difference between functional medicine and naturopathy

Finding the right person to kickstart you on your wellness journey is key. In this article, first in the series “Who’s on your wellness team?”, I cover the differences between Functional Medicine and Naturopathy.

It takes a team of people to support your wellbeing

“It takes a village to raise a child”: sounds familiar? I only fully grabbed the meaning of it when my daughter was born, even though I’d heard it many times before. I like to think that the same principle applies to your health. It takes a team of people to support your wellbeing. You don’t have to come to that realisation only when you’re hit with a serious health issue. Prevention beats cure any day.

Disclaimer: nothing contained in this article is intended to be used as medical advice. It’s not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It’s simply offered as a resource to widen your horizon when it comes to holistic health and wellbeing. 

What is Functional Medicine? 

Functional medicine seeks to find the drivers of a disease: what is causing the sickness in the first place? Quite different from conventional medicine where often only symptoms are addressed by being matched to a drug (which may only act as camouflage). 

Functional Medicine doctors have accredited medical training and clinical experience. They are able to diagnose and treat a variety of diseases and serious health conditions. They address the body as one integrated system by looking at genetic, lifestyle, environmental and family histories. If your blood tests are “normal” but you’re not feeling well, functional medicine testing can help you uncover hormonal, metabolic and nutritional imbalances beyond what a standard blood test can do. 

Dr Mark Hyman, a pioneer in this field, explains the key differences between functional and conventional medicine in this short video HERE. The Institute for Functional Medicine is the gold standard for Functional Medicine. They have a search tool to help you locate an accredited Functional Medicine practitioner anywhere in the world. 

What is Naturopathy?

Naturopathy is based on the same principles as Functional Medicine: it addresses the whole person, not just the affected area. However, Naturopaths are not medical doctors. They are not able to diagnose diseases or prescribe medication. The ones who are, are called Naturopathic Doctors or ND and have been medically trained. 

The foundation of Naturopathy is that the body is self-healing and as such, treatments prescribed by Naturopaths will typically involve nutritional supplements, herbs, dietary and lifestyle advice to support the body’s natural healing mechanisms. 

You do not need to be unwell to benefit from Naturopathy. It’s a modality that works to restore harmony in the body and prevent disease on top of alleviating a wide range of conditions such as fatigue, stress related symptoms, digestive problems, to name a few. 

Often Naturopaths will specialise in a certain area such as hormones, digestion or skin conditions. It’s not uncommon to come across a Naturopath who also has another qualification such as Nutrition or Herbalism. Naturopathy can also be a great complement to any medical treatment you may be undertaking with your Functional Medicine doctor.  

Some resources to help you

To find a practitioner, look out for the approved accrediting body in your country. In Australia it is The Australian Natural Therapists Association and in the US there’s the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Contact me for additional support

The thing is, Functional Medicine Doctors and Naturopaths have limited time to spend with you. I’ve experienced it firsthand: getting my questions answered in between appointments was hard work. I sometimes had to spend hours researching and experimenting in order to adjust my lifestyle appropriately and optimise my treatment. As a Life Coach and Wellbeing Consultant, that’s what I can help you with: maximise your chances of success with the treatment you’re undergoing and stay focused on completing it. Check my service Holistic Wellbeing HERE

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash


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