Functional Medicine vs. Naturopathic Medicine: Which Alternative Medicine Doctor to Choose?

When making an appointment at Hill Park Integrative Medical Center, one of the first choices you will make is the choice of which doctor to schedule an appointment with. While all the doctors practicing at Hill Park are alternative medicine doctors, meaning they do not subscribe to the traditional medical model of illness management; the docs here instead stress the return to vitality and the goal to thrive as naturally as possible. However, there are subtle differences between the two types of alternative medicine doctors you find at Hill Park: Functional vs Naturopathic.

Functional doctors have graduated from an accredited medical school for Medical Doctors (MDs) and have chosen to pursue post graduate training in functional medicine. Dr. Johnson is a functional medicine doctor. Naturopathic doctors have graduated from an accredited naturopathic medical school for Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) and have had an overlapping education, but also are trained in multiple treatment modalities such as homeopathy, herbal medicine, and possibly even acupuncture from alternative medicine clinic in Sonoma County. Both often are well versed in primary care and specialties like SIBO, bioidentical hormone replacement, and adrenal dysfunction.

Overall, I believe that functional and naturopathic doctors share more similarities than differences. They both are patient centered rather than disease centered. They focus on treating a patient as a whole person and believe a patient is more than just a sum of their parts.  They deviate away from viewing a patient as a collection of body systems that needs to be managed by multiple specialties such as gastroenterology, neurology, etc. Both types of alternative medicine doctors look for underlying causes and individualize treatment based on their findings. Both types of doctors use cutting edge specialty lab testing to dive deeper into your condition. They focus treatment on lifestyle medicine and nutrition and reserve medications for cases that are particularly advanced or complex. They both utilize science-based medicine to achieve goals of vitality, not merely the absence of disease. Neither follows a rote standard of care, but adjusts treatment to the needs and wants of the individual. They take often-ignored factors into account, such as environment, genetics, your existing lifestyle and diet, and emotional state of health in their treatment plans. Often, patients walk away with a few supplements and many suggestions for diet, exercise, and mind/body practices such as meditation!

The differences between functional doctors and naturopathic doctors are subtle and tend to be slight. While both use lifestyle and nutrition medicine extensively, naturopathic doctors also tend to heavily use other natural modalities such as herbal medicine and homeopathy. Functional MDs are very science based, as are NDs, but NDs also appreciate time honored traditional medicine practices such as hydrotherapy that might not have as many double blind placebo controlled studies behind them. The other main difference is insurance coverage. While Hill Park does not accept insurance for visits, oftentimes labs can be covered by your insurance. In most cases, this is no different between an MD and an ND. However, in the case of Medicare, only labs ordered by an MD might be covered.

Overall, if you are looking for a doctor that focuses on vitality and optimal health, sees you as a whole person, and takes your whole environment into account, you can’t go wrong at Hill Park, an alternative medicine clinic in Sonoma County. If you prefer a certain treatment style, check with our staff to see which doctor might be right for you. All the doctors here are well-versed in lifestyle and nutrition, care about you as a person, and want you to live optimally.