Functional Medicine vs. Integrative Medicine: Which is For You?

Are you looking to understand functional and integrative medicine? Read on to learn more about both approaches, their differences, and which is right for you.

Traditional medical practices use medications and treatments. But, recently, two alternative systems of medicine – functional and integrative medicine – have gained traction as viable ‘healing’ methods for clients.

Both approaches focus on finding the underlying causes of chronic imbalances in the body and examine how nutrition, lifestyle, and other environmental factors can contribute to a patient’s well-being. The information below explores these two modalities in-depth so you can decide which is best suited for your needs.

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a patient-centered and holistic approach to healthcare that addresses the root causes of chronic health conditions. It views the body as a complex system and tries to understand the interconnectedness of various bodily systems and how they contribute to overall health.

Functional medicine practitioners take a comprehensive approach to patient care. They often spend time studying their patients and understanding their health history, lifestyle, and environment.

Functional medicine practitioners use various diagnostic tools, including laboratory tests and other functional assessments, to comprehensively understand a patient’s health. They focus on treating the underlying causes of chronic illness rather than just the symptoms.

These causes may include hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, gut imbalances, and other body imbalances.

Practitioners will personalized treatment plans that may include lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, nutritional supplements, and other therapies to help restore the body to optimal health.

What is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine is a holistic healthcare approach that considers the patient’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It takes a comprehensive approach to patient care and addresses the whole person rather than just their symptoms.

Integrative medicine practitioners may use various diagnostic tools, including laboratory tests, physical exams, psychological assessments, and spiritual assessments, to fully understand a patient’s health.

Integrative medicine practitioners often use conventional, complementary, and alternative therapies to treat patients. They develop personalized treatment plans that may include conventional medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy, and other alternative therapies.

Integrative medicine addresses the underlying causes of illness, restoring balance to the body, mind, and spirit.

The Benefits of Functional and Integrative Medicine

Functional and integrative medicine approaches offer the following benefits:

  • Holistic approach: Both approaches consider the whole person, taking into account physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of an individual’s well-being.
  • Personalized care: Both functional and integrative medicine offer tailored treatment plans based on each patient’s unique needs and circumstances.
  • Evidence-based care: Both approaches rely on evidence-based practices and the latest scientific research to provide safe and effective treatments.
  • Chronic disease management: Both address the root causes of chronic diseases, promoting long-term health and wellness.
  • Integration of conventional and alternative therapies: Both incorporate therapeutic techniques, including traditional and alternative therapies, to provide comprehensive care.

Functional Medicine vs. Integrative Medicine: Key Differences

While these two approaches share similarities, there are some key differences that you should understand before deciding which type of care is best for your needs. Here are the five main differences between functional medicine and integrative medicine.

The Focus

Functional and integrative medicine both focus on the whole person rather than treating symptoms or diseases. However, functional medicine goes further by understanding the underlying causes of disease to create personalized treatment plans. It considers lifestyle, genetics, environment, nutrition, and more.

On the other hand, integrative medicine focuses more on incorporating different therapies into one comprehensive plan to achieve maximum health benefits.

The Approach

Functional medicine is evidence-based in diagnosing and treating chronic conditions. It seeks to understand how different body systems interact to determine what is causing a particular condition or disease process.

Integrative medicine takes a more holistic approach to healing by considering all aspects of an individual’s life, including their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, when developing treatment plans.

The Tools Used

Functional medicine utilizes advanced testing methods such as genetic testing to better understand the underlying cause of a condition or disease process.

It also relies heavily on lifestyle changes such as diet modifications and exercise programs as part of its treatment plans. Integrative medicine uses traditional treatments such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, and counseling services to promote overall wellness.

The Role of Diet

Functional medicine considers diet one of its primary tools for promoting health and preventing chronic disease. Integrative medicine views diet as only one component of an individual’s overall wellness plan.


Functional medical treatments tend to be more expensive due to specialized tests or additional therapeutic interventions. In contrast, integrative medical treatments may be less costly due to their shorter treatment times and reliance on traditional therapies like acupuncture or herbal remedies instead of tests or drugs, which may come at additional costs.

How to Decide between Functional Medicine and Integrative Medicine

It can be difficult for those seeking alternatives to conventional medicine to decide between functional and integrative medicine. Both have the potential to improve overall health and well-being, but how do you know which one is right for you?

Let’s look at three key factors that will help you make an informed decision about your medical care.

  • Your Health Goals: The first factor you should consider is your personal health goals. Do you want to improve your health, or are you trying to find relief from a specific condition? Depending on your situation and needs, one approach may be better suited.
  • Cost: Another important factor is cost, which may vary. Both can be expensive depending on your insurance coverage or if you pay out-of-pocket. It’s important to research all the available options to determine which type of care best fits your budget constraints.
  • Availability: Lastly, the practitioners offering either type of care must have experience treating patients with similar conditions. Practitioners who offer both types of care may also be able to recommend an appropriate course of treatment based on their knowledge and experience with each approach.

Ultimately, the best approach will depend on individual needs and preferences. It may be helpful to schedule consultations with functional and integrative medicine practitioners to learn more about each approach and determine which is best for you.


Making an informed decision about which type of healthcare is right for you can be overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be! By understanding the differences between functional and integrative medicine, you can decide what works best for your individual needs and goals.



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