What is Functional Health?
Functional Health is a systems-based approach born out of the biological sciences that focuses on finding the root cause of disease. Each clinical diagnosis may be just one piece of the puzzle characterizing an illness or disease pattern.
Seven Defining Characteristics of the Functional Health Model
The Institute for Functional Health defined the seven characteristics of their model in 1991. These are:
- Patient-centered as opposed to disease-centered;
- Utilizes a systems biology approach or a web-like interconnectedness of physiological factors;
- Embraces a philosophy of gene-environment interaction;
- A belief in biochemical individuality;
- Promotion of sustained health span and preservation of organ reserve;
- Embraces the concept that health is a vitality not just absence of disease;
- Is function vs. pathology focused.
New Definition of Function
A paradigm or shift in thinking occurred with the onset of newer technology that allowed for functional evaluations of organs and tissues at different levels of organization. The use of noninvasive tests and physiological biomarkers allowed for a greater understanding of the function of the human body in its environment.
Functional Health Evolution
In the Functional Health Model evolution in thinking occurred with respect to how the disease is an endpoint and function is a process. The art of change lies in the unique interaction of the human genome with the environment, lifestyle, and diet. The model is less concerned with the disease as it is with the dynamic processes that led to the disease itself.
Functional Health Matrix
In this assessment matrix the body is viewed in seven different manners:
- Assimilation or how your body breaks down food;
- Biotransformation and elimination or how your body deals with what you put into it transforming it into inert substances that are called waste;
- Defense and repair referring to the health of your immune system;
- Structural integrity including the health of the blood vessels and connective tissues
- Communication throughout your entire system, your hormones, and neurotransmitters;
- Energy or how healthy are the mitochondria in your cells;
- Transport or how the enzymes and hormones get around in your body.
Using the “Gotoit” Approach
Getting the patient’s story is an important part of the assessment piece in the matrix. The “Gotoit” approach is often used to elicit the story, i.e…
t-tell the complete story back to the patient
O-order and prioritize
The Modifiable Lifestyle Factors
Functional Health Treatment Plan
The treatment plan addresses all variables gathered from the matrix. A plan frequently involves the combination of nutritional intervention inclusive of diets (I.e. elimination diet, antioxidant diet), supplements and botanicals, an exercise program, stress management techniques, attention to quality sleep hygiene, manual medicine (manipulation, massage), Mind-Body practices (i.e. meditation, guided imagery) or acupuncture.
The practice of functional health involves four components – the patient’s story, identifying and addressing changeable lifestyle and environmental factors, organizing the patient’s imbalances in a systems biology fashion, and establishing the therapeutic partnership between the patient and clinician.
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