Functional Medicine in Addiction Treatment

Enhance Your Recovery

Functional Medicine determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.

Functional Medicine in Addiction Treatment

Enhance Your Recovery

Functional Medicine determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.

The information presented on this page is a general overview and is offered here as a comprehensive resource. At Ampelis Recovery, our programs are customized and tailored to the individual’s needs. Specific details below that cover treatment protocols may not reflect the protocols used for our clients.

If you would like to learn more about Ampelis Recovery and our customized programs for professional men, please do not hesitate to reach out.


What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is a holistic treatment option. It is an effective form of specialized care. Overall, functional medicine is a client-centric option when traditional methods have been tried and are ineffective.

Functional Medicine Model

A functional medicine model is a holistic approach that recognizes the client as part of the diagnostic team. Functional medicine uses the effectiveness of an individualized treatment option. This option includes the client’s personal history, medical history, and cultural background to build a client-centric treatment.1 Functional medicine requires a functional doctor. In this context, a functional doctor is one that practices and understands functional medicine.

Functional medicine doctors and treatment options are available in most communities. Because functional medicine is as much health psychology as biomedicine, it can be quite effective in treating trauma or uncovering root causes.2

Functional Medicine Takes Time and Requires Engagement

Functional medicine requires a high level of rapport and trustworthiness between the doctor and client. This process takes time. Functional medicine is most effective in cases that require long-term care. This includes chronic illnesses, substance dependency, trauma, etc.3

Additionally, because functional medicine doctors need client interaction, it’s most effective with clients seeking to engage and understand their illness. Clients often enter treatment with communication and interaction issues. However, functional medicine often breaks them out of their shell and allows positive interactions.

Learn More About Healing the Brain

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History of Functional Medicine

Dr. Jeffrey Bland is widely considered the father of functional medicine. In 1991, he and his wife started the non-profit Institute for functional medicine. The primary goal of this institution is to educate healthcare providers about holistic treatment options.

Dr. Bland created functional medicine to respond to variations of the biomedical model prevalent in the ’60s-’70s and before. Dr. Bland and Mrs. Bland funded the non-profit for the first decade of its existence. Even when the Bland’s sold the business they used to fund the non-profit, they still insisted that the non-profit exist as an entity. In this regard, it was ensured that all functional medicine discoveries at the non-profit legally belong to the non-profit.

Between 1999-2013, the non-profit organization or NPO developed a matrix that links all human system parts for treatment. This devolvement helped shape functional medicine as we know it today.4

Around this time period, the NPO developed a 6-part course complete with a certificate for students. This advanced course is designed to fully train a professional in the ways of functional medicine.

While Dr. Bland retired from the board in 2007, he has since returned in an advisory role.

Support for the Effectiveness of Functional Medicine

Functional medicine aims to treat the reason behind the condition. Because of this, the treatment is effective in preventing further long-term complications. Functional medicine also increases client satisfaction. Studies have shown that between two sets of client following either a functional medicine and non-functional medicine approach, those who underwent a functional medicine method showed improved and more consistent results 6-12 months later than their counterparts.

Functional medicine also opens the door for the client to share sensitive information that is vital to their treatment. This is due to established trustworthiness and rapport. Lastly, functional medicine and similar holistic methods are becoming more widely accepted and practiced creating an overall perceptive shift of functional doctor/client relationships.

Functional Medicine in Addiction Treatment

Functional medicine is often utilized for addiction treatment. One of the keys to substance recovery is changing the individual’s self-image and instilling a healthy confidence level. The open communication and validating nature of functional medicine can improve clients’ overall mental state when recovering from substance dependency.

Functional medicine works to treat the following factors in addiction treatment.

Low Dopamine: How it Makes Addiction Worse

Low dopamine is mostly responsible for suicidal ideation, self-harm, unhealthy sleep patterns, and long-term psychological care effectiveness.

Low dopamine not only contributes to the intensity of several mental illnesses, but it also affects energy levels, decision making, interpersonal relationships and can directly lead to relapse or general substance abuse. The comorbidity of severe depression and substance use disorders is a testimony to the inter-connective nature of mental illness and addiction.

