Functional Medicine

What is Functional Medicine?

   Functional medicine is a holistic system of analysis and therapy used to address the underlying causes of one’s condition to maximize results as opposed to treating only the symptoms. 

   There are often many factors to a condition. Functional medicine considers all of these factors rather than solely depending on medication to temporarily suppress symptoms. The methods of functional medicine often use a natural nutrient-based approach instead of a synthetic medicine-based approach.

   Traditional mainstream approaches have struggled to find long term solutions to the rapidly rising number of chronic disease cases today.

Many hospitals, institutions and academic medical centers utilize functional medicine or integrative therapies.  The list includes but not limited to: Yale University, Johns Hopkins University,  Cleveland Clinic,  Children’s Memorial Hospital and the University of California-San Francisco Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Stanford University, Mayo Clinic  and Harvard Medical School.  

Apex, Raleigh, Cary areas have been served by Dr. Milham's functional medicine, holistic approach for decades.

Post graduate education programs have been teaching methods of functional medicine and integrative therapies for decades. Private practices across the country have also embraced these concepts including Doctors of Medicine, Doctors of Chiropractic, Doctors of Naturopathy and acupuncturists. Dr. Milham has hundreds of hours of postgraduate education in functional medicine, functional endocrinology, functional brain chemistry, functional blood chemistry, functional blood sugar balance and functional thyroid mastery.

There are some key principles to understand when considering functional medicine as a therapy:

 1. When a doctor is looking to address one's root causes they have many considerations such as a persons genetics, environmental influences and lifestyle.

2.  Using natural approaches tend to work more in conjunction with your bodies natural healing.  Using synthetic pharmaceuticals have a strong tendency to strain the bodies detoxification systems such as the liver, digestive system, kidneys and cells.  Natural approaches work more in harmony with your bodies chemistry.

3. Addressing the root cause usually requires varying layers of involvement.  For example, when a diabetic is treated with blood sugar medication it is treating the symptom of blood sugar instead of addressing the reasons why the body is unable to regulate its blood sugar on its own.  The known reason for Type II Diabetes is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is often, at least in part, due to inflammation of body cells.  Functional medicine digs deeper to determine what is causing the inflammation.  Some common factors include diet, toxins, stress, cell dysfunction and many more.

   Another example is when someone suffers from thyroid symptoms. Typical thyroid symptoms include fatigue, hair loss, weight challenges, brain fog, digestive difficulty, depression, anxiety, body temperature, high cholesterol and sleep challenges to name a few. Typical medicine based treatment is to give synthetic thyroid medicine to counter the low hormone without addressing why it is low.  

   There are three challenges with this approach.  First, some people having obvious thyroid symptoms have 'normal' levels and therefore are left untreated. Second, there are some people who are treated and still have symptoms. Third, this approach does not address the reason why someone is getting the thyroid dysfunction in the first place.  Important factors should not be overlooked such as autoimmunity (ie. Hashimotos, Graves disease), liver, digestive conversion (from inactive T4 into active T3), and the bodies ability to utilize the hormone.

   A common paradigm of functional medicine is that it is important to treat the person as a whole person (holistic approach) and not just a part.  There is a tendency in mainstream approaches to primarily focus one part of the body that is thought to be associated with the condition.  A diabetic, of course, is not simply just a pancreas problem.  A thyroid patient is not just a thyroid gone bad.  A person with digestive problems  have other organs affecting the digestive problems.  An autoimmune patient does not always simply need their immune system to be shut down.  The body has complex systems that address a persons health.  Each organ system of the body has an affect on other organ systems.  It is this complex interaction that allows the body to stay healthy.  Functional medicine considers this process when attempting to help support the health of a person struggling with chronic health issues.

    The body has complex systems that address a persons health.  Each organ system of the body has an affect on other organ systems.  It is this complex interaction that allows the body to stay healthy. Functional medicine considers this process when attempting to help support the health of a person struggling with chronic health issues.

   Here are some common examples of organ interactions. The  digestive system.  It plays a vital role in many conditions.  When we have intestinal microbiome imbalance it can cause inflammation.  That intestinal inflammation can lead to  inflammation in the body such as the brain, the thyroid, the liver the body cells.  Another example includes the brain. It controls all the organs in the body. When the brain gets toxic and inflammed it lead to poor organ function.  A third example includes poor detoxification in the liver kidneys, and cells.  Without healthy detoxification other organs become inflamed.

   Functional medicine protocols are predicated on the data collected from a thorough history and examination.  The history includes gathering information about your symptoms.  Seemingly unrelated symptoms may suggest or hint at the underlying factors that may be driving your condition.  There may be suggestion of imbalances in the bodies blood sugar regulation, digestive function, brain function, hormone balance, thyroid function and  adrenal function. Taking a thorough history is critical in directing the practitioner towards appropriate objective testing.  

The following is a short list of testing procedures that an experienced functional medicine doctor may prescribe:

Blood Chemistry


Stool Test

Salivary cortisol

Hormone testing

Malondialdehyde Test

Food Allergy/Sensitivity

Omega Ratios

Organic Acid Test

Hair Analysis

   Functional medicine is a rapidly growing field that millions of Americans have utilized to address the root causes of their conditions. Thousands of traditional medical, chiropractic and naturopathic doctors have implemented this approach to create better results for their patients.  Over 50 medical institutions have encouraged implementation and teaching of functional medicine approaches.  With more visits to "alternative care" providers than traditional medical visits there is hope that a root cause approach will dominate the health care arena and diseases will stop their rise and begin to recede.