What is Functional Medicine | Does Functional Medicine Work
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What is functional medicine?

Learn how Parsley Health combines the best of functional medicine and primary care to deliver the best in medical care.

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What is Functional Medicine?

At Parsley Health, our board-certified primary care physicians are conventionally-trained doctors with credentials from top hospitals. But, their training goes far beyond that.

They also have training in functional medicine through our in-house fellowship and through the Institute for Functional Medicine. This means you get the best of both worlds.
Parsley Health is taking the best of primary care, plus the best of functional medicine, and creating a third model for medicine that is better suited for the needs of who we are and how we live today.

So what makes functional medicine different? It comes down to 3 core principles.

1. Functional medicine focuses on the root cause of a condition or symptom.
For example, you don’t have high blood pressure because you are deficient in a medication to lower blood pressure. Rather, you have reasons for high blood pressure – likely diet, inactivity, inflammation, stress, hormone imbalances, genetics and more. Functional medicine asks: Why do you have high blood pressure? Then prescribes a personalized plan to address the root cause so you can reverse or improve that blood pressure.

2. Functional medicine uses advanced diagnostic testing.
This is because the functional approach seeks to understand how your body is functioning as a system. To use the example above, a functional doctor would test everything from genetics to hormones to nutrients to inflammation and more as part of a workup for high blood pressure.

3. Functional medicine prescribes a holistic, personalized plan.
This plan will include specific nutrition protocols, lifestyle changes, positive stress reduction practices (like meditation), exercise recommendations, professional-grade supplements, prescription medications where necessary and referrals to specialists where indicated.

So, your Parsley Health doctor might prescribe a blood pressure medication if your numbers are too high, but your doctor will also prescribe nutrition and lifestyle changes to help reverse your high blood pressure, with the goal of helping you ultimately get off of the medication and also helping you live your longest healthiest life.

Parsley Health combines advanced testing with conventional and natural approaches. Find out how we can help you.

Why do we need functional medicine?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 90% of our health is “socially determined” – meaning determined by what we eat, how we move, how we manage stress, our relationships and our environment. The WHO has also shown that only 10% of our health is determined by interactions with the medical system – that’s doctors, prescription drugs, procedures, hospitals.

Unfortunately our conventional medical system only looks at the 10%, and typically ignores the rest. This is not working. As a population we are getting sicker, costs are going up. In fact, 90% of health care costs today in the US are due to chronic lifestyle driven disease, according to the CDC.

We need a form of medicine that looks at the 100 percent, and that is functional medicine.

What conditions does functional medicine address?

The true answer is all of them, because by definition functional medicine looks at the body as an interconnected ecosystem and considers the mental emotional and physical as well as all physiological systems.
These are common areas functional medicine addresses:

  • Gastrointestinal
  • Autoimmune and inflammatory
  • Hormones (and fertility)
  • Cardio-metabolic (includes blood sugar heart health and weight)
  • Mental health
  • Optimization and prevention
  • Cancer support

Is functional medicine evidence based?

Yes. At Parsley Health, the protocols recommended are evidence-based, and the diagnostic tests used are clinical-grade tests, meaning exclusively ordered by licensed doctors and nurses.

Here are three example protocols we use routinely, all of which have a strong evidence base. At Parsley, our protocols have been documented and our doctors follow standardized guidelines for patient care. This standardization is specific to Parsley Health.

1. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
Our protocol is based on an herbal-antimicrobial studied at Johns Hopkins to be more effective than antibiotics. We also may use a particular diet, called the FODMAP diet, which has been studied to alter gut microbiota and improve SIBO symptoms.

2. Reducing anxiety and the need for anti-anxiety medications Our protocol includes proven mindfulness-based stress reduction, supplements, and lowering inflammation, all of which can improve or even resolve chronic anxiety and in some cases depression. We also do genetic tests which inform personalized protocols.

3. Healing the gut microbiome
Repairing the gut can help to resolve many conditions, so in some cases we use a protocol that includes supplements that can improve the lining of the intestine, promotes a heathy microflora, and boosts mucus secretion in combination with proven gut healing foods.

Is functional medicine the same as “integrative,” “alternative,” “naturopathic,” “homeopathic,” or “eastern” medicine?

No, functional medicine is not any of these things.

Functional medicine builds on conventional medicine, focuses on advanced diagnostic testing, includes prescription drugs, leverages nutrition and supplements alongside primary care, embraces specialty care when needed, and requires training in conventional medicine to practice.

While we appreciate and respect integrative and naturopathic providers, it is important to understand there is a distinction.

Can Parsley Health doctors refer to specialists?

Yes. At Parsley Health, because we are primary care doctors we can refer you to a cardiologist or a psychiatrist. We can also refer you to an acupuncturist or a yoga teacher. Our referral lists in each of our cities are robust across all specialities.


Dr. Robin Berzin is the Founder and CEO of Parsley Health. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robin went to medical school at Columbia University -where she co-founded the physician communication app Cureatr – and later trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. She is a certified yoga instructor and a meditation teacher, writes for a number of leading wellness sites, and speaks regularly for organizations including Stanford Medicine X, The Clinton Foundation, Health 2.0, Summit at Sea, and Further Future, on how we can reinvent health care.

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