What is Functional Medicine?

Here at Newbridge, our team of care providers are extensively trained in a Functional Medicine approach. The Functional Medicine model is based on an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness [1]. This means that we are determined to help patients by identifying the root cause to their health concerns, knowing that each person’s story is unique, which necessitates a bio-individualized approach to healing. By seeking to understand not just what symptoms a patient is experiencing but why, we can begin to unravel the complexities of chronic illness and disease. In doing so, we take into account an individual’s history, lifestyle factors, genetics, diet, and emotional wellness.

Functional Medicine and Chronic Illness

The rise in chronic illness at every age can seem daunting, and many of us experience some sort of chronic condition or know someone who does. In fact, 50% of adults have at least one chronic health condition and 25% of adults have two or more [2]. In 2011, one study estimated that 43% of US children (32 million) currently have at least 1 of 20 chronic health conditions assessed, increasing to 54.1% when factoring in being overweight, obese, or being at risk for developmental delays [3]. Unfortunately, this number has continued to grow in the last nine years. Moreover, chronic illness accounts for more than 86% of all healthcare costs [4,5]. 

With an increase in healthcare costs, it would be assumed that health outcomes are then improving, however, the opposite may be true. The United States spends 1.5 to 2 times more per person on health care than other industrialized countries (per Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), but comes in last in most categories of health outcomes, including infant mortality, percentage with multiple chronic diseases, and overall life expectancy [6, 7]. 

Rather than identifying and managing disease and chronic illness, the Functional Medicine model is one that focuses on preventing and/or reversing illness, promoting health, and optimizing whole body function. In fact, after a two-year study that examined 1,595 patients treated in Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine and 5,657 patients seen in primary care at a family health center, researchers found that functional medicine was associated with improvements in health-related quality of life [8]. Additionally, Functional Medicine is highly cost effective for patients as it focuses on prevention and health promoting lifestyle changes, sustainable treatments that address the underlying causes of dysfunction, and result in restoring patients to health. This, in turn, prevents added healthcare costs later on. 

The Functional Medicine Model

At Newbridge, our Functional Medicine practitioners spend a substantial and meaningful amount of time with each patient, listening to their histories, and examining the interactions between genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that may influence their long-term health as well as complex, chronic disease. Rather than a symptoms-centered approach, we focus on a patient-centered one which ensures that your care team is responsive and respectful of your goals, health-related needs, and values, which guides every clinical decision. 

The Functional Medicine model can be conceptualized by the Functional Medicine Tree. For a tree to be healthy and flourishing, you need to support the most basic and essential elements first, the very foundation: the roots and soil. Likewise, if a tree is not healthy, the first place you should look for answers is within those same foundational elements.

Institute for Functional Medicine Tree

Photo Credit: IFM

Looking at the constellation of symptoms (the branches and leaves) can help reach a diagnosis, however, if we look there first and fail to recognize the interplay between the foundational elements, we may miss critical components to a patient’s story, which may prevent complete revitalization. In a more conventional approach, treating the symptoms with a prescription drug may be the end of the story, especially if someone’s symptoms improve. However, without treating the root cause and tending to the foundation, we may not be preventing the same symptoms from returning. Contrary to conventional medicine that treats the same set of symptoms the same way for each patient, the goal of Functional Medicine is to promote health and vitality in each patient with individually tailored approaches.  

5 Core Principles of Functional Medicine

Biochemical Individuality

An understanding of the biochemical individuality of each human being, based on the concepts of genetic and environmental uniqueness. Functional medicine understands that all people are genetically and biochemically unique, and there are several factors that can influence the body’s normal processes. Functional Medicine takes into account these factors and looks at a patient as an individual, and treats the person, not the disease.

Evidence Based

Awareness of the evidence that supports a patient-centered rather than a disease-centered approach to treatment. Current research shows us that what happens within the body is connected in a complicated network or web of relationships. Each person’s genetics, biochemistry, microbiome, age, gender, and lifestyle choices impact how diseases happen and progress. Functional medicine works to understand this scientifically and with the most up-to-date evidence. This understanding allows for more effective resolution of health concerns.

Dynamic Balance

Search for a dynamic balance among the internal and external body, mind, and spirit. Functional medicine recognizes the body’s capacity for self-regulation, which expresses itself through a dynamic balance of all your body systems. Instead of forcing the body to work differently, functional medicine focuses on how the body works and on an individual level. The goal is to promote balance between the internal and external environment, allowing the body to heal itself more efficiently and with the least interference.

Health Marked by Vitality

Identification of health as a positive vitality, not merely the absence of disease, and emphasizing those factors that encourage the enhancement of a vigorous physiology. Functional medicine looks to find the root cause or mechanism involved with any loss of function, which ultimately reveals why a set of symptoms is there in the first place. In doing so, it’s much more likely to truly eliminate disease and promote optimal health and vitality.

Enhance Health Span

Promotion of organ reserve as the means to enhance the health span, not just the lifespan, of each and every patient. By supporting the body holistically and establishing sustainable lifestyle changes, we can promote long-term organ reserve for lasting health with a focus on enriching people’s lives, not just lengthening them. Realizing optimal well-being and lasting health is the hope we have for each patient who enters Newbridge.

Our Functional Medicine Providers

Stephanie Belseth, APRN, CPNP

Stephanie Belseth, APRN, CPNP

Stephanie is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with over 25 years of experience in inpatient and outpatient primary care, pulmonology, asthma, early childhood screening, and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Tara Calmes, DNP

Tara Calmes, DNP

Tara is a board-certified Nurse Practitioner with a doctorate in nursing practice. She has specialties in cognitive decline, neurology, pain management, biotoxin illness, gut health, autoimmunity, and chronic illness treatment, and more.

Cathy Dolan, MD

Catherine Dolan, MD

Catherine has been practicing family medicine for 30 years, and added holistic/functional medicine practices in the last 20 years. She has a special interest in mental health challenges, the Walsh Protocol, gut health, and Lyme Disease.

Sarah Gehin

Sarah Gehin, APRN, CNP, L.Ac., MaOM

Sarah is a Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of clinical experience. She specializes in digestive disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, women’s health, thyroid disorders, autoimmunity, chronic and acute pain, and health maintenance.

Karn Johansen

Karn Johansen, PA-C

Karn is a Physician Assistant with over 25 years of experience. She has a passion for helping children with Autism, PANS/PANDAS, and ADHD.

Cathy Moore, PA-C

Cathy Moore, PA-C

Cathy is a board-certified Physician Assistant with experience in specialty areas such as chronic illness of all types, mold toxicity, immunology, women’s health, hormones, preconception, Lyme and related co-infections.

Ready to Book?

Our functional medicine providers all have extensive experience in a wide range of specialties. Book today to see how they can help you or your loved one!