Naturopathic vs. Functional Medicine

If you’re searching for the perfect alternative medicine to supplement your conventional medical treatments, or if you’re looking for an all-natural solution for your healthcare needs, you’ve seen the terms “naturopathic medicine” and “functional medicine.” There are differences between naturopathic vs. functional medicine, as well as several reasons why naturopathic medicine offers a more complete solution for your healthcare needs than functional medicine does.

Naturopathic vs. Functional Medicine: The Similarities

On the surface, there are many similarities between naturopathic and functional medicine. Both approaches find and treat the underlying cause of a condition rather than seeking ways to relieve individual symptoms. Providers prefer to use non-invasive, all-natural treatments alongside comprehensive wellness plans to restore the body’s innate powers to heal itself.

Conventional medicine seeks to treat the symptoms of a disease without getting to the root cause of the problem. Because conventional medicine works to alleviate symptoms, patients find the symptoms return when treatment stops. Patients must continue to rely on medications to remain symptom-free.

The downside to prescription medications is that some are toxic and dangerous for long-term use. Others are addictive, and pharmaceuticals are costly. The body builds a tolerance to these medications, and over time the drugs lose their efficacy unless switched or adjusted.

When the underlying cause of the symptoms is uncovered, as is the goal of both naturopathic and functional medicine, the symptoms disappear naturally. The difference between naturopathic vs. functional medicine is how they accomplish this goal.

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is an approach to health that combines alternative and traditional methods when diagnosing and treating patients. Functional medicine also incorporates naturopathic medicine when creating treatments and therapies for their patients.

When studying functional medicine vs. naturopathic medicine, you should know that functional medicine is a newer concept than other alternative medical systems, like naturopathy. It was founded only a few short decades ago in 1980. 

A functional medicine doctor trains at a conventional medical school before receiving additional training in functional medicine. Following this education, functional medicine practitioners must pass  exams and complete additional training and clinical work.

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine which relies on the healing power of nature – meaning, there is an inherent healing capacity in the body that can restore balance and this capacity can be stimulated by things such as natural herbs, nutrients, diet, exercise/movement, hot and cold therapies, sunlight, emotional shifts, etc. 

Naturopathy began in 19th century Europe at healing spas where people came to be restored to health. It rapidly grew in popularity and spread around the world. Later, this approach to healing came to the U.S., where it developed into a formal medical profession with its own distinct medical educational system.

Modern naturopathic physicians can use diagnostic testing – such as lab testing and imaging – to find the underlying cause of a condition. They then turn to time-tested, non-invasive therapies such as natural supplements, herbal medicine, and homeopathic solutions.

Naturopathic medical training  is more in-depth compared to functional medical training and consists of a four-year post-graduate degree program at an accredited naturopathic medical school. After meeting all educational requirements, the practitioner receives their Doctorate in Naturopathy.

Naturopathic education mirrors conventional medical training in many ways, including the following:

  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Diagnostic medicine
  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacology

The primary difference between Naturopathic versus Functional Medicine, is that Naturopathic Medicine is a complete and coherent holistic system of medicine which has been refined over the past 175 years, whereas Functional Medicine is a more recent development with a more narrow body of knowledge and training. 

Why Choose Naturopathic vs. Functional Medicine?

Despite the similarities between the two, there are several advantages to choosing naturopathic vs. functional medicine for your healthcare concerns.

  • Least invasive approach: Naturopathic doctors rely on evaluating lifestyle factors and choose all-natural therapies whenever possible.
  • Doctor as teacher: This is a core principle of naturopathic medicine, and it means your doctor will provide you with all the tools and information you need to control your health. 
  • Effective wellness plans: While they are always available for guidance, naturopathic doctors understand that the only effective wellness plan is one you follow. Naturopathic medicine seeks to help patients find the right balance so they can thrive.
  • Focus on prevention: A focus on prevention is a key factor in the naturopathic vs. functional medicine approach. The body is designed to maintain its balance with proper support, and a well-balanced body is a healthy one.
  • Wider bench of therapies: Naturopathic medicine understands that sometimes healing requires an unconventional approach, so it embraces alternative therapies including acupuncture, massage, and nutritional counseling.

If you’re feeling tired, suffering from a chronic illness, or experiencing symptoms such as mood swings, pain, anxiety, GI issues, allergies, and sleep disturbances, you should understand that it’s not normal to feel bad, it’s not “all in your head,” and it’s not your fault. There’s a better, healthier life for you full of energy and joy, and at Thrive Naturopathic we can help you discover it. Finding a better you starts with one short, free, no-obligation call. If learning the differences between naturopathic vs. functional medicine has helped you, then this could be the call that changes everything.

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