This is Not Functional Medicine. What is Innovative Medicine?


  • Functional medicine is a powerful movement and evolution of orthodox / conventional medicine, but still limited in approach and therapeutic options.

Innovative medicine is frequently mistaken for functional medicine. In fact, it’s often mistaken for many different approaches that don’t quite do it justice. And while functional medicine, integrative medicine, energy medicine, and a host of other types of medicine have made many advances in overall therapeutic and health practices, innovative medicine is in a league of its own.

As such, I often get asked the question, “What is the difference between innovative medicine and functional medicine?

Surprisingly, innovative medicine incorporates functional medicine, as well as many other components from the medical spectrum. I’ll explore the differences between these two in more detail below.

But first, let’s look at all the therapeutic options and different approaches to medicine to get a better understanding of the whole spectrum. It’s a somewhat crowded field, so we’ll navigate briefly through it together.

The Full Spectrum of Medicine

Traditionally, conventional (orthodox) medicine has led the way toward better health. Doctors and healthcare providers alleviate the symptoms, manage the disease, and do so with a host of pharmaceutical and surgical options. But the problem with using solely conventional medicine is that it offers a band-aid solution for chronic disease. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fantastic approach for acute health crises. Broke your bone in a car accident? Cut your finger off in a freak home renovation mistake? Conventional medicine has you covered. But when it comes to chronic and complex conditions, there’s room for improvement. And while these orthodox approaches do provide the means to help a person feel better, they don’t necessarily solve the root of the problem.

For instance, you’re given daily pills to take for your high blood pressure. And these pills will help keep your blood pressure levels down. However, there is still the question, What is causing your high blood pressure in the first place? Is it your diet? Is it your lifestyle? Is it stress? How about an infection (yes, that can cause it)? It doesn’t exactly pinpoint what is really going on or take action to solve the root problem – which is where functional medicine comes in.

More and more healthcare providers are incorporating functional medicine into their practice. Functional medicine takes into account the root cause. And as opposed to treating primarily the symptoms, this type of medicine looks at the body as a whole. Healthcare professionals assess the interactions between a person’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle that may ultimately be contributing to their pain or illness.

Yet, functional medicine finds itself in between conventional and innovative, as it does not consider things like energy, spirituality, and some psycho-emotional aspects. For example, there’s Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Reiki that involve spiritual and energy healing aspects.

TCM involves acupuncture, massage, herbal remedies, cupping, acupressure, and exercise variations – some of which have been around for thousands of years. TCM strives to restore balance of the ‘qi’ – the body’s energy – to heal an individual’s ailments. It also incorporates the yin and the yang aspects, which are opposing forces. Balance is found within the body when the give and pull of these two forces are equally weighted. And while science hasn’t exactly uncovered how some of these methods work, many individuals attribute TCM as a major factor in guiding them toward optimal health.

Reiki is another form of energy healing. Reiki also guides the ‘qi.’ Energy is thought to transfer from the provider’s hands or palms into the client. Ultimately, this transfer of energy is thought to help restore emotional and physiological imbalances.

And then, there are psycho-emotional therapies. There are an array of subsets in this category. For example, certain therapies may lean toward a more spiritual approach where past life regression is explored. Other therapies or counselling subsets may dive into your mental well-being and offer a safe space to talk through any stressors or factors causing emotional distress.

But there’s more. Supplements and other health products fall into the medicine spectrum as well. In fact, the supplement industry is worth billions of dollars today. A major problem with this part of the spectrum is the circulation of an abundant amount of inaccurate information. Many individuals take supplements in an attempt to fix a bad diet. Yet, most of the time these supplements don’t improve one’s health. And sometimes, they aren’t absorbed by the body since other nutrients are needed for these specific processes to occur. When it comes to supplementation and other health products, a more combined and holistic approach is necessary – as well as a more refined way to inform the general public about these entities.

European Biological Medicine is yet another category of medicine. However, it’s closely related to functional medicine. It involves a scientific, anatomical, and biological perspective. Similar to other types, this type of medicine also takes a holistic approach. And it may be the closest relative to innovative medicine.

