Holistic Directory

Functional Medicine vs Holistic Medicine vs Natural Medicine vs Integrative Medicine

Holistic Team -


Through the emergence of new styles of medicinal practice, these four types of medicine get the least amount of attention. 

However, each of these therapeutic practices has benefits for patients who are looking to move past western-style medicine which treats symptoms and focus on treating the illness or improving the person's quality of life. 


Functional Medicine 

Functional medicine relies on treating the body as a whole unit rather than parts that don't affect each other. Chronic illness or discomfort in various areas of your body would have different diagnoses depending on which type of western doctor you visited.

However, a doctor who practices this type of medicine would suggest that they were all linked and that you need to balance your body. 

This type of medicine addresses your genetics as well as dietary habits and lifestyle to treat or prevent illness. 

An example of functional medicine:

A primary example of this type of medicine is illness resulting from parasites or inflammation. A parasite would require a prescription for treatment.

However, a doctor using this type of therapy would also recommend you go through various lifestyle changes to correct the damage done and to avoid contracting future parasites. 

Often it is undiagnosed that a common issue lies between asthma and digestive problems, but a parasite is an example of an issue that would be the underlying problem linking these two symptoms together. 

Benefits to Functional Medicine:

Many patients enjoy that they not only get over their medical condition that led them to this type of medicine in the first place but that they lead healthier lifestyles that prevent future issues afterward.

Because this type of medicine uses your genetic makeup to predict and prevent illness, these doctors will often help you find a diet and lifestyle that works best for your medical concerns. 

Unlike holistic medicine, which relies heavily on cultural knowledge or natural medicine which relies heavily on various forms of science, this type of medicine falls right in the middle. This form of medicine focuses on marrying science with cultural wisdom. 


Holistic Medicine 

Holistic practices focus on balancing the whole body at all times while avoiding western-style treatments. For many people, this means developing better lifestyle habits both physically and spiritually. 

Holistic methods consider the mind and spirit as vital to overall wellness. Those who practice this type of medicine rely on therapy, chiropracty, and mental health as part of a wellness plan, and not as a treatment for a preexisting disease. 

An example of Holistic Medicine:

A conventional example of this type of medicine at work is acupuncture and chiropractic care. For example, if you cite constant joint pain to your practitioner who believes in holistic practices, then they will likely suggest you begin a regimen of acupuncture, chiropractic care, and possibly yoga. 

While this may seem a bit out of touch with western treatments, the combination of these recommendations will result in better muscle and tissue health while you strengthen your muscles through exercise.

The outcome is that your joint pain will likely subside because you took responsibility for your wellness. 

Benefit to Holistic medicine:

One of the primary benefits is the extreme change in responsibility for your wellness. Often western medicine places the burden for the health of the patient onto the doctor or surgeon.

Because holistic remedies require the patient to take action, the doctor is more of an assistant than a person who prescribes a thirty-second symptom cure. 

Many believe that avoiding prescriptions or unnecessary surgery can help your body recover faster and that it prepares you more for future issues.

The variety of healthcare solutions used in holistic treatments allows your body to build itself up, rather than rely on supplemental therapies. 

This type of medicine does stray the furthest from science than the other alternative forms of medicine as it relies on centuries-old cultural practices more than prescriptions or surgery.

The critical aspect to consider when comparing holistic treatments to different types of medicine is that you may need to use your critical thinking skills to link the procedures together to identify how they benefit you. 

Although nearly every doctor will tell you to exercise more or improve your diet, a doctor who practices this type of medicine will likely only use diet and exercise to address your complaints of discomfort or even an illness.

That does not mean that these doctors will altogether rule our prescriptions or surgery if necessary, they aren't the top priority here. 


Natural Medicine 

Natural medicine walks the fine line between modern western-style medicine and holistic practices as it allows for any use of natural elements.

But the areas that people call into question is whether or not a processed version of a natural remedy counts as natural or synthetic. A common issue that is brought up is Aspirin which comes from bark off of a willow tree. Does that make Aspirin a natural medicine? 

Natural medicine often changes based on how the doctor and patient define the word natural regarding their options of treatment. 

The line that many practitioners use to sort out natural and non-natural medicinal practices is the use of pesticides or chemicals.

In other words, Aspirin is a natural pain reliever as long as it hasn't been chemically processed or exposed to pesticides. 

In this example, poisons such as chemotherapy would not qualify as natural remedies. However, Taxol, often used in cancer treatment would qualify as natural. 

Benefit to Natural Medicine:

Many people believe that the benefit of natural medicine is that you're avoiding poisons or toxins. Without a doubt, they are correct in acknowledging that organic or natural living is better for your body than any other option.

Utilizing this belief, natural medicine practices are becoming more popular and more benefits are revealing themselves such as prolonged health into old age. 

Holistic methods and functional practices do allow for western-style medication or surgical intervention when the cases are extreme.

For example, a functional-style doctor would still likely suggest chemotherapy for cancer patients. However, a doctor practicing natural medicine would not. 

Natural medicine does have many other similarities between alternative medicine options though. Some similarities include a focus on supporting the overall health of the body rather than intervening with western medication.

Another similarity is they will rely on therapy, chiropractic and cultural remedies such as acupuncture to aid in general health or wellness. 


Integrative Medicine 

Integrative medicine is a step further than functional practices while it seamlessly blends modern medicine and natural practices.

Doctors who exercise integrative medicinal practices will often emphasize nutritional needs, supplementing them as necessary.

Additionally, integrative medicine attempts to paint cultural methods or holistic methods into a more scientific light. This type of medicine examines the complexities of the body and how it interacts with the natural world. 

An example of Integrative Medicine:

The most common example of integrative medicine that many people have encountered from a Western-style doctor is the emphasis on clean eating or eliminating fast food from their dietary habits.

If you've had a doctor suggest that your that heartburn, acid reflux or general digestive discomfort stems from your poor diet, this is an excellent example of this type of medicine. 

Other examples include stress reduction to eliminate stomach discomfort complaints, hair loss, and anxiety

Doctors who practice integrated methods will always look for the root cause first, then identify if there are temporary solutions to the symptoms and finally address both the symptoms for immediate relief and set up a long-term health plan. 

Benefits to Integrative medicine:

This type of medicine has all the benefits of function and holistic practices along with the apparent benefits of western medicine.

Actualizing the full health of any patient relies on so much more than just treating symptoms. But, this type of medicine also acknowledges that patient comfort and faith in the medical system relies on fast results. 

Because integrated methods offer results for the symptoms while also seeking to resolve the underlying causes naturally, many people are turning towards integrated-focused doctors.

Someone who takes an interest in your overall well-being and actively wants to help you feel better now is what most people describe as a "good" doctor rather than someone who freely writes unnecessary prescriptions. 

Integrated practices are a far cry away from holistic or natural approaches. Although these practices will still use chiropractic, therapy, and acupuncture they aren't the primary solution that integrated doctors are looking to use regularly.

Instead, an integrated doctor may prescribe muscle relaxers, that is not natural, to help you feel better from a strained muscle now while working with the patient to develop better muscle strength after recovery. 

Additionally, integrated medicinal practices differ from functional practices because it looks past the cultural knowledge and focuses on applied knowledge.

The application, combination, and execution of various types of medical expertise along including western medicine procedures make this type of medicine stand out from other alternative practices. 

You may enjoy that these doctors may appear to welcome western practices as well as other alternative therapies or solutions.

Many people enjoy using this method as a bridge to moving into holistic, functional, or more natural forms of medicine.

You may want to utilize integrated medicinal practices to help build more responsibility for your wellness before migrating to holistic practices for more significant long-term effects.