Imagine someone who gets up every morning and bangs their head against the wall to wake up. This sounds silly, but many of our behaviors are actually similarly self destructive. The individual notices after a time that there is continual bruising and pain. The patient decides to go to the doctor for help. ( I know what you the reader are thinking: "just stop banging you head, silly". But many people do similarly harmful things like chronically get a few hours too little sleep every night, and don't make any connection.) An allopathic (conventional) doctor hears the patient's history and prescribes a helmet. This is just interposing something in between the bad behavior and the bad outcome, allowing the patient to continue the behavior that is causing the trouble in the first place. A functional medical practitioner hears the same story and offers strategies to the patient enabling them to wake up without the head banging. This addresses the actual cause of the symptoms. Once the harmful behavior is removed, the symptoms go away. The patient has been empowered to make some lifestyle adjustments and heal.
I am not suggesting that conventional medicine is not amazing-it is! When body parts fail, western medicine is wonderful. Take for example a front tooth that fractures in half. This is disfiguring, painful, and potentially dangerous. No amount of herbs and acupuncture will help. This is where conventional dentistry comes in. Yes, I may have to use man-made materials to repair the tooth, but what are the other options? Similarly, if I shattered my femur, I am glad that there are chemicals to induce general anesthesia and titanium to repair my leg properly.
Both have their place in medicine. Western medicine seeks only to address and treat the symptoms, ignoring the actual cause of the symptoms. Functional medicine seeks to discover the nature of the function of the body and it's systems as they relate to the environment. The obvious mismatch in behaviors or the environment to the genetically expected norms are addressed and corrected. The more harmonious our environment and behaviors are, generally, the healthier we are.
Functional Medicine is Health oriented
Western Medicine is Disease oriented
Functional Medicine is Patient centered
Western Medicine is Doctor centered
Functional Medicine is Biochemical individuality
Western Medicine is Everyone is treated the same way
Functional Medicine is Holistic
Western Medicine is Specialized
Functional Medicine is Cost Effective
Western Medicine is Expensive
Functional Medicine is Looks at underlying causes of disease
Western Medicine is Diagnosis based on symptoms
Functional Medicine is Preventative approach
Western Medicine is Early detection of disease
Functional Medicine is High touch/high tech
Western Medicine is High tech
(Summary from Chris Kresser ADAPT course Patient handout)