Even a quick Google search about chronic fatigue will tell you what those experiencing and treating it have known for as long as it’s been around: chronic fatigue is complicated. It can often manifest itself in people who seemingly have no other conditions–or, on the other hand, it can start up alongside other conditions so seamlessly that it becomes hard to tell where other afflictions end and chronic fatigue begins. The ambiguity of chronic fatigue is precisely what makes it so challenging to treat with traditional medicine. Today, we’re going over why traditional medicine and chronic fatigue can be so incompatible–and where that leaves you in your treatment. Let’s dive in.
What is “Traditional” Medicine?
Traditional medicine refers to Western medicine, which is primarily focused on addressing symptoms and conditions at face value through surgery and medication. Traditional medicine is mostly reactive, which means that treatment is implemented as a response to certain symptoms or injuries, not necessarily as a preventative measure.
As more holistic approaches to medicine become increasingly popular, criticisms of traditional medicine become more and more widespread. While many of these criticisms are valid, it’s important to remember that the conversation is more nuanced than “functional medicine is good, but traditional medicine is bad.”
Positive Applications for Traditional Medicine
Traditional medicine can be an excellent form of treatment for a variety of conditions, especially when it comes to injuries and acute-onset issues. Things like broken bones, burns, punctures, or lacerations are highly compatible with traditional medicine, because they’re usually not directly caused by any underlying illnesses or conditions. Other issues, like heart attacks, strokes, and muscle stiffness (to name a few) may benefit from traditional treatment–but they may also have deeper underlying causes that should be addressed in order to promote long-term health. That’s where functional medicine comes in.
A Brief Explanation of Functional Medicine
Functional medicine is a holistic approach to patient care. While traditional medicine focuses on treating symptoms, functional medicine is much more integrative: it seeks to discover and address the root cause of illness, offering preventive treatment that promotes long-term wellness. Because of its emphasis on whole-body health, functional medicine is becoming increasingly popular when it comes to treating chronic afflictions, like autoimmune disorders, mood disorders, and chronic fatigue or pain.
Functional medicine isn’t necessarily superior to traditional medicine; it’s simply best applied in different ways. The truth is that, when working together, these approaches can have excellent effects on patients’ overall wellness and quality of life.
Explaining Chronic Fatigue
How is chronic fatigue related to the “traditional vs. functional medicine” debate? The answer to the question is simple, even if the answer to “how to treat chronic fatigue” is not.
There’s no set cause that’s been linked to chronic fatigue. There’s also no direct course of treatment that is shown to be universally applicable to most or all patients experiencing chronic fatigue. While traditional medicine is a fantastic course of action for straightforward treatments (like appendix removal for a near-bursting appendix or antibiotics for Strep Throat), it doesn’t perform so well for ambiguous afflictions like chronic fatigue.
Too often, patients whose physicians take a traditional approach to chronic fatigue can be left in an exhausting cycle of experimenting with medications, undergoing multiple treatments and procedures, and ultimately feeling as though there’s little they can do to take control of their health. Though this is an unpleasant and frustrating place to find yourself, it’s not your only option.
“What Can I Do?”
If you’re struggling with chronic fatigue, it’s understandable to feel exasperated by what seems to be a lack of straightforward treatment options. That’s why it could be a great idea to consult with a functional physician.
A functional approach to chronic fatigue means looking at your symptoms not in isolation, but as parts of a greater whole. It means taking into account your genetic makeup, family history, personal history, diet, exercise levels, sleep habits, toxin exposure, mental/emotional health, and a variety of other factors in order to find the underlying cause of your fatigue and treat it in a way that’s effective and sustainable. Functional medicine doesn’t promise a straightforward path to chronic fatigue treatment, but it does place an emphasis on your individuality, focusing on your unique health profile in order to create a plan that’s tailored to your needs.