Functional vs Conventional Medicine

The prevalence and cost of chronic disease in the United States continue to rise. According to the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), 6 in 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease, and 4 in 10 have two or more.

We need to rethink how we approach the prevention and treatment of illness and the long-term maintenance of health.

At the Young Naturopathic Center for Wellness, we believe functional medicine is a crucial antidote to the dual problems of dependency on a deficient healthcare system and skyrocketing healthcare costs.

Two Roads to Health

Imagine the map of your life. You’ve marked the destination you hope to reach: a life that is rich in both quantity and quality. Now you must decide how you’ll get there. There are many possible paths you could take, and the vehicle you choose to travel in can make all the difference.

Conventional medicine is like an old beater you picked up on Craigslist. It may get you from point A to point B, but it lacks modern features like airbags, ABS and a navigation system that make your ride safer and more enjoyable. And customization options? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Functional medicine, on the other hand, is the fully tricked-out modern motorcar of your dreams. It has a suite of high-tech tools to help you handle the challenges of life’s journey, from blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warnings to adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system. This vehicle offers a more comprehensive approach to optimizing health and preventing disease, with more opportunities for personalization.

If you’re ready to see how you can experience more years of health, not just more years of life, hop in the car and join us on this road trip through the worlds of functional vs. conventional medicine.

The Functional Medicine Approach

At the heart of functional medicine is the belief that each person is unique and requires a personalized approach to healthcare. Functional medicine practitioners take the time to understand each patient’s individual needs, lifestyle and goals, and develop a customized and strategic plan to achieve optimal wellness.

One of the key principles of functional medicine is root cause analysis. Instead of simply treating the symptoms, functional medicine doctors work like detectives to identify the underlying causes of health issues, whether they be genetic, environmental or lifestyle-related. By addressing these root causes, functional medicine doctors can help patients achieve long-term health and wellness.

Functional medicine also places a strong emphasis on prevention. This means that functional medicine doctors not only treat illness when it arises, but also work with patients to adopt healthy habits that can prevent disease from occurring in the first place. Functional medicine offers a truly holistic approach to well-being — physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual.

The Conventional Medicine Approach

Conventional medicine is based on the principles of disease diagnosis and treatment, with a focus on standardized treatment protocols. If you have a specific illness or condition, conventional medicine is likely to approach it with prescription drugs and other treatments designed to manage your symptoms rather than address their underlying cause.

Conventional medicine remains an important part of the US healthcare system, but it has limitations. The emphasis on standardized protocols and pharmaceutical interventions often means patients are treated with a one-size-fits-all approach that isn’t the best fit for their specific situation. Pharmaceuticals can be costly and have negative consequences, such as side effects and the risk of addiction.

Conventional medicine focuses on treatment, not prevention. This means that the majority of resources are directed toward managing illness after it has already occurred, rather than proactively addressing the risk factors that could lead to illness. By masking symptoms rather than treating their root cause, conventional medicine creates “patients for life.”

Meet Meredith

Meredith is a 50-year-old woman living in California. She has spent the majority of her life working in startups, and currently holds a senior management position at a successful established company. With the long hours and competitive work environment, plus the natural changes that occur during her stage of life, Meredith is facing some health challenges. She is planning to see a doctor for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heartburn and arthritis.

Although Meredith is fictional, she reflects the real patients we see every day at the Young Naturopathic Center for Wellness. Let’s explore how her health journey might look different depending on what type of doctor she chooses.

Meredith’s Journey With Conventional Medicine

High Cholesterol

Meredith’s doctor prescribes a medication that contains statins, which work by blocking a substance the body needs to make cholesterol. Although these medications have been linked to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, there is also research linking statins to decreased insulin sensitivity, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

High Blood Pressure

Meredith’s doctor prescribes a beta blocker. This type of medication causes the heart to beat slower and less forcefully, which lowers blood pressure. Although they can help control high blood pressure, they do not cure it. Beta blockers containing hydrochlorothiazide have been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer.


Meredith’s doctor prescribes an acid blocker for her heartburn. Drugs in this category work by inhibiting the stomach’s ability to produce acids. Long-term use of acid blockers is linked to nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis and mental confusion.


Meredith’s doctor suggests taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to manage the pain and inflammation. NSAIDS can lead to gastrointestinal side effects such as abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea. In severe cases, patients may develop ulcers, internal bleeding or holes in the gut lining or intestine.

Meredith’s Journey With Functional Medicine

High Cholesterol

Meredith’s doctor tests her cholesterol levels and takes note of minor abnormalities (such as a low thyroid level, which can indicate a hormonal imbalance). Her doctor recommends a diet consisting of daily servings of vegetables, fish, fruit and fatty acids, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 30%.

High Blood Pressure

Meredith’s doctor understands that high blood pressure is often the result of dietary choices — specifically, a diet high in red meat, refined carbohydrates and processed sugar. Her doctor advises Meredith to replace these items with fruits, vegetables and lean protein to lower her blood pressure risks. She also talks to Meredith about stress management strategies to help her lead a more balanced life.


Meredith’s doctor again turns to the power of food to resolve Meredith’s issues. Her doctor helps her understand how a healthy, well-balanced diet can eliminate acid reflux and help her manage her weight. Her doctor also recommends taking a plant-based digestive enzyme with her meals and runs tests to identify any food intolerances Meredith might have.


Meredith’s doctor suggests exercising regularly and getting more exposure to natural sunlight. These lifestyle changes can help reduce weight, improve cardiovascular health and build stronger bones to alleviate arthritis pain. Her doctor also runs tests for inflammation markers and designs a personalized plan to ensure Meredith gets the hormonal and nutritional support she needs.

Breaking It Down: Functional Medicine vs. Conventional Medicine

Functional Medicine Conventional Medicine
Patient-centered approach Disease-centered approach
Personalized, holistic care Generalized, protocol-based care
Views body as an integrated system Views body as independent parts
Discovers root cause Manages symptoms
Emphasizes disease prevention Emphasizes disease treatment
Lifestyle & nutrition-based treatments Pharmaceutical interventions
Collaborative relationship with patient Authoritative relationship with patient
Restorative: improves quantity & quality of life Palliative: manages symptoms & disease
Proactive Reactive

Invest In Your Most Valuable Asset: YOU

Your health is one of your most important investments. It can be overwhelming to navigate your options, especially if you’re not feeling your best — but with chronic disease on the rise, it’s never been more critical to choose a road that will lead you through a lifetime of health.

The best choice is the one that aligns with your values and priorities. Finding a healthcare provider who shares those values and can work with you to create a customized care plan is key. Whether you choose functional medicine, conventional medicine or a combination of the two, remember that taking an active role in your health and well-being is always the right choice.

Modern Healthcare for a Modern Age

Functional medicine is healthcare for the 21st century. With advanced diagnostic testing and treatments that combine contemporary clinical science with time-tested natural therapies, the Young Naturopathic Center for Wellness can help you rediscover your optimal state of health.

We believe in living well, not just living long. We partner with each and every one of our patients to live the fullest, happiest and most vital life they can. Nothing looks as good as healthy feels!

Get started today by requesting your complimentary consultation. Give us a call at 408-761-6781 or schedule a consultation to take the first step towards a healthier you.