Functional Medicine practitioners restore balance by strengthening the fundamental physiological processes of the body, and by adjusting the environmental inputs that nurture or impair them. This leads to therapies that focus on restoring health and function, rather than simply controlling signs and symptoms, which has been the traditional mode of medicine for centuries. This is an exciting time for the evolution of health care in our modern society.
And yet, new paths are often fraught with trepidation. How does a traditional medical practitioner transition into Functional Medicine? What guides are available to help them along this path? This is where the IFM Toolkit comes in. All practitioners who complete IFM’s premier course, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP), either online or in-person, have access to the IFM Toolkit, which contains a wealth of information for new and seasoned practitioners alike. With IFM membership, the toolkit can be accessed anytime.
The toolkit is a highly valued resource containing nearly 400 items, including questionnaires, intake forms, lifestyle recommendations, and food plans to assist practitioners in helping patients meet their health goals. It includes many resources that clinicians can use as patient education handouts, as well as several practitioner-specific resources about how to practice Functional Medicine.
As Functional Medicine pioneers David Jones, MD, Jeffrey Bland, PhD, and Sheila Quinn note in The Textbook of Functional Medicine, “Functional Medicine is akin to ‘going back to the basics’—back to the patient’s life story, back to the processes wherein disease originates, and definitely back to the desire of healthcare practitioners to make people well, not just manage symptoms.” The IFM Toolkit helps practitioners and patients do just that.
In the following video, IFM educator Michael Stone, MD, talks about how the IFM Toolkit helps him educate patients in his practice:
Examples of some of the most sought-after tools inside of the IFM Toolkit include the following:
Functional Medicine Timeline
One of the most popular toolkit items is the Functional Medicine Timeline. This tool allows practitioners to capture the patient’s important life events, family history, and genetic information from in-utero to present day. In particular, the tool helps pinpoint antecedents, triggers, and mediators (ATMs) to help identify any role they play—past or present—in the patient’s disease.
“In Functional Medicine, we strive to create a personalized program,” says IFM educator Kristi Hughes, ND. “We gather information to get to know [patients] better. To understand the journey of how they’ve arrived at this point, sitting in your office… What Functional Medicine is going to continue to give you is a map. A way to approach each and every patient that has different realms of complexity in a very unique and personalized way.” In particular, Hughes says, the IFM Timeline improves patient compliance when administered in a therapeutic relationship between the patient and practitioner.
Functional Medicine recognizes that illness does not occur in isolation, and the IFM Matrix helps practitioners to examine the body systems, symptoms, and risk factors associated with a specific condition. The matrix provides an outline for the practitioner to organize the patient’s clinical imbalances in the following biological systems, called nodes: defense and repair, energy, biotransformation and elimination, transport, communication, structural integrity, and assimilation.
The left section of the matrix is useful in retelling the patient’s story, by tracking antecedents, triggering events, and mediators/perpetuators. The bottom of the matrix details lifestyle factors like sleep and relaxation, exercise and movement, nutrition and hydration, stress and resilience, and relationships and networks.
As a whole, the Functional Medicine Matrix assists the practitioner in organizing and prioritizing each patient’s health issues as elicited by a thorough personal, family, social, and medical history. The matrix helps clinicians organize what may seem to be disparate issues into a complete story to help the clinician gain a comprehensive perspective of the patient, and subsequently facilitates discussion of complex, chronic disease with the patient.
Diet, Nutrition, & Lifestyle Journal
Functional Medicine is a patient-centered healthcare model that addresses the unique interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors influencing both health and disease. To this end, IFM practitioners utilize a Diet, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Journal, found in the IFM Toolkit, to identify areas where patients might modify their behavior to achieve positive outcomes. By examining lifestyle choices related to diet and exercise, Functional Medicine practitioners are able to assess the body’s complex physiological processes and suggest ways to decrease chronic disease risk.
Each day, the patient is asked to track their food and drink intake, as well as their quantity/quality of sleep and relaxation, exercise and movement, stress, and relationships. The bottom section of the journal asks patients to assess their mental, emotional, and spiritual states for each day. In order to track these factors over different periods of time, the Diet, Nutrition, & Lifestyle Journal is available in three versions: 1-Day, 3-Day, and 7-Day. Functional Medicine practitioners can use the information provided in the journal to create personalized recommendations for diet and lifestyle to help the patient change their habits for better health.
ReNew Food Plan
IFM has created a new, short-term, therapeutic food plan to assist the body in eliminating dietary causes of inflammation, help identify potential allergies, and remove foods that are potentially addictive and harmful. Specially designed for those patients who are addicted to sugar and processed food, the ReNew Food Plan stabilizes blood sugar and insulin levels. Patients who suffer from autoimmune disease, fatigue, and pain are also ideal candidates. The ReNew Food Plan was created with the help of Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine.
Testing for Low Stomach Acidity
Hypochlorhydria (HCL), low stomach acid, may affect half of people over the age of 60. By age 85, 80% of relatively healthy people have low stomach acid. Without adequate acid, we leave ourselves open to decreased immune resistance and a variety of other health problems. Adequate stomach acid is also necessary for the absorption of vitamins like B12 from food. In this informative guide, learn how to identify common symptoms of HCL and what diseases are associated with this inadequacy.
All practitioners who complete IFM’s premier course, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP), either online or in-person, have access to the IFM Toolkit, which contains a wealth of information for new and seasoned practitioners alike. With IFM membership, the toolkit can be accessed anytime.