There are various approaches used in medicine to treat individuals with health related issues. For most people, the most common approach is known as ‘conventional medicine’. However, alternative approaches have become increasingly popular over recent decades.

Here we look at two other disciplines; functional medicine and integrative medicine, to discover what similar traits they share and how these approaches differ when compared to conventional medicine.

Conventional Medicine

Conventional medicine, also known as mainstream medicine and Western medicine, is an approach to healthcare which looks to treat the symptoms associated with a particular disease or medical condition. Treatment offerings will usually be focused around drugs, surgery and radiation.

An example of a conventional approach to healthcare would be the use of chemotherapy to treat a patient with breast cancer.

Functional Medicine

The functional medicine model looks to identify and address the root cause of a disease or health condition. It focuses on trying to achieve optimal function of the body and it’s a discipline which recognizes that all individuals are different and therefore a highly personalized approach is necessary. This personalized approach is not only applied within treatment offerings, but also during diagnostic processes.

One of the key principles of functional medicine is that a good state of health is more than just the absence of disease. Instead, it looks at achieving a state of overall wellness to help prevent health issues arising in the first place, rather than solely trying to treat medical conditions after they have developed.

Integrative Medicine

The integrative approach embraces many of the key principles associated with functional medicine. This discipline also believes that many chronic conditions are the result of poor lifestyle choices.

What is the difference between Functional and Integrative Medicine?

From the above information you may wonder what the difference is between the functional approach to medicine and the integrative approach, or if they are indeed the same.

Both approaches focus on treating the patient as an individual, however the functional model is more focused on identifying and addressing the root cause of the disease. It’s a more personalized approach which uses laboratory based analyses to determine why the medical issue has arisen. It then looks to use supplements, treatments and, when necessary, medications to improve the condition of the patient.

The Future of Healthcare?

Highly personalized approaches to treating patients are becoming much more widely used these days. There has also been a significant shift in attitude when it comes to trying to prevent medical issues arising in the first place, rather than simply attempting to treat conditions once they do occur.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise than functional and integrative approaches to healthcare are being embraced throughout the world.

Furthermore, many of the treatment offerings associated with the conventional approach to medicine are known for harsh side effects. One clear example of this is the use of chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer.

This is not to say that conventional approaches to medicine are not effective. Far from it.

It’s also worth noting that conventional medicine and more personalized approaches do not have to be mutually exclusive when treating patients for serious medical conditions.

Conventional medicine focuses on immediate treatment of symptoms associated with a particular condition, but it doesn’t address the underlying or root cause of the problem.

Adopting a more personalized approach (which seeks to identify and address the actual cause of the problem) in combination with mainstream, conventional treatments is a commonly used approach and one which is becoming increasingly popular.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Explaining the differences between conventional, functional and integrative medicine," in Medicalopedia, October 21, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/9326/explaining-the-differences-between-conventional-functional-and-integrative-medicine/].