Holistic, Functional, Integrative, Nutritional Therapy. What does it all mean? You are not alone in being confused. The terms have overlapping characteristics and even practitioners in the space may mix up where one ends and the other begins.
To truly understand these terms, let’s first look at the way in which our health is treated today. In the United States, we might call it western, conventional, or traditional medicine. An example would be seeing your primary care physician who refers you to a specialist when a symptom is beyond their expertise. If you have a condition that appears to be affecting your hormones you may end up seeing your gynecologist or an endocrinologist. They are specialized in that one area or system of your body. Their diagnoses revolve around their area of expertise, meaning they will look at your hormones and the organs that produce them and use conventional wisdom to treat the symptoms you are experiencing so that you feel better. Often, their treatment is a prescription for a synthetic medicine that may resolve the symptoms. Now, this isn’t the case for all practitioners by any means, and this organization of the healthcare system has been successful in many aspects. But, if you are anything like me, you may have felt it to be inadequate at times and this is where the other terms come in.
Holistic, functional, and integrative practitioners and clinics were born out of the need to fill in some of the gaps in our current system and also to complement conventional medicine with other healing practices that have been used throughout the world for centuries. Holistic refers to the whole. In medicine this means treating the whole person, including mental and social factors, and treating the body’s systems as a whole rather than individual systems. The focus goes beyond just the symptoms of an illness. Holistic is a term that tends to pop up in many alternative medicine practices as well. In any case, taking a holistic perspective on a patient/client’s concern is always a positive, in my opinion.
Integrative medicine combines the practices of alternative therapies with conventional medicine and often includes practitioners in physical therapy, nutrition, and psychology as well. Integrative medicine is usually holistic in nature also. Alternative medicine covers a range of therapies that aren’t recognized by much of conventional medicine and are often regarded as being ineffective or unproven. This includes, herbalism, acupuncture, traditional chinese medicine, and ayurveda.
The functional approach is concerned with the root cause of a condition. Functional practices should be holistic and often are integrative as well. Similar to my Nutritional Therapy education, functional approaches look at a patient’s genetic, environmental, and lifestyle influences to create bio-individual recommendations. Functional medicine is practiced by doctors that were educated in conventional medicine
Finally, as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I am holistic in that I look at more than just what a person is eating including their sleep, stress, movement and more. My approach is bio-individual because everyone is different from their genetics to their environment and lifestyle. I focus on supporting the body’s natural processes so that it can perform its functions as designed. And as a proponent of functional medicine, I am also concerned about the root cause of imbalances and symptoms. I will help guide you in choosing other practitioners and doctors as needed.
For more information click the button or see my references below.
About. (n.d.). Nutritional Therapy Association. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://nutritionaltherapy.com/about/
Alternative vs. Traditional Medicine | Winchester Hospital. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=13500
Functional Medicine | IFM. (n.d.). The Institute for Functional Medicine. Retrieved January 5, 2021, from https://www.ifm.org/functional-medicine/
Integrative, Holistic & Naturopathy vs Functional Medicine: Las Vegas, Henderson. (2017, January 10). http://southwestfunctionalmedicine.com/functional-integrative-holistic-naturopathy/
Just what is functional medicine and why do some DOs gravitate to it? (2018, November 28). The DO. http://thedo.osteopathic.org/2018/11/just-what-is-functional-medicine-and-why-do-some-dos-gravitate-to-it/
Our Philosophy—Nutritional Therapy Association. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://nutritionaltherapy.com/our-philosophy/
The Difference Between Functional, Holistic, Integrative and Natural Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from http://www.chattanoogafunctionalmedicine.com/functional-holistic-integrative-and-natural-medicines.html
What is Nutritional Therapy? Holistic and Bio-individual Nutrition – The NTA. (2019, July 8). Nutritional Therapy Association. https://nutritionaltherapy.com/what-is-nutritional-therapy/