Principles of Functional Versus Naturopathic Medicine


Published: 03/09/2014

by By Dr. Millie Lytle ND, MPH, CNS


Medicine is changing. Research shows that educated health consumers are opting for alternatives when it comes to their healthcare.

The days of “physician’s word as gospel” has come to a conclusion with the evolution of complementary and alternative medicine, nutrition’s role as well as the growth of popular self-help internet sites like WebMD, the National Institute of Health and Mayo Clinic. 

Due to research and exploration, many patients know more about their illness than their primary care doctor. 

There are two branches of medicine emerging that contribute to this new body of knowledge. Many people are seeking qualified and accredited alternative health professionals as their primary care physician.

Naturopathic Doctors and Functional Medicine Doctors are emerging as two leading professions, with a tremendous overlap in fundamental principles of practice. Here is a look at how they stack up.

Functional medicine is a form of Western alternative medicine founded in 1993 by Dr. Helmut W. Schimmel. It is mostly practiced by conventional medicine doctors, as well as nutritionists and nurse practitionerswho have adopted the alternative principles that there is an interaction between one’senvironment and organ systems causing disease. Practitioners attempt to develop individual treatment plans for each patient.

Functional medicine generally focuses on providing chronic care management based on the assumption that "diet, nutrition, and exposure to environmental toxins play central roles in a predisposition to illness and "provoke symptoms, and modulate the activity of biochemical mediators through a complex and diverse set of mechanisms." Functional Medicine has 5 guiding principles.

Some famous functional medicine doctors are Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mark Hyman. Functional medicine doctors can prescribe drugs as well as diet and nutrition programs.


Naturopathic medicine is an evidence-based art and a science. The term "naturopathy" is derived from Latin and Greek, and literally translates as "nature disease". The modern practice grew out of the Nature Cure movement of Europe that treated illness with nutrition, diet, exercise, water and sunlight. The term was coined in 1895 and popularized by Benedict Lust the "father of U.S. naturopathy". 

In the early 1970sNaturopathic Medicine re-emerged in the United States and Canada, in conjunction with the holistic health movement which redeveloped naturopathy as naturopathic medicine, a private 4-year post-graduate program licensed in 5 Canadian Provinces and 16 US StatesNaturopathic medicine has 6 guiding principles.  

Some famous naturopathic doctors are Dr. Tori Hudson and Dr. Michael Murray. In some licensed states and provinces Naturopathic doctors can accept insurance and prescribed drugs. They always focus on natural and lifestyle treatments first.


Principles of Functional Medicine (f. 1993)

Principles of Naturopathic Medicine (f. 1978)


Functional Medicine is deeply science based. The latest research shows us that what happens within us is connected in a complicated network or web of relationships. Understanding those relationships allows us to see deep into the functioning of the body.


 First, to do no harm, by using methods and  medicines that minimize the risk of harmful  side effects.




Your body has the ability to heal and prevent nearly all the diseases of aging.

 To treat the causes of disease, by identifying  and removing the underlying causes of illness,  rather than suppressing symptoms.


Functional Medicine views us all as being different; genetically and biochemically unique. This personalized health care treats the individual, not the disease. It supports the normal healing mechanisms of the body, naturally, rather than attacking disease directly.

 To heal the whole person through individualized  treatment, by understanding the unique  physical, mental, emotional, genetic,  environmental and social factors that  contribute to illness, and customizing  treatment protocols to the patient.



Health is not just the absence of disease, but a state of immense vitality.


 To emphasize prevention, by partnering with  the patient to assess risk factors and  recommend appropriate naturopathic  nterventions to maintain health and prevent  illness.


Your body is intelligent and has the capacity for self-regulation, which expresses itself through a dynamic balance of all your body systems.

 To support the healing power of the body, by  recognizing and removing obstacles to the  body's inherent self-healing process



 To teach the principles of healthy living and  preventative medicine, by sharing knowledge  with patients and encouraging individual    responsibility for health.



About the Author:

 Dr. Millie Lytle, ND, MPH, CNS is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic  Medicine (2002), a private 4 year post-graduate, accredited medical school, and earned  her Masters of Public Health in Hamburg, Germany. She is a Naturopathic Doctor,  certified nutrition specialist and radio host of two weekly shows on AM and internet radio.  She is the founder and CEO of Millie says, Inc. providing naturopathic medicine with  virtual and in-person anti-aging, nutrition programs. Follow onGoogle+ or visit her website  at for more information. She practices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and  virtually.