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Del Mar, CA

Functional Medicine in La Jolla, CA

A picture of Dr. Mark Stengler

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a systems biology-- based approach that focuses on determining and addressing the source 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 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 understandings and perspectives of a small group of influential thought leaders who understood the value of an individualized approach to illness causes based on the evolving research in nutritional science, genomics, and also epigenetics. These thought leaders found ways to apply for 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 medicines 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 advance was a return to scientific concepts of finding 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 through a set of tools that defines both history-taking and mapping symptoms to the categories of root processes that underlie illness. Three of these tools are the functional medicine Matrix, Timeline, and the GOTOIT framework.

The Functional Medicine Matrix

The functional medicine Matrix assists the clinician in organizing and prioritizing each patient's health issues as elicited by an in-depth personal, family, social, and medical history. The Matrix is similar to a web decoder-- it organizes what appears to be disparate issues into a complete story to help the clinician gain a comprehensive perspective of the patient and therefore promote 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 offering the patient insight into previous life events to inspire 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. This way, practitioners will have the ability to view temporal connections among events, which can expose cause-effect relationships that could otherwise go undetected. By covering the time from preconception to the present, the Timeline reflects the link between the whole lifespan and one's current health.


"GOTOIT" is a basic framework practitioner can utilize to discover the root of each individual's dysfunction and therefore use individualized 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 source of their problems, and propose suitable, personalized treatments and lifestyle changes.

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

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