While naturopathy and functional medicine may appear similar, they are actually different creatures in subtle ways. Many naturopaths practice functional medicine, but not all functional medicine practitioners practice naturopathy.
Naturopathy focuses exclusively on natural remedies to illness. Functional medicine looks at the whole body and how the environment affects it. While naturopathy focuses on natural remedies, functional medicine looks at the individual patient’s unique circumstances, from the patient’s body to the patient’s environment.
Choosing Naturopathy Or Functional Medicine: It Isn’t A Zero-Sum Choice
If you are seeking treatment for a chronic condition, you may find yourself going to several medical practitioners, both conventional and alternative, before you find a solution. This may include trying both naturopathic medicine and functional medicine. This is to be expected, as chronic conditions can be the hardest for any medical practitioner to get a handle on.
Whether you are wrestling with neurological conditions or gut issues, either of these may show results. If you find that one course of treatment is not helping, this doesn’t mean you need to abandon the possibility of a viable treatment. It’s wise to try a variety if you don’t meet with initial success. Try conventional medicine, naturopathy, functional medicine — all can offer different approaches, and you may find that one works where others fail.
That’s one of the reasons our integrative practice here in Hong Kong has been so successful at getting results for our patients, especially those who have struggled to get help elsewhere. We can offer both functional medicine and naturopathy in one clinic, as well as several other specialized practitioners who work together to find solutions.
What To Look For In Your Practitioner
Naturopathy and functional medicine practitioners are certified just as conventional medical doctors are. Insist on credentials before you begin any course of treatment. Even if you are simply having an initial consultation, this is a great time to ask your practitioner for his or her certifications.
Also, find out whether your practitioner has dealt with conditions similar to or the same as yours. A practitioner familiar with gut issues may not be familiar with neurological conditions. Everyone’s experience is linear, so if you find a practitioner who has dealt with or been trained in your specific symptoms, you stand a better chance of reaching your goal of mitigating or removing the condition.
Finally, keep in mind that with any chronic condition, any form of treatment can take time. Drugs from a conventional medical doctor may address symptoms. But you may find the underlying condition returns with a vengeance if you stop taking prescribed medication. Or your medication may have side effects that are worse than the condition the drugs are supposed to treat. This is particularly problematic when treating depression, for example.
Naturopathic Medicine, Functional Medicine, and Lifestyle
Lifestyle is a fundamental component of the approach to illness followed by both functional medicine and naturopathy. In treating any condition, it is likely you will have to make changes to your lifestyle. This may mean dietary changes, increases in the amount and diversity of exercise you get on a daily basis, changes to your stress levels, and even changes to your living conditions. Don’t expect a quick fix from your naturopath or functional medicine practitioner. Your practitioner’s task here is to discover the underlying circumstances leading to your condition. Not to simply band-aid the symptoms.