Find out more about topics related to IFM's 5-day foundational course, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice:

Science-Based Lifestyle Modification Behaviors

Most clinicians recognize that lifestyle change is difficult for patients. Recent research is helping us understand what patients really need in order to make sustainable and effective changes in their diet and activity level.

Two intervention studies suggest direct access to healthy food and a coordinated exercise program improve psychological well-being and metabolism, respectively. When patients with chronic disease learn by doing evidence-based lifestyle modification behaviors—even over a short period of time—both health and well-being improve. 

In a randomized controlled trial over a two-week period, researchers investigated the effects of giving a group of young people a $10 voucher for fruits and vegetables and twice daily text-reminders versus giving another group of young people the actual fruits and vegetables worth $10 with no reminders.1

Despite both groups consuming relatively the same amount of fruits and vegetables—including a higher amount than normal even—only the group who was given fruits and vegetables flourished and showed improvements in their vitality and motivation.1 This study suggests that direct access to healthy food may be necessary for effective dietary change, even if the clinician is providing “high-touch” service.1 In other words, clinicians may want to consider investigating their patients' access to quality food before giving them other tools to help them eat better.


In another study, over a 12-week period, a single-blind randomized controlled trial of 24 breast cancer survivors separated them into either an exercise program or a control group instructed to continue their normal exercise routines.2 The exercise group saw increased muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility, as well as decreased body fat percentage, waist circumference, visceral fat area, insulin levels, leptin/adiponectin ratios, and DKK1 and SFRP1 levels. The researchers suggest that DKK1 and SFRP1 may be useful biomarkers to determine both the benefits of long-term exercise and the prognosis of patients with cancer. They also suggest exercise may have a therapeutic benefit in those with chronic illnesses.

At IFM, we find innovative ways to put new science into practice, and our programs allow clinicians to apply the results from studies like these right away in the clinic. We provide practitioners with a toolkit containing more than 200 items that help improve patient compliance, with a vast array of lifestyle changes. When patients learn evidence-based lifestyle modification behaviors, chronic disease and general ill-being decreases.3,4

Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) is IFM’s five-day foundational course where clinicians learn cutting-edge research and clinical tools to improve patient compliance, satisfaction, and outcomes. Renew your love of medicine by learning the science behind today's cutting-edge medical research and simple ways to put it to use in the clinic to help improve your patient outcomes.


  1. Conner TS, Brookie KL, Carr AC, Mainvil LA, Vissers MCM. Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2017;12(2):1-19. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171206.
  2. Kim TH, Chang JS, Park KS, et al. Effects of exercise training on circulating levels of Dickkpof-1 and secreted frizzled-related protein-1 in breast cancer survivors: a pilot single-blind randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2017;12(2):1-13. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171771.
  3. Spartano NL, Stevenson MD, Xanthakis V, et al. Associations of objective physical activity with insulin sensitivity and circulating adipokine profile: the Framingham Heart Study. Clin Obes. 2017;7(2):59-69. doi: 10.1111/cob.12177.
  4. Song M, Giovannucci E. Preventable incidence and mortality of carcinoma associated with lifestyle factors among white adults in the United States. JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(9):1154-61. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.0843.

Go Beyond Theory to Improve Patient Outcomes

The best learning experiences involve a dynamic interplay between theory and application. At IFM’s Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP), attendees participate in their own learning and thereby acquire skills to apply immediately in the clinic.

Expert speakers lecture on the biochemical foundations of disease and wellness, while facilitated small group sessions and case studies help turn theory into practice. Experienced Functional Medicine practitioners guide clinicians in using these newly learned concepts for better patient outcomes.

Detailed case studies illustrate how to use the tools and techniques of Functional Medicine to identify the underlying causes of disease, allowing you to go beyond symptom management and address the biochemical culprits of dysfunction. Many clinicians leave with a new perspective and agency, ready to achieve the outcomes they always dreamed of with their chronic disease patients.

Take the next step to advance your clinical practice. Join us at AFMCP and return to your clinic with a renewed sense of purpose, along with tools and strategies to assess and treat the underlying causes of chronic disease.

Treat IBS and Other GI Conditions with Functional Medicine

Gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diarrhea, and constipation are some of the most common complaints from patients of all ages and backgrounds. These chronic issues are often manifestations of underlying problems, and treating the symptoms without addressing those problems will only reach so far. How do you successfully treat gastrointestinal issues to both you and your patient’s satisfaction?

In this video, AFMCP Educator Tom Sult, MD, describes his Functional Medicine approach to IBS, which focuses on dietary and lifestyle strategies.

