Functional Medicine is an approach that seeks to identify and treat the root cause(s) of chronic health conditions.
There is no definitive training to become a Functional Medicine Practitioner and each practitioner will pursue their particular area of interest.
This may be hormone health, digestive health, auto-immune disorders or physical pain. Many Functional Medicine practitioners in Canada receive their training through the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) in the United States, or the School of Applied Functional Medicine.
What Conditions May Functional Medicine Help?
Many people seek the help of a Functional Medicine practitioner for chronic, long standing conditions, especially where the Western medical profession is unable to find answers or resolve the issue.
Conditions that Functional Medicine may help include:
- Seasonal Allergies
- Anxiety and Depression
- Autoimmune Diseases such as Hashimoto's disease and Rheumatoid arthritis
- Digestive issues including Colitis, Diverticulitis, Heartburn, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain
- Headaches and Migraines
- Hormonal issues including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, Menopause etc
- Skin issues such as Acne and Rosacea
How Does Functional Medicine Work?
Practitioners work by identifying and resolving the root cause(s) of conditions. The root cause of illness originates from three areas: physical, physiological and emotional trauma or stress.
Physical causes of dysfunction include injuries, trauma, concussions and surgeries.
Physiological causes include food and environmental allergies / sensitivities, gut infections, underlying diseases such as Lyme and nutritional deficiencies.
Emotional causes include current stressors and emotional traumas experienced or inherited as genetic memories.
What Can I Expect During Appointments?
Prior to your initial visit you will be asked to complete a comprehensive health questionnaire. The practitioner will review this before you meet.
During the initial visit, you will discuss the questionnaire, the practitioner will take a full medical history and perform a physical exam if necessary. They will interpret the findings, identify possible causes for your health concerns and, where needed, will recommend laboratory testing.
Practitioners can provide you with diagnostic testing for digestive / gut health such as SIBO, parasites and infections. These would be stool or breath tests that you do at home. For any blood work they will refer you to your family doctor.
Recommendations following this initial meeting frequently involve dietary, nutritional or lifestyle advice, and recommendations for other health care modalities that will be of benefit. If there is a clear indication of the cause for your issues they may also commence treatment with herbs or homeopathic remedies.
In the following visits, the practitioner will explain any lab test results and work with you to develop and implement a comprehensive treatment plan. This may include:
- Diet and lifestyle advice and ongoing support
- Nutritional and / or medicinal supplements, homeopathics and herbs
- Other treatment modalities such as physical therapies (massage, chiropractic, osteopathy etc), acupuncture, emotional support
- Referral back to the medical profession for further diagnostic testing and pharmaceuticals if needed
These visits can be in person or they may be virtual by video or phone.
How Many Appointments Will I Require?
The number of appointments depends on your condition. Some people obtain all the help they need in the first visit, however, in general, you can expect to have between 6-10 follow up visits of 30-45minutes. These visits are spread over several months as there needs to be time in between for you to implement any changes and for any diet / lifestyle / supplement support to take effect. Your practitioner is also available at any time to provide support by email for brief questions.
Can I Claim For Functional Medicine Appointments?
Private health insurance plans and OHIP do not cover Functional Medicine visits or lab testing. Any recommended blood work may be covered when requisitioned by a medical professional such as your family doctor.