What is Functional Medicine?

When searching for high-quality medical care, you may come across a variety of terms such as “alternative,” “complementary,” “integrative,” and “functional” medicine. These terms are continually evolving along with the field. Here is how the National Institutes of Health (NIH)1 defines a few of these terms:

  • Alternative Medicine is defined as a non-mainstream approach used in place of conventional medicine.
  • Complementary Medicine is defined as a non-mainstream approach used together with conventional medicine.
  • Integrative Medicine uses both conventional and complementary approaches but also emphasizes other interventions such as physical rehabilitation, medication, psychotherapy, acupuncture, yoga, and supplements in various combinations. The emphasis with integrative medicine is on treating the whole person, rather than one organ system, and focuses on well-coordinated care among different types of providers. The goal is to identify and treat the root cause of illness, not just symptoms.
  • Functional Medicine, as defined by the Institute for Functional Medicine2 (IFM), takes a comprehensive approach to prevention, health, and well-being by treating the root causes of disease and restoring healthy function through a personalized patient experience. Functional medicine is a vital partner to conventional medicine.

Since Sanoviv Medical Institute practices both Integrative and Functional medicine, it is important to review this medical model in greater detail. Functional medicine (FM) offers a patient-centered approach to chronic disease and seeks to answer the question, “Why is this person ill?” At Sanoviv, our Functional medicine practitioners include, medical doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, chiropractors, fitness professionals, dentists, energy medicine specialists, and mind-body therapists. These professionals spend time listening to the patient and gathering a comprehensive health history. Once the triggers are identified, including nutrition, exercise, sleep, genetics, and emotional stressors, the functional medicine team works together to create a personalized plan for the patient.

By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medicine to a patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just symptoms. For example, if a person is diagnosed with high cholesterol it may look like this among the various medical models:

  • Conventional medicine is likely to recommend a medication.
  • Natural medicine often recommends a supplement or herbal product.
  • Functional medicine asks the question, “Why is this person’s cholesterol high?” and looks at genetics, medical, and lifestyle factors (too much sugar, lack of hydration, stress, poor liver function, etc.) to get to the root of the health issue and develop a comprehensive plan.

Here are some other ways that functional medicine is unique:

  • Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their complete histories, often creating a timeline that includes antecedents (genetic or acquired factors), triggers (those that promote symptoms), and mediators (ongoing factors that contribute to dysfunction).
  • The medical history includes genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health.
  • Functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
  • Functional medicine practitioners treat the person who has the disease, rather than the disease the person has.

With this type of medicine, the term “integrative” is often used interchangeably with “functional.” That’s because, like integrative medicine, the functional medicine model uses a science-based healthcare approach. Functional medicine practitioners consider the complex web of interaction in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to chronic illness and integrate the best medical practices. In functional medicine, practitioners promote optimal health by focusing on the underlying factors that affect each patient’s experience with health and disease. It is also important to understand how the body’s key processes (those that keep a person alive and well) are affected, such as

  • how the body rids itself of toxins
  • regulation of hormones and brain neurotransmitters
  • energy production
  • digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • immune system function
  • inflammatory responses
  • structural integrity of the body and tissues
  • psychological and spiritual balance

How is Sanoviv Different?

While there are many practitioners and clinics using the functional medicine model, Sanoviv is truly unique and stands apart from the rest. Sanoviv is a licensed hospital that is integrated on four levels:

  1. Sanoviv practices functional and integrative medicine, treating the whole person and looking for the root causes of the patient’s illness. The medical team is very honest about its findings and presents the healing priorities to the patient in a caring manner.
  2. All Sanoviv practitioners are under one roof. From lab testing, to medical appointments, to spa, dental, fitness, psychology, and nutrition services – everything a patient needs to implement his or her plan is in one location. There is no need for a person to bounce around between appointments in various locations with different functional practitioners who often don’t talk to one another.
  3. The Sanoviv team members talk to each other regularly. The “medical meeting” held daily, reviews each patient case with the team of Sanoviv practitioners. A timeline, patient history, and results of all of the patient assessments are discussed. The entire team decides on the priorities and the treating physician takes the lead role in creating the personalized plan.
  4. Sanoviv immerses the patient in a healing atmosphere. The patients stay in in oceanfront suites, are fed a whole-food anti-inflammatory diet (with much of the produce from Sanoviv’s organic garden), meet with their doctors and other practitioners regularly, enjoy healing medical therapies, spa therapies, bioenergetic treatments, mind-body therapies, and can even get necessary dental work completed during their stay. Sanoviv creates the healing atmosphere all under one roof. Compared to other facilities where patients are responsible for selecting a hotel and preparing their own meals, which may not be in alignment with their healing plan, Sanoviv provides a true healing environment, which accounts for our excellent success rate.

If you are looking for a truly integrative and functional medicine experience, there is no better place than Sanoviv.

A Bit of History

Prior to implementation of the Institute for Functional Medicine’s (IFM) Certification program, Sanoviv established a consulting project with the organization back in 2007. The goal was to ensure that Sanoviv practitioners achieved and maintained a high level of mastery in functional medicine and consistently provided a safe and effective way to assess and treat patients. The 18-month project, which started early in 2007, involved two phases.

During the first phase, Sanoviv’s medical staff (including doctors, nutritionists, chiropractors, psychologists, fitness professionals, and dentists) engaged in intensive study. This included seminars delivered by IFM staff, webinars, clinical case studies, lectures, training in functional laboratory assessment, and extensive testing. In order to receive final certification, each medical staff member was required to show their level of mastery and obtain a minimum of 80% on the mid-term and final written examination.

During the second phase, an IFM faculty member came to Sanoviv for a week to shadow the Sanoviv practitioners with their patients. They supported and advised the practitioners with complex cases and shared their functional medicine expertise with the team. To complete the certification, each medical team member had to present a clinical case and be evaluated by a board of IFM faculty members.

In the fall of 2008, Sanoviv became the first and only medical institute and hospital in the world to have received IFM certification.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We want to stay connected with our past guests, potential guests and provide you and your loved ones with the latest information to help you live a healthy lifestyle. Our health professionals will be writing about all areas of health including medical, nutrition, fitness, stress reduction, dental tips, and more. Get the latest on new programs therapies and diagnostics at Sanoviv. Small changes in lifestyle can make a huge difference in your individual health. Sign up today and share the newsletter with family, friends, and those who can benefit from the Sanoviv Experience.