Functional medicine is a systems biology-- based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. Each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many 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. Likewise, a cause such as inflammation may lead to a variety 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 influential thought leaders that realized the importance 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 interventions that modify molecular and cellular systems to reverse these drivers of illness.
These functional medicine thought leaders were able to apply new research in a way that often brought remarkable results to individuals that had previously received unsuccessful treatments. Part of this breakthrough was a return to scientific concepts of identifying 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 mainly practiced with a set of devices that formalizes both history-taking and mapping symptoms to the categories of root processes that underlie disease. 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 individual's health problems as generated by a thorough personal, family, social, and medical history. The Matrix is similar to a web decoder-- it organizes what appears to be diverse issues into a complete story to help the clinician acquire a comprehensive perspective of the individual and subsequently promote discussion of complex, chronic disease with the individual.
All clinicians take patient history, but what makes the functional medicine Timeline different is that it has the effect of offering the patient understanding into previous life events to encourage 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 individual. This way, practitioners will have the ability to view temporal relationships among events, which can reveal 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 practitioners can utilize to identify the root of each patient's disorder and subsequently use individualized 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. Using the GOTOIT framework can help providers develop rapport with their patients, identify unhealthy patterns, get to the source of their problem, and recommend suitable, individualized treatments and lifestyle adjustments.
For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in La Mesa, California, please visit our website at MarkStengler.com or give us a call at (760) 274-2377.