Integrative Medicine is the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.


Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. Functional medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. Hallmarks of a functional medicine approach include:

  • Patient-centered care. The focus of functional medicine is on patient-centered care promoting health as a positive vitality; beyond just the absence of disease. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the practitioner brings the patient into the discovery process and tailors treatments that address the individual’s unique needs.
  • An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. Functional medicine practitioners look “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is considered, along with both internal (mind, body, and spirit) and external (physical and social environment) factors that affect total functioning.
  • Integrating best medical practices. Functional medicine integrates traditional Western medical practices with what is sometimes considered “alternative” or “integrative” medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise; use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques; and prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.


Practice-based evidence promotes the value of the knowledge and evidence gained from the practitioner’s clinical experiences and observations.

The Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine (DIFM) practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy) has developed Standards of Practice (SOP) and Standards of Professional Performance (SOPP) in Integrative and Functional Medicine. The SOP addresses the Nutrition Care Process (NCP) and activities related to person-centered care. The SOPP are authoritative statements that describe a competent level of behavior in the professional role.

The Integrative and Functional Medicine Nutrition Therapy (IFMNT) Radial was established as an integrated conceptual framework to assist in IFMNT practice. The circular architecture of the IFMNT Radial allows for the evaluation of complex interactions and interrelationships. The Radial depicts that food is a determining factor in health and disease and is a source of biological information that influences, and is influenced by, the five key areas.

The five key areas are: lifestyle, systems (signs and symptoms), core imbalances, metabolic pathways, and biomarkers. Surrounding the Radial are precipitating factors that can affect the individual. The SOP, along with the IFMNT Radial, is in the June 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.