Diet and Nutrition: Why it’s Important

Diet and nutrition are crucial to building the mind and body needed in recovery. Healthy diets provide higher energy, improved self-image, better decision making, and improved physical appearance. These are factors towards the mental state of a client and the psychological and physical capacity for change. Diet and nutrition are also needed to prevent several further medical complications.

Diet and nutrition are mostly responsible for energy levels, physical appearance, and immune system strength.

Gut Bacteria and Neural Transmitters: Why it’s Important

Studies show that there is a connection between gut bacteria and mental health.5 Gut bacteria produce building blocks for dopamine processing, amino acids, and essential bodily function. Healthy gut bacteria have been shown to improve neurotransmitters such as dopamine and histamine. Furthermore, gut bacteria’s connection to dopamine, which is essential to the brain’s reward center, suggests a deeper connection between gut bacteria and addiction treatment than is currently being studied.

Reduce Stress: Why it’s Important

Stress inhibits the brain’s production of happy chemicals such as dopamine or serotonin.6 Stress can also impact sleep, lower the immune system, agitate mental illnesses, and reduce energy levels and decision making.7 These factors can reduce treatment effectiveness, complicate treatment, and lead to further abuse or relapse.

Get Sleep: Why it’s Important

Adequate sleep allows the body and mind to heal. Sleep has also been shown to improve several vital functions’ overall efficiency, including mental and organ function.8 Sleep is a healthy habit that is often not possible when living with a substance use dependency. Many substances disrupt healthy sleep patterns. Adhering to a healthy sleep schedule is essential to the functional medicine approach.

Practicing Gratitude: How it Improves Mood and Helps Recovery

Empirical data reveals that practicing gratitude instills healthy coping mechanics, improves mood, self-image, and interpersonal relationships long-term.9 Variations of practicing gratitude are often used in substance abuse programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or trauma-based treatment care. Practicing gratitude takes time to form a habit.

Learning Healthy Habits: Does Learning Healthy Habits Help in Recovery?

Substance use changes the way the brain works. Specifically, it changes neural pathways to prioritize a substance. Unlearning these behaviors in favor of healthy routines is the underlying goal of all addiction treatment programs. Learning healthy habits in recovery provides psychosocial tools to overcome addiction, cope with emotional trauma, and better understand how addiction affects an individual.

Amino Acids to Balance the Brain: Why it’s Vital to Recovery

Amino acids are vital to building new neural pathways. Essentially, amino acids are the fuel the brain needs to learn, change, and grow. Amino acids are mainly obtained through diet. Amino acids are also needed to maintain a healthy, stable mood. However, living with substance use often results in a poor unbalanced diet.

Functional Medicine vs. Integrative Medicine

What is the Difference?

To understand the difference, one must first ask, what is integrative medicine? Integrative medicine employs a holistic, system-based viewpoint, not unlike functional medicine. However, functional medicine doctors prefer non-medicinal forms of treatment, i.e., a therapeutic massage instead of a muscle relaxer. Functional medicine is often used when conventional methods have proven ineffective.

In one simplistic viewpoint, functional medicine vs. integrative medicine can be boiled down to the fact that integrative care has higher importance on the client as an overall unit. In contrast, integrative medicine goes a step further and focuses on spiritual ailments as well. Functional medicine vs. integrative medicine in terms of effectiveness is dependent on a case by case application.3

Strengths and Weaknesses of Each Model

The strengths of both functional medicine and integrative medicine are their client-centric viewpoint. Both practices drastically improve client satisfaction. In many cases, these approaches lead to reduced intensity of symptoms and higher effectiveness for treatment. Additionally, both approaches widen the diagnostic scope, making illness or treatments less likely to be overlooked.

The weaknesses differ between the two models. Any doctor can practice integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is more of a viewpoint for care. Conversely, functional medicine requires a functional doctor and limits treatment to be spiritual, psychological, and cultural rather than medicinal. A functional medicine doctor aims to heal the spirit above all else. This can lead to a variety of proven treatment options being overlooked in favor of more experimental treatment.

In conclusion, functional medicine is an essential tool for any physician or client. Functional medicine doctors are licensed and educated medical professionals. At its core, functional medicine employs and analyzes medical practices and improves client care in the long-term.

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