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Encinitas, CA

Functional Medicine in San Marcos, 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 many different factors, including inflammation. Similarly, a cause such as inflammation may result in a number of different diagnoses, including depression. The exact 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 understood the value of an individualized approach to disease causes based on the evolving research in nutritional science, genomics, as well as epigenetics. These thought leaders discovered ways to use these new advancements in the clinic to address root causes using low-risk treatments that modify molecular and cellular systems to reverse these drivers of disease.

This functional medicine thought leaders were able to use new research in a way that frequently brought dramatic results to patients that had previously received unsuccessful treatments. Part of this breakthrough was a return to scientific principles 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 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 mainly practiced through a set of tools that formalizes both history-taking and mapping symptoms to the categories of root processes that underlie illness. Three of these devices 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 individual's health problems as elicited by an in depth personal, family, social, and medical history. The Matrix is akin to a web decoder-- it organizes what appears to be diverse problems into a complete story to help the clinician acquire a comprehensive perspective of the individual and therefore 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 giving the patient insight into previous life events to motivate them to change and participate in treatment. As an intake tool for organizing the patient's history chronologically, the functional medicine Timeline is a graphical representation that allows clinicians to determine factors that predispose, provoke, and contribute to pathological changes and dysfunctional responses in the patient. In this way, practitioners will have the ability to observe temporal connections among events, which can reveal cause-effect relationships that may otherwise go undetected. By covering the time from preconception to the present, the Timeline reflects the connection between the entire lifespan and one's current health.


"GOTOIT" is a simple framework practitioners can use to identify the root of each patient's dysfunction 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 recommend appropriate, individualized treatments and lifestyle adjustments.

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

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