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The Deep-Rooted Connection Between Functional Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on April 25, 2023

In recent years, functional medicine has gained significant traction as an alternative approach to conventional medicine. This patient-centered modality focuses on identifying the underlying causes of disease and addresses them through a holistic, systems-oriented approach. What many people may not realize is that the principles and practices of functional medicine have been deeply rooted in naturopathic medicine for decades. In this blog post, we will delve into the foundations of functional medicine and explore how its origins can be traced back to naturopathic medicine. (1)

The Origins of Functional Medicine

Functional medicine, as a distinct discipline, emerged in the 1990s in response to the growing awareness of the limitations of conventional medicine in addressing chronic and complex diseases. However, its core concepts have been practiced in naturopathic medicine for over a century. Naturopathy, founded in the late 19th century, is a form of alternative medicine that emphasizes the body's innate ability to heal itself through natural therapies and lifestyle interventions. (2)

Shared Principles: The Healing Power of Nature and Prevention

One of the foundational principles of both functional and naturopathic medicine is the belief in the healing power of nature. This belief underlines the idea that the human body possesses an inherent self-healing ability, and that treatments should support and augment this natural process. Both disciplines advocate for the use of natural therapies and lifestyle interventions to promote healing and prevent illness.

Another shared principle is the focus on prevention. Both functional and naturopathic medicine emphasize the importance of identifying and addressing the underlying causes of illness, rather than merely treating symptoms. By doing so, they aim to prevent the development of chronic disease and promote optimal health and well-being.

Individualized Care and Holistic Approach

Functional medicine and naturopathic medicine both prioritize individualized, patient-centered care. Practitioners in both disciplines recognize that each person is unique and that a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare is inadequate. By taking into account an individual's genetics, biochemistry, lifestyle, and environmental factors, they can develop personalized treatment plans to address the root causes of illness and promote optimal health.

Additionally, both modalities share a commitment to a holistic approach, considering the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and spirit. This perspective allows practitioners to address the various factors that may contribute to a patient's health, such as mental and emotional well-being, social connections, and environmental exposures.

Collaboration and Integration with Conventional Medicine

While both functional and naturopathic medicine have their roots in alternative approaches, practitioners in both fields understand the value of collaboration and integration with conventional medicine. They often work alongside conventional healthcare providers to ensure that patients receive comprehensive, evidence-based care.

Functional medicine, though a relatively new discipline, has deep-rooted connections to naturopathic medicine. With their shared principles of individualized care, a holistic approach, and the healing power of nature, these two disciplines offer complementary and integrative solutions to conventional medicine. As the awareness and adoption of functional medicine continue to grow, it is important to acknowledge and appreciate its origins in the time-honored practices of naturopathic medicine.


  1. Bland JS. The Natural Roots of Functional Medicine. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018 Feb;17(1):12-17. PMID: 30962772; PMCID: PMC6380987.
  2. Cody GW. The Origins of Integrative Medicine-The First True Integrators: The Postwar Years and the Zenith of Alternative Medicine. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018 Aug;17(4):20-23. PMID: 31043905; PMCID: PMC6469464.

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