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 an individual’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 might result in a number of different diagnoses, including depression. The exact 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 that realized the value 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 use 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 disease.

These functional medicines thought leaders were able to apply new research in a way that often brought remarkable results to individuals who 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 issues.

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 illness. 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 person’s health problems as generated by an in-depth personal, family, social, and medical history. The Matrix is like a web decoder– it arranges what seems to be diverse problems into a complete story to help the clinician acquire a comprehensive perspective of the individual and subsequently facilitate discussion of complex, chronic illness with the individual.


All clinicians take patient history, but what makes the functional medicine Timeline different is that it has the effect of providing the patient insight into previous life events to encourage them to change and participate in treatment. As an intake tool for organizing the individual’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. By doing this, practitioners will have the ability to observe temporal relationships among events, which can reveal cause-effect relationships that may otherwise go unnoticed. By covering the period from preconception to the present, the Timeline shows the connection between the entire lifespan and one’s current health.


“GOTOIT” is a basic framework practitioners can utilize to discover the root of each individual’s disorder and subsequently use 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 establish rapport with their patients, identify unhealthy patterns, get to the root cause of their problem, and propose appropriate, individualized treatments and lifestyle modifications.

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.