The difference between Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine

Integrative Medicine

Dr. Jorge Bordenave, MD, FACP

Integrative Medicine is a healing-oriented medicine that takes into account the entire individual (mind, body and soul). As the name suggests Integrative Medicine is a combination of Western medicine, the type of medicine taught in U.S. medical schools and that is practiced in the U.S. and other industrial countries, and other science-based medical systems from around the world.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, defines Integrative Medicine as “a combination of mainstream medical therapies and complementary therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.”

Good medicine is based in good science. All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into account.  The use and integration of complimentary medical systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine, as well as Ayurvedic or Indian medicine is incorporated in Integrative Medicine.

Interventions that are as natural as possible, that facilitates the body’s innate healing response and that address the individuals mind, body and soul.

Traditional Chinese Medicine. Origins date back 2500 years and are rooted in Taoism. Has given us nutritional concepts, herbal medicines, concepts of yin and yang or balance, acupuncture, cupping, tai-chi, chi-gong, relaxation, mindfulness, movement, breathing to name a few.

Ayurvedic Medicine. The name comes from Sanskrit meaning the Science of life and this medical system is over 5000 yrs old. Ayurvedic medicine has contributed to a better understanding of how nutrition and foods impact the physical being, meditation, massages, aromatherapy, concepts of stress relief, cleansing and yoga to name a few.

Alternative medicine is the use of unsubstantiated therapies in conditions for which there has never been any proven benefit and for which the treatment may cause more harm. Examples include the use of supplements, colonic enemas, radio wave or other therapies for the treatment of cancers for example.

Integrative Medicine is not alternative medicine. It is a serious, increasingly recognized and accepted by the scientific community.

Functional Medicine

Science based. Recognizes each individual as genetically and biochemically different. Instead of medicating the person’s current medical condition with drugs, we look back to the beginning of the person’s life, and get a history of the milestones that has lead to the current medical concern.

Recognizes the role that diet, stressors both emotional and physical, antibiotics, toxins, family, community has on the development of illness.

Functional medicine ranges from being on the forefront of genomics and modification of gene expression through lifestyle factors to the importance of keeping your gut bacteria healthy through diet and nutrition.

It teaches that although some may be born with genes that may cause certain diseases, just having a defective gene does not mean that it will be turned on and produce that disease.

Functional medicine concepts have been around for over 20 years and only within the last few years has the concepts been validated by mainstream medicine.

Functional Medicine complements Integrative Medicine and western medicine. It is incorporating the best of what medical science has to offer in an UN-BIASED way.

Now like everything within the U.S. medical industrial complex in the early 21st century, its all about the business and money and very little of our healthcare has to do with patient health. As a result, there are many practioners who will call themselves holistic, integrative and functional despite never having had formal training. Do your homework. It’s not about choosing based on Google ratings but rather the education and experience. You should find someone who will spend time with you and answer your questions satisfactorily. Be cautious of those who sell a lot of products and services. This is my own personal bias, but I view providers who push their own products as being more business people than healers.

Every IM, FM practioner knows that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. Our role is to get out of the way and simply guide the patient into wellness.