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Del Mar, CA

Fuctional Medicine in Orange County, CA

A picture of Dr. Mark Stengler

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a systems biology-based approach that focuses on determining and addressing the root cause of disease. Each symptom or differential diagnosis might be one of several contributing to a person's illness.

A diagnosis can be the result of more than one cause. For instance, depression can be caused by various factors, including inflammation. Likewise, a cause such as inflammation may lead to a variety of different diagnoses, including depression. The precise manifestation of each cause depends on the individual's genes, environment, and lifestyle, and only treatments that address the right cause will have lasting benefit beyond symptom suppression.

The Functional Medicine Model

The functional medicine model evolved from the understandings and perspectives of a small group of prominent thought leaders who realized the significance of a personalized approach to disease causes based on the evolving research in nutritional science, genomics, and epigenetics. These thought leaders found ways to use these new advancements in the clinic to address root causes using low-risk interventions that modify molecular and cellular systems to reverse these drivers of disease.

These functional medicine thought leaders were able to apply new research in a way that often brought remarkable results to patients that had previously received unsuccessful treatments. Part of this breakthrough was a return to scientific principles of discovering new ways to look for unifying factors at the cellular and systems levels that underlie organism-wide problems.

As others became interested in learning functional medicine, it became essential to systematize the approach so that it could be taught to a broader group of practitioners of differing backgrounds. The IFM approach to applying functional medicine is primarily practiced with a set of devices that formalizes both history-taking and mapping symptoms to the categories of root processes that underlie disease. Three of these devices are the functional medicine Matrix, Timeline, and the GOTOIT framework.

The Functional Medicine Matrix

The functional medicine Matrix helps the clinician in organizing and prioritizing each individual's health issues as generated by a detailed personal, family, social, and medical history. The Matrix is similar to a web decoder-- it organizes what seems to be disparate problems into a complete story to help the clinician gain a comprehensive perspective of the patient and therefore facilitate discussion of complex, chronic disease with the patient.


All clinicians take patient history, but what makes the functional medicine Timeline different is that it has the effect of giving the patient understanding of previous life events to encourage them to change and participate in treatment. As an intake device for organizing the patient's history chronologically, the functional medicine Timeline is a visual representation that allows clinicians to identify factors that predispose, provoke, and contribute to pathological changes and dysfunctional responses in the individual. By doing this, practitioners will be able to observe temporal relationships among events, which can expose cause-effect relationships that may otherwise go undetected. By covering the period from preconception to the present, the Timeline reflects the connection between the entire lifespan and one's current health.


"GOTOIT" is a simple framework practitioner can utilize to identify the origin of each patient's disorder and therefore apply personalized treatments that address specific causes. Standing for "Gather, Organize, Tell, Order, Initiate, and Track," GOTOIT is a teaching tool to help practitioners complete the Matrix and Timeline. Utilizing the GOTOIT framework can help providers develop rapport with their patients, identify unhealthy patterns, get to the root cause of their problem, and propose appropriate, individualized treatments and lifestyle changes.

For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in Orange County, California, please visit our website at or give us a call at (760) 274-2377

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