Innovative medicine falls somewhere in the middle. It is the perfect balance and mix of conventional, functional, European, psycho-emotional, spiritual, and energy healing. In turn, it offers an extensive toolkit. This toolkit enables healthcare providers to propose the best treatment possible for every patient.

What is Functional Medicine?

As aforementioned, functional medicine aims to find the root cause of an individual’s grievance as opposed to just treating the symptoms. It’s considered a holistic approach – which in a way, it is.

It is a science-based, patient-centered approach that takes into account the body as a whole. Healthcare providers look at how the body’s systems, organs, and processes interact with each other. They look to understand the genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors impacting a person’s health. From there, they use data to determine a treatment plan specific to the individual.

In other words, functional medicine targets the cause of the disease – not just the symptoms that are presented.

For example, physical therapy is a type of practice that uses functional medicine. A patient comes into the clinic complaining about low back pain. Instead of simply prescribing a medication or modality, the physical therapist looks into what is causing the patient’s low back pain. A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy suggests that muscle endurance, muscle weakness, pelvic tilt, leg length, muscle length, and other structural factors cause low back pain. The physical therapist performs various tests, assessments, and observations to get to the bottom of it – such as whether or not muscle weakness, muscle endurance, leg length, pelvic tilt, or muscle length is causing the patient’s back pain.

From there, the therapist puts together a treatment plan. This treatment plan involves exercises to improve any noted muscle weakness or imbalances. In turn, these exercises aid in improving the patient’s current condition while preventing future incidences. Treatment may further involve the physical therapist recommending orthotics to help with leg length discrepancies. They may recommend stretches to increase the length of certain muscles. Or they may prescribe exercises and techniques to alleviate structural problems.

They also dive into how structures throughout the body are related to each other. For instance, a person may experience back pain but it may not be their back that is the problem. As aforementioned, their pelvic or hip position may be causing the issue. The physical therapist also educates the patient on why they’re experiencing low back pain. It leads to a more holistic solution and treatment. In turn, the patient is less likely to have recurring back pain episodes.

The same concept applies to a person suffering from high blood pressure. Functional medicine healthcare providers may prescribe medication to get the person’s blood pressure levels under control. But at the same time, they’ll address the person’s lifestyle factors. They may ask questions and make recommendations relating to the person’s diet and physical activity levels. Consequently, the patient may not have to be on blood pressure medication for the rest of their life.

And for some people, functional medicine is enough. If a person’s only problem is that they don’t exercise at all or that they have a poor diet, then lifestyle factors will absolutely help and likely solve their borderline diabetes problem or possibly high blood pressure issues.

But for some other people, it’s not enough. The body’s energy, spiritual factors, and psycho-emotional aspects are left unaddressed. Perhaps the reason a person is overweight is due to a life-long experience of emotional turmoil and distress. They aren’t going to be able to make a lifestyle change with these mental, emotional, and spiritual barriers.

Mark Iwanicki, co-founder of Innovative Medicine and Doctor at the CLEAR Center in San Francisco, elaborates on the gap within functional medicine further, “I think the biggest problem with the current functional medical approach is a lack of coordination and integration of the numerous modalities that exist in both the natural as well as allopathic healthcare systems into something that is truly personalized and individualized for each unique patient. The missing link, I believe, in that more complete integration is the concept of bioenergetic compatibility. Innovative Medicine introduces this concept in a definitive way that is truly groundbreaking to the modern notions of health and healing. Many functional docs play lip service to the concepts of energy or energy testing but no concrete, or practical approach has ever been fully put forward that truly utilizes the concept of the human bioenergetic body to the degree that Innovative Medicine’s approach does. By using bioenergetic compatibility we are able to open a doorway into the body of the patient and get the exact answers needed to build a perfect roadmap to healing.”

In other words, the functional medicine toolkit is limited. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s still missing key variables that lead to optimal health and well-being.

What is Innovative Medicine?

