What is a Functional Medicine Doctor?

Understanding What a Functional Medicine Doctor is.


7/2/20235 min read

What is a Functional Medicine Doctor?
What is a Functional Medicine Doctor?

What is a Functional Medicine Doctor?

Functional medicine, a term growing increasingly popular in the healthcare field, has the potential to revolutionize how we view and approach patient care. This holistic method goes beyond treating symptoms, aiming to treat the whole person and focusing on achieving optimal wellness by addressing root causes rather than merely controlling symptoms.

Who is a Functional Medicine Doctor?

A functional medicine doctor, sometimes referred to as an available physician, is a licensed healthcare provider trained in traditional Western medicine and specializes in functional medicine. They have completed all the necessary education and training to earn a medical degree (MD), doctor of osteopathy (DO), or another related credential, along with additional training in the functional medicine model.

A functional medicine doctor adopts a patient-centered, systems-oriented model that aims to identify and understand the underlying causes of disease. Each patient's history, physiology, and lifestyle are critical components of the investigation to reveal the root cause of the illness. As opposed to a more conventional approach, which tends to focus on disease-centered care, the functional medicine doctor's approach is holistic, targeting the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms.

So, what exactly is a functional medicine doctor? Simply put, an available medicine doctor is a healthcare professional who follows the principles of functional medicine, focusing on integrating patient history, genetic factors, environmental influences, and lifestyle choices to tailor individualized health management plans.

The Functional Medicine Approach

The core of functional medicine lies in considering each patient's unique genetic makeup, the environmental toxins they're exposed to, and the lifestyle choices they make, which collectively affect their health. This detailed patient-focused method enables a functional medicine doctor to craft a comprehensive and personalized health plan.

The Functional Medicine approach differs significantly from conventional medicine. Instead of focusing on managing symptoms or treating a specific illness, functional medicine aims to uncover the root causes of health issues. The approach considers the interconnectedness of all body systems and the impact of lifestyle choices on overall health.

Holistic Health and Functional Medicine

Functional medicine practitioners emphasize a more patient-centered approach that stems from the principles of holistic health. They view the body as an interconnected system, not merely a collection of independent organs divided by medical specialties. This holistic approach to medicine extends beyond traditional Western medicine and combines conventional medicine, alternative therapies, and cutting-edge science to help patients achieve optimal health.

One of the significant aspects of holistic health is the mind-body connection. Functional medicine doctors understand mental and emotional health's profound role in physical well-being. By optimizing the mind-body connection, functional medicine offers an integrated approach to overall wellness that conventional medicine often overlooks.

The Training of a Functional Medicine Doctor

A functional medicine doctor typically has a background in conventional medicine and has completed additional specialized training in functional medicine. This training emphasizes a comprehensive understanding of how genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors influence health and disease progression. The training program offers a multidimensional approach to patient care that combines scientific research, clinical expertise, and patient values.

Functional medicine is an emerging field with a growing number of practitioners. However, patients should ensure their healthcare provider is properly qualified. Accreditation from institutions like The Institute for Functional Medicine ensures practitioners are qualified and adhere to a high standard of care.

Functional Medicine and Alternative Medicine

There's a misconception that functional medicine is merely an "alternative" form of healthcare. While functional medicine does incorporate elements of alternative medicine, it combines these with conventional treatments, scientific research, and modern diagnostic techniques to provide a comprehensive approach to patient care.

In many cases, a functional medicine doctor may use a combination of conventional medical treatments, nutritional interventions, lifestyle changes, stress management, detoxification programs, or herbal medicines. They tailor these interventions based on the patient's individual health needs and the root causes of their illness.


Functional medicine represents a paradigm shift in healthcare, focusing on treating the individual rather than the disease. By looking at the whole person—genetics, environment, and lifestyle—a functional medicine doctor can provide a more holistic, integrated, and personalized

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a patient-centered, science-based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of a disease rather than just treating the symptoms.

Who is a Functional Medicine Doctor?

A functional medicine doctor is a licensed healthcare provider who has additional specialized training in functional medicine. They focus on understanding the origins of chronic diseases to tailor health management plans better.

How Does a Functional Medicine Doctor Differ from a Conventional Doctor?

Unlike conventional doctors who focus on treating symptoms, functional medicine doctors focus on identifying and treating the root causes of an illness. They consider the patient's lifestyle, environment, and genetic factors to provide a comprehensive treatment plan.

How is Functional Medicine Connected to Holistic Health?

Functional medicine is a form of holistic health that views the body as an interconnected system and emphasizes the mind-body connection. It combines conventional medicine, alternative therapies, and cutting-edge science to help patients achieve optimal health.

What Types of Illnesses Can Functional Medicine Treat?

Functional medicine can treat a wide range of chronic health issues, including, but not limited to, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, mental health issues, autoimmune diseases, and digestive disorders.

Does Functional Medicine Work?

Functional medicine has been found effective in managing chronic diseases by addressing their root causes and considering the patient's overall lifestyle and environment.

Is Functional Medicine Evidence-Based?

Yes, functional medicine is based on evidence from research in nutritional science, genomics, and epigenetics.

Do Functional Medicine Doctors Prescribe Medication?

Yes, functional medicine doctors can prescribe medication. However, they might also recommend lifestyle changes and alternative treatments as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Does Functional Medicine Accept Insurance?

It depends on the provider and the insurance company. Some functional medicine services may be covered by insurance, but many are not. It is advisable to check with the individual provider and the insurance company beforehand.

How is Functional Medicine Different from Alternative Medicine?

While functional medicine may incorporate elements of alternative medicine, it is not the same. Functional medicine combines traditional medical practices with scientifically proven alternative therapies and focuses on individualized patient care.

Is Functional Medicine a Recognized Medical Field?

Yes, functional medicine is recognized as a medical field, but it is relatively new and evolving. Practitioners include MDs, DOs, NDs, and others who have received additional training in the functional medicine model.

Do All Functional Medicine Practitioners Have the Same Training?

No, the training of functional medicine practitioners can vary. However, reputable practitioners usually have completed a certification program, such as that offered by the Institute for Functional Medicine.

Can Functional Medicine Help with Weight Loss?

Because functional medicine looks at the root causes of health issues, it can help address underlying factors contributing to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.

Can Functional Medicine Help with Mental Health Issues?

Yes, functional medicine doctors consider the physiological, genetic, and environmental factors that can impact mental health. They can develop comprehensive treatment plans that address mental health issues holistically.

Is Functional Medicine Good for Autoimmune Diseases?

Yes, functional medicine can be particularly beneficial for managing autoimmune diseases. By focusing on the root causes, functional medicine can help manage the symptoms and potentially reduce the severity of autoimmune diseases.

Can Functional Medicine Help Me if I'm Healthy?

Yes, functional medicine is not only for those with existing health issues. The principles of functional medicine can assist healthy individuals in maintaining good health and preventing disease.

How Long Does It Take to See Results with Functional Medicine?

The time it takes to see results can vary greatly depending on the individual and the specific health issue. It might take anywhere from a few weeks to several months or more.