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Encinitas, CA

Functional Medicine in Rancho Santa Fe, CA

A picture of Dr. Mark Stengler

Definition of 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 might 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 many different factors, including inflammation. Similarly, a cause such as inflammation may result in a variety of different diagnoses, including depression. The precise manifestation of each cause depends on the person's genetics, environment, and lifestyle, and only treatments that address the right cause will have lasting benefits 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 who realized the importance of an individualized approach to disease causes based on the evolving research in nutritional science, genomics, and also epigenetics. These thought leaders found ways to apply these new advancements in the clinic to address root causes using low-risk treatments that adjust molecular and cellular systems to reverse these drivers of illness.

This functional medicine thought leaders were able to apply new research in a way that often brought dramatic results to patients who had previously received unsuccessful treatments. Part of this advancement 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 issues.

As others became interested in learning functional medicine, it became necessary 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 tools that formalizes 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 person's health issues as elicited by a thorough personal, family, social, and medical history. The Matrix is similar to a web decoder-- it organizes what seems to be diverse problems into a complete story to help the clinician acquire a comprehensive perspective of the patient and subsequently promote discussion of complex, chronic diseases with the individual.


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 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 graphical 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 be able to view temporal relationships 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 simple framework practitioner can use to discover the origin of each patient's disorder and subsequently apply 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. Utilizing the GOTOIT framework can help providers establish rapport with their patients, identify unhealthy patterns, get to the root cause of their problem, and propose suitable, personalized treatments and lifestyle adjustments.

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

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