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 many 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 might lead to 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 insights and perspectives of a small group of prominent thought leaders that understood the significance of an individualized approach to illness causes based on the evolving research in nutritional science, genomics, as well as epigenetics. These thought leaders found ways to use these new advances in the clinic to address root causes using low-risk interventions 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 often brought remarkable results to individuals who had previously received unsuccessful treatments. Part of this advance was a return to scientific concepts of discovering 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 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 problems as elicited by a comprehensive personal, family, social, and medical history. The Matrix is akin 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 individual and subsequently facilitate discussion of complex, chronic illnesses 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 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 patient. In this way, practitioners will be able to see temporal connections among events, which can expose cause-effect relationships that may otherwise go unnoticed. By covering the time from preconception to the present, the Timeline shows the connection between the whole lifespan and one’s current health.
“GOTOIT” is a simple framework practitioner can use to discover the root of each individual’s dysfunction and subsequently 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. 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, individualized treatments and lifestyle changes.
For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in San Diego, California, please visit our website at MarkStengler.com or give us a call at (760) 274-2377