A Medical Milestone: Study Confirms That Functional Medicine Improves Quality of Life

An Update From AIM’s Medical Directors

Steve and Sandi Amoils, MDs

An article published in the Oct. 25 issue of JAMA® (Journal of the American Medical Association) confirmed what we have observed over the past 15 years: using behavioral and lifestyle interventions impacts patients’ quality of life. This may not seem like news to our patients, who tell us how much better they feel when they utilize the model of care we practice at Alliance Integrative Medicine (AIM). But it is significant news for the conventional medical community — they have now validated a functional-medicine approach by publishing an in-depth study in a well-respected medical journal!

This study is the first of its kind to evaluate the impact of Functional Medicine on patients’ health-related quality of life. It compares patients at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine with those seen at a regular primary care center. The two-year study showed a statistically significant improvement after six months in those patients seen at the Functional Medicine Center. It’s important to understand that the Functional Medicine approach includes factors not always well-addressed by conventional medicine. These include sleep, exercise, eating habits, nutrient intakes, stress management, social relationships, genomics, digestive and metabolic interventions, and other variables.

Beidelschies M, Alejandro-Rodriguez M, Ji X, Lapin B, Hanaway P, Rothberg MB. Association of the Functional Medicine Model of Care With Patient-Reported Health-Related Quality-of-Life Outcomes. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(10):e1914017. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.14017

Although the benefits of a multi-pronged or systems-based approach is difficult to assess, this study did just that. And it affirms the way we have chosen to practice medicine. At AIM we utilize approaches from Functional Medicine as well as Integrative Medicine to practice what we call Transformational Medicine SM. Bottom line: we see patients realize a quantum leap in treatment benefits when they address multiple aspects of their health at the same time — not just in transformed health but also in a transformation in their quality of life.

What is the difference between Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine? Andrew Weil, M.D., originally coined the term “Integrative Medicine,” which is a practice that emphasizes integrating approaches not always used in conventional medicine. Functional Medicine is an approach popularized by Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., and Mark Hyman, M.D., and focuses more on physiology and the interplay of how different systems function within an individual patient. There is a high degree of overlap in that both methods address nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, and stress management. However, Integrative Medicine has generally utilized alternative healing techniques that address mind, body, and spirit. Functional Medicine addresses lifestyle factors and tends to use supplements to modify physiology.

While the JAMA study is the first of its kind, the PRIMIER Study (Patient Receiving Integrative Medicine Interventions Effectiveness Registry) that AIM participated in showed similar results. This study followed 5,000 patients at AIM and other leading Integrative Medicine centers throughout the United States for a one-to-two-year period starting in 2013. And the data show that patients who utilized Integrative Medicine experienced multiple benefits simultaneously: decrease in pain, decreased anxiety and depression, improved quality of life, and a greater sense of control over their health.

Dusek, J., Abrams, D., Roberts, R., Griffin, K., Trebesch, D., Dolor, R., Wolever, R., McKee, M. and Kligler, B. (2015). Patients Receiving Integrative Medicine Effectiveness Registry (PRIMIER) of the BraveNet practice-based research network: study protocol. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 16(1).

We hope that one day these approaches will no longer be called Integrative Medicine or Functional Medicine. Rather, let’s call it what it is … GOOD MEDICINE. In the meantime, these studies should motivate us to better manage lifestyle and  nutrition, and include stress and exercise programs to maximize our health! Including these therapies to optimize healing and well-being is not in any way contrary to conventional medicine. They should simply be part of it!

To read the JAMA article “Association of the Functional Medicine Model of Care with Patient-Reported Health-Related Quality-of-Life Outcomes” go to.


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