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Alabama Lifestyle Medicine - Dr. Noah Gudel, D.O.

Functional, Integrative, Holistic, Lifestyle, what do these mean?

Every day we hear more and more about alternative approaches and systems of medicine. Names like Functional, Integrative, Holistic and Lifestyle Medicine are all over the internet, but what do they all mean? And how are their practices different from more traditional methods and practices?

Functional Medicine

The functional medicine model is an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. It requires a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors and leverages that data to direct personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes.1


Integrative Medicine

Integrative Medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. It combines multiple therapies with the goal of enhancing optimal health. Integrative medicine therapies include, but are not limited to such modalities as: Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Energy Medicine, Ethno-medicine (medicine of various cultures), Psycho-social-spiritual therapy, Functional Medicine, Lifestyle change medicine, Manual Techniques, Orthomolecular/Nutritional Medicine, Environmental medicine, and traditional non-toxic and patented allopathic drugs.2


Holistic Medicine

Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease, and most importantly, to promote optimal health. This condition of holistic health is defined as the unlimited and unimpeded free flow of life force energy through body, mind, and spirit.

Holistic medicine encompasses all safe and appropriate modalities of diagnosis and treatment. It includes analysis of physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, spiritual and lifestyle elements. Holistic medicine focuses upon patient education and participation in the healing process.3


Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle medicine physicians are trained to apply evidence-based, whole-person, prescriptive lifestyle changes as the primary – but not exclusive –  means to prevent, treat and reverse conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disease. There is not one medical condition which cannot be improved with lifestyle changes. This practice modality uses the six pillars of lifestyle medicine—a whole food, plant-predominant eating pattern, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and positive social connections—to prevent, treat, and reverse diseases and their complications.4


For all these nuanced differences between systems, it is important to remember that each represents more. The physicians practicing in these areas have studied more than what was taught in medical school. They have added more board certifications to their list of skills and credentials and have been tested more to earn them. They have more tools in their toolkit with which to help patients combat illness and restore wellness. In the Venn diagram of medical skill sets, there was previously no overlap between alternative and traditional medicine. All these specialties include traditional treatments, and then add more. The type of physician who migrates to these fields is one who is always willing to do more to enable them to take care of their patients, and that is what patients should search for.


Additional Reading:

“How Not to die” by Dr. Michael Greger

“The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner


If you enjoyed this post and would like to learn more about the subjects discussed, please visit the individual specialty pages, which are listed under “references.”



  1. https://www.ifm.org/functional-medicine. Accessed April 8th, 2023.
  2. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/601592585d14073e224807ce/t/619409b1c2cb2a1afc28227f/1637091761710/Scope+of+Practice.pdf. Accessed April 8th, 2023.
  3. https://ahha.org/selfhelp-articles/principles-of-holistic-medicine. Accessed April 8th, 2023.
  4. https://lifestylemedicine.org/about-us. Accessed April 8th, 2023.