Conventional medicine, also known as Western medicine primarily consists of characterizing illnesses and disorders by diagnosis. What that means for a patient is that the cause of the illness or disorder is not the focus, but the focus is instead the symptoms and behaviors associated with the disorder or illness. Conventional medicine treatment options involve procedures that are sometimes invasive, and also include the use of synthetic medications, surgeries, and operations.

There is no doubt that conventional medicine has made tremendous advances over the years. Yet, according to Southwest Functional Medicine in Nevada, for reasons unknown,  the medical community decided at some point to make conventional medicine the primary aspect of healthcare. The conventional medicine model is used for chronic disease management, nutrition, and preventative medicine; and as Southwest Functional Medicine states, the results have been mediocre. They further note that “perpetual symptom suppression and the lack of root cause resolution has resulted in a continued deterioration of these integral aspects of healthcare and widespread dissatisfaction among patients and practitioners alike.”

Holistic medicine is a model of medicine that attempts to consider the “whole” self in the approach to proper health and wellness. The goal is to unify the mind, body, and spirit as they all interconnect. If such unity can be achieved, then there will be the absence of disease, ultimately (and likely) leading to optimal health.

While an ideal model to many, for the time being, holistic medicine is still an unrefined model, too broad and vague in its concepts to become a primary model in healthcare. However, “a good functional medicine doctor is holistic, a good integrative medicine doctor is holistic, a good naturopath is holistic, a good conventional medical doctor is holistic. All good practitioners are holistic.”

Naturopathic medicine is a healthcare model that embraces the “healing power of nature.” Naturopathy is rather broad and employs a variety of therapeutic modalities. With
strict emphasis on diet, lifestyle modifications, detoxification as well as other natural interventions, otherwise known as the “nature cure”, some naturopaths will make the nature cure their sole focus during their quest to heal. Others may employ other non-traditional practices that include acupuncture or homeopathy. There are also naturopathic doctors who will “extensively manipulate the body’s physiology and biochemistry by means of botanicals, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceuticals.” However, many if not most naturopathic physicians will include something from all the aforementioned elements into their healing practice.

Integrative medicine is a healthcare model that combines conventional medicine with non-conventional/alternative practices. Herbs, chiropractic, homeopathy, and acupuncture are all examples of treatment. This form of medicine is similar to conventional medicine in that a strong area of focus for the practice is classifying disorders and illnesses by diagnosis. Dr. Andrew Weil, a leader in the field of integrative medicine provides the following description, “integrative medicine is a healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes on the therapeutic relationship, and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.”

Functional medicine is a model that takes a tailored and correlative approach to healthcare. It operates by working to prevent, manage, and identify the root causes of complex chronic diseases. Functional medicine takes components of conventional medicine, integrative medicine, holistic medicine, and naturopathic medicine; and according to Southwest Functional Medicine, it uses the combination of those branches of medicine to offer the most “comprehensive and effective approach to healthcare.” While functional medicine is based on the foundation associated with conventional medicine, it is still holistic at its core in the way patients and their problems are viewed. Yet, the open-mindedness associated with integrative medicine is brought in to play when determining the best modality necessary for healing.   

While a perfect human does not exist, a perfectly healthy one can. However, creating such great health does not come easily. Each model discussed is strong in its own right, but for optimal health and wellness, it may be best to incorporate the best parts of each, while searching for the true cause of any illness or disorder.

Source: Southwest Functional Medicine 

Exploring the benefits of using naturopathic, holistic, integrative, and functional medicine doctors to support healing