“As physicians we come across several challenges in identifying the root cause of the most common diseases –‘lifestyle diseases’, while modern medicine provides us with options to treat the same but to be able to understand the reason behind the disease and address patient concerns we are often faced with several challenges– no clear answers. Combining best of all medical options is the way forward to provide the finest and quality healthcare to the patient. Innovative Medicine is a very personalized and individualized route that gives a more in-depth insight as we dive deep into the root cause of diseases. No singular method can be the best method and for me as a physician, a mix of conventional medicine and biological medicine ensures that I am able to provide the optimum course of treatment and clear answer to my patients.” – Sandeep Budhiraja, MD (Head of Internal Medicine – MAX HEALTHCARE, India)

Innovative medicine fills in the gaps. It draws from and uses all types of medicine. Not every individual will need all aspects addressed, but innovative medicine takes them into account. Every person is different. Thus, every person’s health or ill health manifests in slightly different ways. Innovative medicine recognizes that, and is the most beneficial way to optimize a person’s health and well-being.

Basis of Treatment

Functional medicine incorporates more lab testing and data. But more information doesn’t necessarily mean better outcomes. Too much information may lead to the paradox of choice and confusion due to the complexity and infinite initiation factors that lead to the results one is interpreting.

And innovative medicine uses lab results as well. Yet, these tests are used as a secondary tool. The main goal is identifying the causes on multiple levels. Many of these levels cannot be examined or explored via lab testing. For instance, a lab test can’t measure emotional stress, EMF, or geopathic stress.

Thus, innovative medicine incorporates traditional medicine styles, as well as emerging medicine. Innovative medicine stays on the front lines of new therapies and new medicinal practices. And energy therapies are somewhat part of this. Some people accept them as medicine and viable treatment options – while others don’t. But innovative medicine incorporates all varieties, including energy therapies.

Innovative medicine recognizes that electromagnetic therapy, Reiki, ‘qi’ therapy types, and therapeutic touch energy therapies benefit certain individuals. And although it can’t necessarily be measured via lab tests, it doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of a person’s health and well-being.

These types of therapies are also a step forward away from more crude and invasive procedures that may not be fully necessary.

For instance – although 50-70 years since abandonment – a lobotomy, for a period of time, was the go-to when it came to treating mental illness. Today, we know better. Continual technological advancements and alternative therapies offer a variety of approaches that don’t involve surgery or possibly, brain damage.

And while surgery is necessary in some cases, medicine is now less limited. More options pave way toward better treatment and ultimately, a better quality of life for individuals worldwide.

Imagine a patient comes to a clinic complaining of stomach pains and digestion problems. With the innovative medicine toolkit, a doctor won’t only explore the person’s diet. They will inquire into all factors. They’ll ask about stress in the person’s life or possibly take into account past trauma. In other words, they find the root cause. As a result, they may not only recommend fixing up the person’s diet or lifestyle. They may also suggest acupuncture to help with digestion. They may recommend trying other energy healing to help the body find balance. They might refer you to a counsellor to help work through psycho-emotional aspects in your life. Treatment may include all of the above or a couple of these therapies.

The critical takeaway here is that they’ll address the root cause by using a wide-range of tools. And while one tool may not work for one individual, it may work for another. It’s a scientific and personalized approach to healthcare and overall well-being of the mind, body, and spirit. Innovative medicine is essentially a unified medical system that guarantees each patient gets the best treatment possible for their unique situation or condition.

Think of the difference between functional and innovative medicine like testing the water downstream where a river is wide. At this wide point in the river, potentially, a number of concerning factors are found. But then it becomes a cumbersome task where predictive analysis and intellectual guessing are used to come up with a hypotheses. A treatment is then based off of this possible hypotheses. This is generally how many medicine types, such as functional medicine, work.

Yet, a better approach would involve going to the source of that river – where it is not as wide. At the source, various initiating factors (underlying causes) can be tested. From there, it can be determined what is causing the downstream effects. It doesn’t involve guessing. Instead, you’re relying on concrete answers to establish the definitive cause of the downstream problems. And this is innovative medicine.

The Innovative Medicine Toolkit

Innovative medicine is focused on what is best for the patient. It gives every tested modality and therapeutic option a seat at the table. The patient is seated in the middle. There are no specialties or preferences. The most important thing is helping the patient. It doesn’t exclude any therapy. There is no ego, no prejudice, and no preferences or biases.

