Principles Five and Six: Integrative and Functional Medicine

The Christmas season was wonderful, full of joyous memories, but it is time to resume my explanations of the principles behind Sanctuary Medical Care and Consulting. I have discussed the Biblical principles which guide my day to day clinical activities, but will now turn to two principles of medicine which benefit my patients, Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine.

Many of you will have heard of Integrative Medicine before, but I want to present it in terms of the prior Biblical principles, a perspective which may be new to most of you. In short, for me it means using all of God’s gifts for restoring health to patients, “integrating” conventional therapies with natural therapies. On the other hand, you may not have heard the term “Functional Medicine” before today. The most important aspect of this field of medicine is its focus on getting at the root causes of symptoms so that real healing can occur. By the end of this post, you should understand how and why I use both these principles in care.

Practicing integrative medicine means utilization of both conventional and natural therapies to facilitate the body’s God-given ability to heal. God, being the source of all good things (James 1:17), has given us many gifts by which we can heal ourselves and others. These gifts include the knowledge, wisdom, skills, and products of conventional medicine when they are used wisely for the right purposes. Many scientific discoveries such as antibiotics, surgical procedures, medical technologies (like pacemakers), and other medicines have saved lives and have bettered lives. I trained as an MD, attending Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and then completed a residency program in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Memphis. This training, combined with over 10 years of clinical practice, has equipped me with solid scientific knowledge which I have used to the benefit of many patients.

However, the best of modern medicine is often inadequate for many patients. Whole person care, as I mentioned in an earlier article, is needed to address the fact that God made them with emotions and a spirit and a mind. Beyond this view of patients as whole beings made in God’s image, there was also a need for a broader range of therapies. Many of today’s medicines were “discovered” in nature and many more have been used in some form for centuries to treat various illnesses. God gave us nature not only for food, not only for our enjoyment of its beauty, but also for our health. Herbal remedies, essential oils, and nutrition are powerful tools when applied to the illnesses patients face today. The best medicine combines these conventional scientific remedies with these natural remedies to optimize health, so why restrict healthcare to only one or the other.

Functional medicine, as a whole, includes many concepts, but my focus resides in the goal of getting at root causes of illness (often more than one). In today’s quick doctor visits, physicians barely have time to determine a patient’s diagnosis, much less determine the root cause or causes of the illness. Just labeling a disease with a name does not mean that we are ready to prescribe a medication and walk out the door. Physicians must take the time to dig into the symptoms, following the physical interactions of the body, until they get at the root causes. If we stop and only treat the symptoms, we leave the root cause to continue creating more problems for us. This root cause investigation takes time, time that I believe is critical for restoring patients to an optimally healthy state. This also requires an understanding of the steps which connect the symptoms with the root cause and a lot of detective work. All the effort is worth it when we are able to remove the root cause and allow the body to function as God originally intended. In those times when medical knowledge is insufficient to find or to remove the root cause entirely, we can still address illnesses at a deeper level and ameliorate the suffering more than a superficial therapy can do. Either way, I work to enable the patient to glorify God with body, mind, and spirit in whatever state of health they are currently experiencing.

Whether “integrative” or “functional”, these approaches and therapies must align with Biblical principles previously described. A purely pragmatic approach, using whatever “works” may lead to better physical health in the short run at the cost of poor spiritual health. Eventually, physical health will suffer as well. When all of God’s gifts are applied as close to the root causes as possible in a manner agreeable with God’s Word, we can pray in hope that God will ameliorate suffering and restore well-being.

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