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What’s the difference between Functional Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine?

(and why Lifestyle Medicine deserves a place in our medical practice)

A flat lay of a heart shaped wooden bowl containing various fresh fruits and vegetables, with a prescription pad, stethoscope, glass of water, hand weights and trainers

As healthcare professionals, we’re always seeking new ways to improve patient outcomes and promote their overall health and wellbeing. And with the term ‘Lifestyle Medicine’ becoming more widely used these days, many doctors are wondering whether this discipline is a recognised specialty and, if so, how to become accredited in it.

But alongside these questions there is underlying confusion about what exactly Lifestyle Medicine entails, and whether it should be a fundamental part of our medical practice.

So firstly, what are the differences between Functional Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine? Let’s shed some light on these two disciplines’ respective roles in healthcare, and then get down to exactly why Lifestyle Medicine deserves a place in our medical practice.

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

Lifestyle Medicine is all about putting in place targeted lifestyle interventions designed to both prevent chronic diseases, and treat (and even reverse) existing ones. Unlike the traditional Western medicine approach, that often relies on medications and surgical interventions, Lifestyle Medicine emphasises the impact of lifestyle factors on our health and wellbeing.

The pillars of Lifestyle Medicine include:

  • Stress management

  • Improved sleep

  • Building human connection

  • Finding a sense of purpose

  • Better nutrition

  • Regular physical activity

  • Reducing exposure to toxins

Addressing these areas can help our patients achieve better health outcomes, and reduce the burden of chronic illness.

Large yellow flowers growing in a field

What is the difference between Functional Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine?

Functional Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine have some similarities, in that they both focus on holistic patient care and a personalised approach to healthcare. But while functional medicine is concerned with identifying and addressing the underlying causes of health issues, Lifestyle Medicine is about changing patient behaviour and supporting positive lifestyle changes to prevent and manage chronic diseases.

The role of Functional Medicine

A Functional Medicine approach:

  • Seeks to address the root causes of disease

  • Focuses on understanding complex interactions between genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that contribute to a patient’s ill health

  • Uses detailed patient histories and lab tests to create a treatment plan tailored to the patient's unique needs

  • Often combines conventional medical treatments with evidence-based complementary therapies, such as supplements and mind-body techniques

  • Is particularly valuable for managing chronic conditions, autoimmune disorders, and complex health issues.

The role of Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle Medicine:

  • Aims to help patients adopt healthier lifestyle choices and behaviours, to prevent chronic disease onset or progression

  • Focuses on promoting wellness and reducing the need for pharmaceutical interventions, instead prescribing lifestyle interventions such as nutrition counselling, exercise prescriptions, smoking cessation programs, and stress reduction techniques

  • Often involves a team approach, with GPs, nutritionists, fitness specialists, psychologists, and other health professionals all working together to support the patient in improving their health

  • Emphasises the role of lifestyle factors in preventing and treating chronic diseases, and empowers patients to take an active role in managing their health.

Integrating both these disciplines into our treatment plans supports an empowering, patient-centred approach. Emerging evidence shows that lifestyle changes can have a significant positive impact on patient health, underlining how important it is for us to incorporate these interventions into our medical practice.

At Inspired Medics we believe in encouraging lifestyle interventions and social prescribing for patients with chronic disease. These interventions are an essential part of managing our patients; understanding the wider determinants of health, and the individual patient's resources and preferences are vital to their wellness.

Red flowers growing in a meadow under a blue sky with bright sunshine falling on them

The knowledge gap

Lifestyle Medicine is not currently considered by the NHS to be a specialty in its own right. We at Inspired Medics strongly believe that it should be, not only to enhance our practice but also to align with the NHS Long Term Plan in promoting a healthier society.

Because Lifestyle Medicine is not yet recognised as a specialty, there is a distinct lack of coverage of lifestyle interventions in medical training. This is why Inspired Medics created our online CPD courses: to help close the gap and provide robust, peer-reviewed and accredited training that any health professional can access.

Why Lifestyle Medicine deserves a place in our medical practice

Currently, our Western medical education all too often focuses on diagnosis and treatment through pharmaceutical and procedural approaches, leaving little space or opportunity to properly explore lifestyle-based interventions. We have become a national 'sick' service, and we need to be promoting wellness and positive change for our patients.

We need a Lifestyle Medicine approach if we are to solve the chronic disease crisis which is strangling the NHS. At Inspired Medics we invite you as a health professional to see yourself as a potential change-maker, with the power to carry this movement forward to your patients and communities.


Are you ready to see how Lifestyle Medicine can revolutionise your approach with patients - and improve their health?


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