What Is Functional Medicine and How the Root + Ritual Approach Is UniqueMar 24, 2022
Ahh, the obligatory “what is functional medicine…” post! Buckle up and let’s get to it. So what exactly do I mean by "functional medicine?" In three words, I’d define functional medicine as root cause medicine. A more extensive definition explains that functional medicine seeks to uncover the drivers of dysfunction within various body systems. These drivers can usually be distilled down to three causes:
Most commonly, the root of the problem is a combination of the three and not always readily apparent.
Regardless, everyone manifests dysfunction in different ways. A crappy diet for one person could ultimately result in joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and fatigue. In another person, their poor diet may manifest as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Same root cause but the end results are different. This is a very important point!
Mismatch between culture and condition
To back up a bit, it’s important to realize our 21st century lifestyle doesn’t usually contribute to wellness. Time and again, I see people come into the office stretched too thin and trying to do it all. They sleep five or six hours, don’t have time for movement, eat whatever they can get their hands on, and paradoxically feel overwhelmed by the life they themselves have created. It’s a vicious cycle and people usually feel guilty that they can’t “handle it all.”
Who decided we all have to work full-time, cook Pinterest-worthy dinners, patiently engage with our kids who just want to go back to their tablets, regularly be intimate with our significant other, and somehow still manage to “find time” for exercise, sleep, and self-care? Where are these people? I want to find them and wring their necks! It’s all TOO much. No wonder our bodies are literally breaking down. We are constantly in a sympathetic dominant state of fight-flight-hide. It just isn’t natural! I’m here to say there has to be balance. There has to be a better way. Enter functional medicine and my unique approach.
Functional medicine asserts specific foundations to health that patients must address in order to bring their unique physiology back into balance. Those foundations include:
- Sleep & Relaxation
- Exercise & Movement
By leveraging these lifestyle factors, the patient can return to a state of well-being. Functional medicine also addresses the inner workings of a person's spirit: mental, emotional, and spiritual factors.
The Functional Medicine Matrix categorizes the body systems into seven main groups:
1. Assimilation - digestion, absorption, gut health
2. Defense & Repair - immune, inflammation, infection, gut microbiome
3. Energy - mitochondrial function, energy regulation
4. Biotransformation & Elimination - toxicity, detoxification
5. Transport - cardiovascular system, lymphatic system
6. Communication - endocrine system, neurotransmitters, immune messengers
7. Structural Integrity - subcellular membranes to musculoskeletal structure
My functional medicine training was through the Institute for Functional Medicine, the leading authority on educating functional medicine practitioners. We utilize a timeline from birth to present day, a medical symptoms questionnaire, and a framework to get to the root cause. But I’ll say it here first, we almost always begin in the gut! More on that in another post.
Most of my patients in the clinic came to me by way of searching for a local functional medicine practitioner. They understood the benefits of viewing medicine through both lenses. In some ways, it really is a marriage of eastern and western medicine and the best of both worlds with advanced lab testing, supplements, and a food-forward approach. The trouble is that functional medicine can be complicated and time-consuming! I swear some new patients come in with a supplement regimen that reads like a part-time job description. And it’s very difficult to dig and dig within a 15 minute timeframe. For years, I’ve been searching for a better way. And so began the journey to start Root + Ritual Functional Medicine.
My main aim with Root + Ritual Functional Medicine is to provide patients with the far-reaching benefits of functional medicine without the exorbitant price tag, complicated steps, and unrealistic lifestyle demands. I meet people where they are, educate them, and inspire lasting change.
For years, I’ve seen people partner with functional medicine providers only to be sent away with pages of labs and recommendations, no idea how to implement any of it, and a follow up 8-12 weeks away. If they’re overwhelmed, a health coach is suggested. More money?! As my personal life has dictated fewer patient contact hours, I've brainstormed ways to meet my needs and the needs of my patients. My unique approach includes functional medicine group visits. The best of all worlds! And if you live in Virginia, I can also extend the opportunity for 1:1 appointments and advanced testing. But maybe, you get all of the help you need without the 1:1 appointments.
My hope is to get functional medicine concepts out into the world that people can utilize forever and not just for a few months. I want to equip patients with the tools and intuition they need to get well and stay well. This is the future of medicine and the art of the patient healing themselves.
Check out my free guide on healing your gut, probiotics, and prebiotics for an introduction into functional medicine foundational principles.