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Del Mar, CA

Functional Medicine Clinic in Encinitas, CA

A picture of Dr. Mark Stengler

Functional Medicine

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

A diagnosis can be the result of more than one cause. For example, depression can be caused by various factors, including inflammation. Likewise, a cause such as inflammation can result in a variety of different diagnoses, including depression. The exact manifestation of each cause depends on the person'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 insights and perspectives of a small group of prominent thought leaders that realized the value of a personalized approach to disease causes based on the evolving research in nutritional science, genomics, and also epigenetics. These thought leaders discovered ways to apply these new advances in the clinic to address root causes using low-risk treatments that modify molecular and cellular systems to reverse these drivers of illness.

These functional medicine thought leaders were able to use new research in a way that frequently brought dramatic results to individuals who had previously received unsuccessful treatments. Part of this advancement was a return to scientific principles of identifying 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 necessary to systematize the approach so that it could be taught to a wider group of practitioners of differing backgrounds. The IFM approach to applying functional medicine is primarily practiced with a set of devices that defines both history-taking and mapping symptoms to the categories of root processes that underlie disease. Three of these tools 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 elicited by a comprehensive personal, family, social, and medical history. The Matrix is similar to a web decoder-- it organizes what seems to be diverse issues into a complete story to help the clinician gain a comprehensive perspective of the patient and ultimately facilitate discussion of complex, chronic illness with the patient.


All clinicians take patient history, but what makes the functional medicine Timeline different is that it has the effect of offering the patient insight into previous life events to motivate 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 patient. This way, practitioners will have the ability to view temporal connections among events, which can reveal cause-effect relationships that could otherwise go unnoticed. By covering the period from preconception to the present, the Timeline reflects the link between the entire lifespan and one's current health.


"GOTOIT" is a simple framework practitioners can use to identify the origin of each individual's dysfunction and subsequently apply personalized treatments that address specific causes. Standing for "Gather, Organize, Tell, Order, Initiate, and Track," GOTOIT is a teaching device to help practitioners complete the Matrix and Timeline. Using the GOTOIT framework can help providers establish rapport with their patients, identify unhealthy patterns, get to the root cause of their problem, and suggest appropriate, personalized treatments and lifestyle adjustments.

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

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