Thinking functional about your health may be worth taking into consideration.
It is not uncommon that if someone heard the term functional used in healthcare or services, he or she either had little to no idea what it meant or may have shied away based on various misconceptions. This apprehension may have stemmed from fear of excess personal expense or feelings that the approaches are only for very high complex, comprehensive cases of illness or dysfunction.
There have been a fair amount of misconceptions about functional medicine. In fact, some industry leaders in healthcare have referred to the state of its practice as “the wild west” alluding to gaps in its overall implementation.
However, there are some key benefits to gain from thinking functionally in terms of health planning that can be supportive of any person at any stage of their journey. Including, but not limited to the following:
- Organizes comprehensive scope and simplifies complexities related to the multi-factorial dynamic of human physiology as well as the environment in which they engage
- Addresses bio-individual characteristics obtained from both the patient history and current health-related circumstances Enhances the patient-provider relationship
In a nutshell, the functional framework presents a systems-based, science-driven approach to address the underlying causes of disease or dysfunction and focus on a therapeutic partnership between practitioner and patient, ie the individual. It looks at interconnecting variables across human biology and biochemistry, lifestyle elements, and environmental factors.
The tools and frameworks allow for greater investigation from both a historical perspective as well as the present. As I have found both in practice as a health coach and personal experiences with my own healthcare, taking the comprehensive lens that applications from
Functional Medicine and/or Healthcare provide leads to greater clarity and understanding for the full picture.
Furthermore, this creates greater efficiencies and helps reduce decision fatigue. The frameworks support setting better, more realistic goals for ourselves and engage better in our professional relationships with healthcare providers. Within the lens of functional, three primary tools are used as pillars for assessment. The intake is used in the gathering phase within an investigative and problem-solving lens that functional practitioners hone in on.
The information will be consistently leveraged as a point of reference in care plans and treatment protocols that are carried out over time. A timeline enhances the health profile and is critical in assessing various aspects related to the manifestation of health status, including when disease or dysfunction may be present.
It includes a variety of lifestyle-related facets including significant events in a person’s life as well as factors related to genetic disposition. This arrangement of variables provides critical clues to understanding what is currently going on with a specific person and their overall health or feelings of well-being.
Finally, matrixes help to provide a snapshot of complexities centered around a person’s health. Functional health relies on “ATM’s” (antecedents, triggers, and mediators), personal lifestyle factors and seven organizing categories across human physiological systems.
The tool helps practitioners work with people to identify comprehensive, yet clear and focused care plans that are most specific to individual circumstances. It also helps support the therapeutic partnership.
For an individual, understanding for these operating tools can help to ask better, clearer questions of providers, engage with different health professionals simultaneously and contribute to a synergy between those supportive resources, and, most importantly, take the front seat in health planning and decision making.
Reason for every person to participate in programs and services offered by specifically trained functional healthcare providers, such as those certified by the Institute of Functional Medicine, will vary in level of necessity.
However, there IS a benefit to understanding why the frameworks exist and in thinking functionally when making decisions for health planning and personal self-care regimes.
The framework is known as functional medicine emerged over 25 years ago as the field of integrative health practitioners and scientists was working to standardize processes into systematized approaches. This was not just in the practice of care but in the teaching of up and coming health professionals.
The applications can be used in clinical practice as well as other allied health professions such as nutritional counseling or health coaching. The perspective may be particularly relevant as rates of chronic disease rapidly increase and health systems adapt in order to handle this.
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