Functional medicine is an approach to healthcare that focuses on identifying and addressing the root causes of illness and disease, rather than just treating the symptoms. It takes a holistic view of the patient, considering their genetics, lifestyle, and environment to create a personalised treatment plan. 

According to functional medicine clinic Therapy Works, “functional medicine puts an emphasis on discovering the underlying cause of health complaints – not just addressing the symptoms. Patients benefit from a personalised system of care that involves understanding and managing the underlying causes of an acute or chronic condition”.

Functional medicine aims to promote optimal health and well-being by addressing the underlying factors that contribute to health issues.

In this article I'll discuss what functional medicine is, common health issues it may treat, and provide examples of functional health modalities that work hand in hand to deliver better patient outcomes.

Functional medicine principles

Functional medicine is guided by several key principles, summarised below. 

Personalised care

Functional medicine practitioners recognize that each patient is unique, and one-size-fits-all approaches to healthcare may not be effective. They take the time to understand the individual's medical history, genetics, lifestyle, and environment to tailor a treatment plan that suits their specific needs.

Root cause analysis

Instead of merely alleviating symptoms with medications, functional medicine seeks to identify and address the underlying causes of health problems. This involves a thorough investigation into the factors that contribute to illness, such as nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and environmental toxins.

Systems-based approach 

The human body is a complex network of interconnected systems, and dysfunction in one area can affect others. Functional medicine looks at the body as a whole, considering how different systems interact and influence each other.

Prevention and wellness

Functional medicine places a strong emphasis on preventive care and promoting overall well-being. By addressing risk factors and making lifestyle changes, patients can reduce the likelihood of developing chronic diseases.

Integrative therapies

Functional medicine incorporates a wide range of therapeutic modalities, including nutrition, supplements, lifestyle modifications, and mind-body techniques. The goal is to use the most appropriate interventions to support the body's natural healing processes.

Common health issues addressed

Functional medicine can be applied to a variety of health issues, and is commonly used for some of these health issues below.

Chronic conditions

Many chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders, have complex underlying causes. Functional medicine aims to identify and address these root factors to manage or even reverse these conditions.

Digestive disorders

Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, and food sensitivities can often be linked to imbalances in the gut microbiome. Functional medicine explores the gut's role in overall health and implements strategies to restore balance.

Hormonal imbalances

Hormonal issues, including thyroid disorders and hormonal imbalances in men and women, are common reasons for seeking functional medicine care. Treatments may include hormone replacement therapy and lifestyle adjustments.

Weight management

Functional medicine recognizes that weight issues are not solely about calories in versus calories out. Factors such as hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and gut health can play a significant role in weight management.

Fatigue and stress

Chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, and stress-related conditions are often addressed through functional medicine. Lifestyle changes, stress management techniques, and targeted supplementation may be recommended.

How functional medicine works

Functional medicine practitioners employ a systematic approach to patient care. In general, the following considerations are taken into account.

Comprehensive assessment

Patients undergo a thorough evaluation, which may include extensive medical history intake, genetic testing, and advanced laboratory testing to identify imbalances and deficiencies.

Individualised treatment plan

Based on the assessment, a personalised treatment plan is created. This plan typically includes dietary recommendations, nutritional supplements, lifestyle modifications, and other interventions tailored to the patient's needs.

Monitoring and adjustments

Patients work closely with their functional medicine provider to monitor their progress. Adjustments to the treatment plan are made as needed to optimise outcomes.

Patient education and empowerment

Functional medicine encourages patients to take an active role in their health. Patients are educated about the factors contributing to their condition and empowered to make informed choices for better health.


Functional medicine practitioners often work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with other healthcare professionals, such as dietitians, physical therapists, and mental health specialists, to provide comprehensive care.

Functional health modalities

Functional medicine practitioners can be qualified across a range of modalities, including:

  • Acupuncture
  • Naturopathy
  • Chiropractic
  • Physiotherapy
  • Pilates
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
  • Clinical Nutrition
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Yoga 
  • Hands on and energetic body work

Sometimes, these therapies can be combined in a multi-disciplinary way, with components of each therapy being used to address specific issues around the body. 

For example, chiropractic may be combined with acupuncture. Physio may be combined with yoga. TCM can work with western clinical nutrition. The idea is that each patient is not a ‘one size fits all' case and that together, a functional approach aims to provide better patient outcomes.


Functional medicine offers a patient-centred, holistic approach to healthcare that aims to address the underlying causes of illness and promote long-term well-being. By taking into account the unique genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors of each individual, functional medicine provides personalised treatment plans that can lead to improved health outcomes. 

Whether you are dealing with chronic conditions, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, or simply seeking to optimise your health, functional medicine may offer a valuable alternative to conventional medical approaches.

Marshall Thurlow is the Director and Founder of Orion Marketing Pty Ltd. He is a digital marketer with expertise in SEO, website design, content marketing and project management. With over 15 years of experience spanning government, not-for-profit and the private sector, he is well equipped to lead teams to success.