Functional medicine is the name given to a form of healthcare that is highly individualised, patient-centred, and biology-based. Often referred to as lifestyle medicine, integrated medicine or holistic medicine, this approach focuses on the root cause of disease and places a meaningful emphasis on nutrition, exercise and mental health.
Perhaps you’ve heard of functional medicine. Maybe you haven’t. But there’s no doubt about it, this progressive approach is gaining traction around the world, propelled by word of mouth on social media, TV programmes like the BBC’s Doctor in the House, and increasing distaste for the “take a pill” form of treatment.
In this article, we’re going to look at the best functional medicine courses in the UK. These courses are generally geared towards licensed healthcare providers, naturopaths, doctors, and medical students. However, eligibility differs between courses so it’s worth doing further digging.
Prescribing Lifestyle Medicine (RCGP)
Accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Prescribing Lifestyle Medicine consists of a range of lectures, research paper analysis and workshop/case study tasks.
Students can level up their knowledge of science-based lifestyle interventions and in doing so reduce follow-ups, referrals and drug prescribing. They can also learn more about how biological systems translate to symptoms, and get to the underlying cause of most common presentations.
Educators on the course include Dr Ayan Panja MRCGP, Dr Rangan Chatterjee BSc (Hons) MRCP MRCGP and Mr Michael Ash BSc (Hons) RNT.
The Institute for Functional Medicine
The Institute for Functional Medicine is presented by such luminaries as Liz Lipski, graduate faculty member for the Nutrition & Integrative Health department at Maryland University of Integrative Health, and Gerard Mullin, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
A range of courses are available including programmes dealing with chronic metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, immune dysregulation and chronic inflammation, hormonal balance, toxicity, and metabolic health.
Recently, the centre developed a five-day course entitled Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice, and its Functional Medicine Certification Programme provides in-depth clinical training for assessment, treatment, prevention, and management of patients with chronic disease.
The Institute of Optimum Nutrition
Founded in 1984, the Institute of Optimum Nutrition promotes dietary philosophies as complementary to traditional medicine, with an emphasis on preventing ill health via – what else? – healthy eating.
Two professional Nutritional Therapy training courses are available, comprising the undergraduate BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy and the Graduate Diploma in Integrative Functional Nutrition.
Both courses are validated by the University of Portsmouth.
One of the most respected training bodies of its kind in Europe, the ION is the educational gold standard for budding nutritional therapists.
Diploma in Integrative Medicine
Based in Bristol, the National Centre for Integrative Medicine (NCIM) enables clinicians to deepen their understanding of functional medicine and obtain a professional qualification in this field.
The only accredited Integrative Medicine Diploma in the UK, the two-year course is certified by Crossfields Institute and supported by the College of Medicine.
Graduates, meanwhile, will automatically become Fellows of the National Centre for Integrative Medicine and Fellows of the College of Medicine.
College of Naturopathic Medicine
Operating in the U.S. as the American School of Natural Health, but in the UK and Ireland as the College of Naturopathic Medicine, this professional training provider caters for a range of disciplines, offering courses in Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy and Nutrition.
With a focus on clinical application and practice, and options for full-time and part-time learning, the college has a fine reputation in training practitioners and also supports students post-qualification.
The Applied Functional Medicine Mentoring Programme
The AFMMP aims to provide unbiased, industry-leading education while nurturing a powerful sense of community and opportunities for further collaboration.
Students embarking on the six-month education programme will learn how to apply principles of integrative medicine in their own clinical setting, and how to develop a new mode of thinking about health, nutrition and disease.
The mentoring programme is geared towards medical doctors, nutritionists, osteopaths, health coaches and performance coaches, and comprises six modules covering six key systems.
British Society of Ecological Medicine
Established in 1983, the BSEM hosts regular workshops, practical training sessions, seminars and scientific conferences throughout the year. There is also a dedicated Mentorship Programme for BSEM members, and an Online Foundation Course organised in tandem with the Australasian College for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM). The latter comprises 30 hours of training and students must complete prescribed reading, write a case study and pass an online exam at the end.
Ecological medicine, incidentally, is very similar to functional medicine with a focus on the interactions between individuals and their environment. Indeed, it is sometimes known as AENM – Allergy, Environmental and Nutritional Medicine.
The above list is by no means exhaustive. Resources for those looking to learn more about the functional medicine approach are wide-ranging and extensive, and day by day people are starting to appreciate that the pharmaceutical approach to most common health problems is deeply, deeply flawed.
Though often smeared by those who stand to lose out if functional medicine continues on its current trajectory, this evidence-based approach does what all good healthcare systems should do: focus on the individual and treat the root cause.
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Founded in 1984, the Institute of Optimum Nutrition promotes dietary philosophies as complementary to traditional medicine.