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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kogan

Functional Medicine – a breath of air in contemporary healthcare


In a world where many patients feel like they are being rushed and cornered into a one-size-fits-all algorithmic approach to their health concerns, Functional Medicine has been gaining momentum and winning hearts for the last 30 years.

Here are the top three reasons why I think so many people find Functional approach to best suit their health needs:

1. Functional Medicine is a system based approach – in other words, it recognizes that a human body is a complex network of organ systems which work in unison, and while any one disruption will be felt like the ripples in the water everywhere in the body, most health concerns result from a combination of imbalances in various body systems. Functional Medicine focuses on the causes which lead to these imbalances, rather than just slap a patient with “band-aid” treatments which would only address the symptoms. For example, someone complaining of severe fatigue could have simultaneous disruption in their gastrointestinal absorption of specific nutrients, coupled with inflammation, and/or disturbed hypothalamic-pituitary axis, and even autoimmune processes, where the body attacks itself, to mention just a few possible underlying imbalances. Functional doctors take a holistic approach where all the body “players” must be considered and healed for the balance to be solidly restored.

2. Functional Medicine is personalized medicine – in that it is patient centered and not just focused on the disease the patient comes in with. Functional Medicine philosophy recognizes that 90% of chronic disease is driven by environment - not genetic composition. Its premise is that chronic disease results from emergence of a disturbed metabolism in the context of environmental trigger on a genetically predisposed person. To heal the disturbed metabolism, Functional approach seeks to remove what creates imbalance and instead to provide that which creates balance. Through expansive and thorough history taking, questionnaires, and nutritionally oriented physical exam – the doctor can put “the pieces of the puzzle together” – so that a picture of disturbed homeostasis appears, with the nodes of potential disturbance to be addressed highlighted for investigation and management. The treatment is custom-tailored to a person’s unique lifestyle. For example, in customizing an intervention for a patient, we personalize it based on what specific antecedents, triggers, and mediators they have been exposed to on their life path, or perhaps before they were even born. Additionally, we consider whether they are married or single, do or do not have children, are working or retired, are fit or sedentary, preferring a vegan or omnivorous diet etc.

3. Functional approach generates customized natural treatment plans which are simple and sustainable. To put it simply: It takes away the bad stuff and adds the good stuff. And best of all, it treats food as medicine! One of the core postulates of Functional Medicine is that food is information, and it affects gene expression. For example, because chronic inflammation plays a role in most diseases, modifying patient’s diet to include anti-inflammatory foods and exclude the foods which promote inflammation - will positively affect patients’ organ systems on every level, including downregulating by modulation, or avoiding activation of harmful genetic transcription processes, as opposed to by blocking such mechanisms like certain prescription medications do. In fact, it is estimated that our diet contributes to one-third of preventable cancers - about the same as smoking. By personalizing diet for every patient’s unique family history and life circumstances – a Functional Doctor will provide a preventive intervention, which could potentially prevent most cases of premature heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, to mention a few.


The author of Diet Slave No More!, Svetlana Kogan, MD is a Board-Certified Internal Medicine, Holistic & Functional Medical Doctor with 25 years of experience. | 239.676.6883


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