For instance, if surgery is identified as the best option, then that’s what is done. When you treat the ‘why’ instead of the ‘what,’ you see each patient as a blank canvas, as opposed to grouping them based on diagnosis or symptoms. Again, the patient’s best interests drive this form of medicine.

And the experts agree. Kuba Bryl, LAc, states, “I think that Innovative Medicine is the way medicine is going. It is a very comprehensive assessment where we can know everything in a patient, including the treatment. So, without spending all the money on all the different tests that are out there, you have a tool, and you have a protocol that you follow that will lead you to finding out what’s appropriate to treat in that patient at this particular time. I think this is the future.”

Conventional Medicine

You would think innovative medicine would leave out conventional medicine, but that’s simply not true. We honor the amazing advancements in orthodox medicine, and of course, some patients will require a conventional approach to their issues – or a combined approach involving conventional medicine and other methods. As explained above, a healthcare provider may prescribe medication or recommend surgery. Yet, these factors aren’t usually the end all, be all. A combination of treatments and types of medicine also contribute to the eventual recovery and good health of the patient.

Biological Medicine

Applying what we know about biology to health factors is undoubtedly important. The body should be looked at as a whole since it functions as a whole. Individual systems, organs, and processes rely on and impact each other. It takes into the perspective that the body can self-regulate – which is not a perspective to be overlooked.

Energy Medicine

Some believe energy medicine is acupuncture or waving hands over the body, but innovative medicine takes a slightly different approach to this part of the toolkit. We consider energy medicine equal to that of other therapies. Various types of energy healing have worked for millions of people. It is also based upon thousands of years of tradition. And although, science can’t prove it or we don’t currently or fully understand it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Energy medicine plays a part in spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being – all of which are only becoming more recently mainstream.

Psycho-Emotional Therapies

There is an inevitable link between physical and mental health. The human body reacts to emotional and mental stress and distress. And innovative medicine recognizes this. We incorporate a variety of approaches and therapies to include psychological and emotional factors. These factors are often – but not always – entangled with a need for lifestyle adjustments or spiritual therapies.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Functional medicine emphasizes lifestyle changes. And innovative medicine also considers it an important piece of the puzzle. It can impact a person’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental state. In innovative medicine, lifestyle factors aren’t limited to diet and exercise. These factors also involve stress-related mechanisms, relationships, and psychological consequences associated with psycho-emotional therapy methods. A sense of purpose or a person’s general happiness may also contribute to disease or illness. Innovative medicine takes everything into account.

Spiritual Therapies

Spiritual therapies may include spiritual counselling, meditation, yoga, and more. This factor is often waved off by healthcare professionals. Yet, spirituality has always been a major aspect in human life. You just have to look at the variety of religions through history to understand its significance. And studies have linked religion to happiness and a sense of purpose. However, it’s not limited to religion. It’s also linked to connections within the universe and an understanding of our existence. Innovative medicine understands the spiritual association when it comes to happiness and health. Spirituality is closely related to mental well-being. A 2004 study solidifies these ideas. Researchers found stress and depression were linked to a decreased immune response. Thus, these aspects leave the human body susceptible to disease and may be the ultimate cause of one’s illness.

It’s Time for Innovation

I want to applaud functional medicine for taking a bold step in the right direction and moving away from a limited ‘far-left’ viewpoint. I am not against it, and think there are wonderful functional medicine doctors doing fabulous work and healing people. This article is mainly to show the difference and allow others to gain knowledge. From there, they can make the best decision for their health and ultimately, better their lives.


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ABOUT Caspar Szulc

Caspar is currently the President and Co-Founder of Innovative Medicine – a company dedicated to transforming healthcare through an advanced and truly comprehensive form of personalized integrative medicine. His work in medicine has garnered the attention from top medical minds across 6 continents and he has worked with top physicians and experts from around the world. In addition, he oversees the New York Center for Innovative Medicine (NYCIM), a renowned medical center that clinically applies the unique and specialized medical approach known as Innovative Medicine.
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