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What Is A 7-Point Functional Medicine Approach? Here's What You Should Know

Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A
Food & Nutrition Writer
By Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A
Food & Nutrition Writer
Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A, is a journalist, IIN graduate integrative health coach, E-RYT 500 lead yoga teacher, and 500-Hour certified Pilates instructor.
Image by Sean Locke / Stocksy
June 17, 2021

At the heart of functional medicine is a whole-body approach to care. From examining genetic and lifestyle factors to tackling the underlying cause of disease, this holistic model of medicine looks at an individual's unique health experience through a patient-centered and science-based lens. While functional medicine principles and lines of inquiry continue to advance within the field, there is one approach you should know that distills the wisdom into real-life practice. Enter: Robin Berzin, M.D.'s seven-point functional medicine approach.

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For Berzin, functional medicine physician and founder of Parsley Health, a seven-point functional medicine approach to health involves taking a broad-reaching view of a person's well-being. Through testing, nutrition, supplements, exercise, mental health, medications, and coaching or community support, she connects the best of primary care with functional medicine to create a third model of treatment that responds to today's ever-evolving health care environment.

Fortunately, this comprehensive approach, also called the seven prongs of functional medicine, is a crucial part of mbg's functional nutrition coaching program curriculum. This module in the program demonstrates how Berzin employs a patient-first strategy to address the origin of a condition and then prescribes a personalized plan. Although each medical case is distinct, here is a glimpse into how Berzin uses the seven-point approach to functional medicine:

1. Testing

A functional medicine approach moves beyond traditional testing. Depending on the condition, a practitioner may look at anything from food sensitivities and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) to hormone levels and other key drivers of chronic inflammation.

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2. Nutrition

Using food as medicine is one of the mighty pillars of a functional approach. Through proper nutrition and eliminating common triggers, if applicable, Berzin teaches how food has the power to help with nutrient deficiencies, improve function, and restore balance, among others.

3. Supplements

Often, supplements are a vital cornerstone to supporting the gut, filling in potential nutritional gaps, and promoting overall well-being. From probiotics to immune-bolstering formulas, supplements can be an essential ally in helping the body do its job at every foundational level.

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4. Exercise

Regular movement and exercise play a significant role in supporting and sustaining a healthy lifestyle, based on an individual's particular health goals and needs. From promoting mental health to stimulating digestion, consistent exercise can check numerous boxes for long-lasting wellness.

5. Mental health

Stress-related issues are not only becoming more ubiquitous, but chronic stress is also often linked to worse symptoms in patients dealing with illness. One effective way to stop stress from threatening health is by using management strategies and lifestyle tools (think meditation or mindfulness) that support a relaxation response. 

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6. Medications

Similar to other functional medicine components, medications will not look the same for everyone. Whether it's by themselves or alongside other dietary recommendations and supplements, with this approach, practitioners prescribe medicine explicitly according to an individual's health needs, background, and circumstances. 

7. Coaching/community support

Having a solid support system and expert guidance lighting the way toward optimal health can be transformative in anyone's wellness journey. Health coaches, for example, can play a meaningful role in looking at "the bigger" picture, helping patients implement well-being tools, and contributing to successful health outcomes.

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Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A
Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A
Food & Nutrition Writer

Ximena Araya-Fischel, M.A, is a journalist, IIN graduate integrative health coach, E-RYT 500 lead yoga teacher, and 500-Hour certified Pilates instructor from San José, Costa Rica. She received her master's degree in communication and journalism from The University of New Mexico, emphasizing well-being, sustainable fashion, health communication research, and graduating Summa Cum Laude. A former professional dancer, she's earned multiple academic and accredited certifications in performance design, positive psychology, doula training, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, mindfulness, innovation leadership, and integrative health. Her work has appeared at top consulting brands and organizations across Latin American and the US, including Byrdie and Albuquerque The Magazine. She currently lives between Costa Rica and New Mexico.