spectrum of alternative treatments is wide ranging . Many of these treatment modalities cannot be in the realm of the allopathic ( Western ) trained doctors but as more and more research is being conducted , evidence-based treatments are becoming acceptable . Hence , there is a need to incorporate them into mainstream medicine which entails a learning process .
There is an inherent barrier to acceptance of non-allopathic treatments . It falls on functional and integrative medicine proponents to expedite the research , educate the pure allopathic doctors and the public .
This means relearning the biochemical and pathological pathways , understanding that toxins like mercury and aluminum have detrimental effects on our body organs . It means incorporating new methodologies of investigation , understanding intricate of role of minerals , vitamins , antioxidants , fungus , bacteria , viruses etc .
Healthcare is undergoing drastic changes in the 21st century . Conventional medicine can no longer ignore that a holistic approach is required in patient healthcare . Practitioners who embrace the functional and integrative medicine paradigms will be at the forefront of healthcare in the 21st century . — The Health
Dr Benjamin George is Honorary Secretary of MAAFIM