Part II: The Facade of Functional Medicine and Alternative Medicine

Part II: The Facade of Functional Medicine and Alternative Medicine

Paul A. Goldberg MPH, DC, DACBN, DCBCN

To view Part I of this article:

Laboratory Testing and Functional Medicine

“Taking a Functional Approach to health and disease as The Goldberg Tener Clinic has done for over forty years is a wise approach to health care. Functional Medicine, however, is much different. It remains a Medical Approach, very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

– Dr. Paul Goldberg

I am well acquainted with Functional Medicine and have lectured to Functional Medicine Practitioners on topics involving autoimmune, gastrointestinal disorders and Clinical Nutrition. I was involved in the development of Functional Laboratory Testing and Educational tools starting over thirty years ago as a consultant to two major laboratories. If a practitioner understands laboratory procedures and their application they can play a helpful role in uncovering causes and monitoring progress. Functional Medicine on the other hand, while employing many of the same laboratory tests the Goldberg Tener Clinic has long employed, uses them to implement treatments with drugs and supplements making their application much the same as standard medical practice. Functional Medicine is in reality a minor variant of medical practice.

The Allure of Functional Medicine

The patient who has suffered under Medical Practice and seeks a saving grace can easily be attracted to the new variant, Functional Medicine. Patients fail to understand, however, that they are going from Dweedle Dee to Dweedle Dum with the same template being used.

As a young man with Rheumatoid Disease in my 20’s I learned that Alternative Medicine in its varied forms such as “Functional Medicine” is not fundamentally different from standard medical practice. Throwing supplements and additional drugs into the mix does not change its faulty and often very hazardous nature. Functional Medicine is a marketing device used to attract patients, disillusioned with Conventional Medicine, yet wishing to remain in a medical comfort zone.

There are today a plethora of Alternative Medicines in addition to “Functional Medicine” including:

  • Anti-Aging Medicine

  • Holistic Medicine

  • Functional Medicine

  • Naturopathic Medicine

  • Complementary Medicine

  • Integrative Medicine

Alternative Medicine in its varied forms is not fundamentally different from standard medical practice. In the video above, Dr. Tener discusses the difference between Conventional/Alternative Medicine and the Goldberg Tener Clinic Approach.

All kinds of medicine presenting themselves as alternatives under the guise that they represent a better approach with their particular variety of medicine.

Functional Medicine promotes itself as an improved or “complimentary” form of medicine. The jump from Conventional Medicine to Functional Medicine is a small jump allowing the patient to continue medical treatments, just different or additional ones. Beyond the hoopla and glitter, Functional and Alternative Medicine are a facade based on the same faulty premise i.e. the naming of symptoms followed by “treatments” to address those symptoms. Call the plethora of alternative/functional medicine approaches by any name but a rose is still a rose, treatments are still treatments and the treatment of chronic disease vs. addressing disease causation are polar opposites. Causes of ill health need to be identified and addressed directly. Medical and Alternative Medical Treatments fail to accomplish this.

Use Our Medicine Rather Than Their Medicine!

“Confusion is debilitating. I bear this in mind everyday working with patients bewildered by the avalanche of what they read on the Internet along with misinformation from Alternative Practitioners.”

Conventional Medicine initially viewed Alternative/Functional Medicine as a threat but has now chosen to assimilate it. Medical giants such as The Cleveland and Mayo Clinics have opened departments of “Functional Medicine” leading a gullible public to believe they are in a place to get the best of both worlds when in fact they remain in the same world with some added glitter.

Patients are informed they have yeast overgrowth, the MTHFR Gene, Gluten intolerance and other canned answers. “Diagnoses” are followed by prescribing herbs, supplements, animal glandulars, parasite cleansers, detoxifiers, etc., Treatments and more treatments. Confusion and frustration generally follow.

Confusion is debilitating. I bear this in mind everyday working with patients bewildered by the avalanche of what they read on the Internet along with misinformation from Alternative Practitioners.  Most patients I’ve worked with over the past four decades have taken a myriad of approaches prior to coming to us. Their “alternative/functional medical” list of treatments often exceeds the long list of drugs they are taking and that can be a very long list.

The More The Merrier

The current trend is to employ both pharmaceuticals and “Functional Medicine” treatments. The thinking is that the more approaches one takes i.e. a plethora of drugs accompanied by mountains of herbs, diets, probiotics, vitamins, chelation therapies, “bio-identical” hormones, anti-depressants, etc., the better the chance for recovery. The reality is to the contrary as these piles of pills and therapies do more to burden the body than assist it to recover.

In plying the chronically ill patient with “alternative” treatments in addition to prescription drugs, the patient is driven farther away from health. The result of the “natural treatments” physicians dispense to warrant the  “functional, alternative” titles” is that health issues are compounded. The correction of causal factors must be specific to the patient and not merely entail throwing a myriad of additional treatments at an already overburdened body.

Functional Medicine’s slippery slope has two inherent hazards:

  1. A medical physician is trained to treat disease with drugs. This is embedded into every physician’s psyche and it is highly improbable for this treatment model to be drilled out. Likewise patients are indoctrinated in being medicated. It is therefore easy to add yet more medications under the guise of “alternative medicines” to the pharmaceuticals already prescribed.

    Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine”, did not advocate medicine (let alone drugs) for the “treatment of disease.” The notion of giving potions for symptoms came later with the School of Asclepius, a competitive camp from which Conventional (Allopathic) Medicine evolved. Functional Medicine bears little resemblance to the Hippocratic School. Functional Medicine is driven by a symptom/treatment orientation regardless of how “holistic” the practitioner might profess to be as a result of a seminar sponsored by a supplement company. New tests and treatments are added to their pharmaceutical armory but the approach and results remain the same.

  2. To maintain Medical Licensure requires practicing Conventional Medicine. To not follow medical protocol is to risk malpractice. The practitioner can add “alternative therapies”, “supplements”, “bio-identical hormones” etc., to their antibiotics, steroids, hormones, Synthroid, immunosuppressant’s and anti-depressants, but remains held to medical standards. The physician that prescribed pharmaceuticals still gives those pharmaceuticals as a “ Functional Medicine” practitioner but with yet more pills. The physician attends a weekend seminar on Bio-identical Hormones and on Monday advertises he or she is a “Functional Medicine” Practitioner with the hope of gaining a competitive edge. Giving a probiotic along with an antibiotic or St. Johns Wort with Prozac does nothing for the patient till at last, as the disease becomes further ingrained and the patient fails to get well, he says… “I tried everything”.

The difference between nature, hygiene and treatments is blurred in the public’s eyes. Physicians such as Television Personality “Dr. Oz” make careers of touting a plethora of “natural” potions and pills continuing to promote a non-productive treatment mentality.

“What the chronically ill person needs is not “alternative medicine” but an alternative to medicine.”

Functional Medicine and other forms of Alternative Medicine might prevent some from closing the door on hope but it also prevents them from returning to good health and taking control of their health destiny. Alternative/Functional Medicine approaches take us down the same path of naming diseases and treating symptoms… a path going in the wrong direction.

Paul A. Goldberg MPH, DC, DACBN, DCBCN

The Goldberg Tener Clinic For Chronic Disease Reversal
Causes Identified…Causes Addressed…Health Restored

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