Functional Medicine is gaining popularity and is starting to be taught in some medical schools and chiropractic schools. This is very exciting, but it also means that there are different "flavors" of functional medicine doctors. Being aware of these specialties and differences will help you in choosing your functional medicine practitioner.
The type of physician you go to will tell you a little bit about their treatment approach. This isn't set in stone, but purely based on their scope of practice this is what you can expect in such offices:
- Chiropractors pride themselves on being the non-invasive specialists. It is not within our scope of practice to prescribe medications, however many chiropractors do use supplements in their office. A chiropractor who specializes in functional medicine will likely have a much better working knowledge of supplements than your average chiropractor. I find that chiropractors who use functional neurology and functional medicine have the most well-rounded approach and are the brightest in the field. To find a doctor who specializes in functional neurology click here. Keep in mind that the doctors listed here may or may not do functional medicine, too.
- Medical Doctors and Osteopaths (MD, DO) are largely taught how to treat disease with drugs and surgery. Sadly, generally speaking, medical schools teach very little nutrition. More MDs and DOs are getting into the field of functional medicine, but many of the ones I have interacted with still have a limited working knowledge of nutrition and supplements. However, these guys are sometimes better suited to cases that either require the prescribing of medications or weening off of medications.
- Acupuncturists are also getting into functional medicine and tend to be very savvy with herbal supplements, since that is such a large part of their acupuncture training. Like chiropractors, acupuncturists can not prescribe medications. More typical treatments with an acupuncturist include acupuncture (duh), herbs, cupping, meditation, and qi gong.
- Naturopaths (NDs) often offer a little bit of both worlds- they have the ability to prescribe medications in a few states, but tend to be less prescription-happy than MDs and DOs. Much of their ND training is very functional medicine-esque, but they often do different types of tests that I personally don't fully endorse (heavy metal hair analysis, urinary neurotransmitters, IgG sensitivity testing). The big thing to realize with NDs is that they are not licensed in all 50 states- actually, they are only licensed in about 16 states right now. Even if they are licensed, their scope of practice varies a lot state-by-state, so unless you live in Arizona or Oregon you will likely be better off finding another type of physician.
There is no one accrediting body for functional medicine. There are groups and online courses that teach functional medicine (such as the IFM and Functional Medicine University), but know that there are numerous other places where doctors can receive their training. For that matter, being listed on their website doesn't necessarily say that the participant fully understood the material and can put it to good use in a clinical environment. The best way to assess that is by reading about the doctor's credentials and experience, reading their blogs, following them on facebook and twitter, and ultimately talking to them!
If you or somebody you know is interested in working with a functional medicine doctor please call my office at (919) 238-4094 and see if we are the right fit for you. Infinity Holistic Healthcare is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, part of the Raleigh-Durham "triangle" area.