As you may know my study of medicine began in an oral tradition through a barefoot doctor program in Nelson, BC.  The director was a Doctor of TCM who trained us in anatomy, ancestral and modern nutrition, qi gong and clinical hands on practice.  This was my introduction to functional medicine.  Today I’d like to give you a sense of what this means because it is the foundation of the emergent healthcare system of the 21st century.

The core principles of functional medicine are:
  • Each human has a biochemical individuality based on genetic and environmental factors that is unique.
  • A patient centered as a opposed to a disease centered approach.
  • Looks for a dynamic balance among the internal and external factors of health including body, mind and spirit.
  • Knowledge of the interconnectedness of internal physiological factors.
  • Health is not merely the absence of disease.  By emphasizing the adaptive resources and the factors that enhance vitality health is restored and actually strengthened.
  • Promotion of organ reserve as a means to enhance the quality of life not just the life span of each patient.
These principles align with traditional indigenous medicine as I was introduced to it in an oral tradition. They are also implicit in TCM theory and practice. although each practitioner will embody the medicine differently based on the transmission they received from their teachers.
Below is more information from the Institute for Functional Medicine in Washington.

Why Do We Need Functional Medicine?

  • Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care, the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom.
  • Unfortunately, the acute-care approach to medicine lacks the proper methodology and tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases it does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society.
  • There’s a huge gap between research and the way doctors practice. The gap between emerging research in basic sciences and integration into medical practice is enormous—as long as 50 years—particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness.
  • Most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.

How is Functional Medicine Different?

Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. Hallmarks of a functional medicine approach include:

  • Patient-centered care. The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care, promoting health as a positive vitality, beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the practitioner brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.
  • An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. Functional medicine practitioners look “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is considered, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.
  • Integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with what is sometimes considered “alternative” or “integrative” medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.

– See more at:


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