IFM’s Applying Functional Medicine in Practice (AFMCP) is a five-day foundational CME course that takes an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach to identifying and addressing underlying causes of chronic diseases, including IBS. Join us at AFMCP to get access to the IFM Toolkit—complete with more than 200 resources—and you'll come away with clinical pearls and strategies for treating gastrointestinal, hormonal, cardiometabolic, and many other types of common chronic conditions that you see in your practice every day.

Why Start with the Gut?

Since approximately half of Americans have at least one chronic condition,1 understanding the major underlying causes of those conditions has become increasingly important. For many patients, the gastrointestinal tract plays a key role in modulating immune function and systemic wellness—with symptoms as diverse as joint pain, migraines, fatigue, and acne.

IFM’s five-day course, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP), will reframe the underlying physiological drivers and modifiable lifestyle factors influencing wellness. This course is anchored in the latest scientific research on the physiology and behavioral factors that affect both health and illness. Research will be paired with practical, clinically applicable tools to work with patients, and you will have a chance to try these tools out for yourself in case-based sessions designed to cement your understanding.

The first day of AFMCP includes a deep discussion of gut health. Watch the video below to hear Patrick Hanaway, MD, and Director of Research at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, discuss why gut health is so important for overall health, as well as such a frequent factor in chronic disease:

Join us for AFMCP and come away with an enriched framework for treating the chronically ill population, a framework that includes proper consideration of the gut. You’ll come home ready to work with patients on gut health and other underlying factors that can make a big difference in their outcomes.


  1. Ward BW, Schiller JS, Goodman RA. Multiple chronic conditions among US adults: a 2012 update. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11:E62. doi:

Solutions to Address Compliance Issues

As administrative demands on doctors increase, direct patient care decreases,1 which often results in “most care in daily life [being] self care.”2 For example, when patients with diabetes spend only three hours on average with a healthcare professional each year,2 a heavy burden is placed on patients to self-manage their chronic disease, especially the details of the necessary lifestyle changes.

Patient non-compliance is a worldwide problem. In early 2017, Pakistani researchers reported a non-compliance rate of 68.8%.3 This figure is congruent with World Health Organization figures stating that developed countries typically have 50% non-compliance while developing countries have rates that are a bit higher.4 In the Pakistani study, less than a third of the patients complied with recommended preventative measures and lifestyle changes.3 As a result, the researchers proposed patient non-compliance as a hidden risk factor for disease.3

Part of increasing patient compliance is accounting for different goals and philosophies among patients. Some patients see themselves as the primary leader in their health care, while others take a more passive approach.5 Research shows that providers who approach patients as a partner with unique goals and priorities will empower them to self-manage their disease in a better way.6

In the following video, Monique Class, MS, APRN, BC, describes the tools that IFM provides to help patients make changes at their own pace:

Monique Class, MS, APRN, BC, Discusses Effective Tools and Patient Education for Lifestyle Change

IFM’s Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) teaches you methods and provides resources to address patient non-compliance, including a toolkit with hundreds of simple tools that guide patients through the difficult but necessary lifestyle treatments that allow them to successfully self-manage their disease.


  1. Block L, Habicht R, Wu AW, et al. In the wake of the 2003 and 2011 duty hours regulations, how do internal medicine interns spend their time? J Gen Intern Med. 2013;28(8):1042-47. doi: 10.1007/s11606-013-2376-6.
  2. United Kingdom Department of Health. Self Care – A Real Choice. London: DH Publications; 2005.
  3. Memon KN, Shaikh NZ, Soomro RA, Shaikh SR, Khwaja AM. Non-compliance to doctors’ advices among patients suffering from various diseases: patients’ perspectives: a neglected issue. J Med. 2017;18(1):10-14. doi: 10.3329/jom.v18i1.31170.
  4. World Health Organization. Adherence to Long-Term Therapies: Evidence for Action. Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2003.
  5. Randall S, Neubeck L. What’s in a name? Concordance is better than adherence for promoting partnership and self-management of chronic disease. Aust J Prim Health. 2016;22(3):181-84. doi: 10.1071/PY15140.
  6. Lawn S, Delaney T, Sweet L, Battersby M, Skinner TC. Control in chronic condition self-care management: how it occurs in the health worker-client relationship and implications for client empowerment. J Adv Nurs. 2014;70(2):383-94. doi: 10.1111/jan.12203.

Identify Metabolic Syndrome Faster

Metabolic-Syndrome-Obesity-examinationDue to the rise of obesity around the world, metabolic syndrome is now considered a “global pandemic,” according to researchers.1 In the United States alone, metabolic syndrome increased 28% over just one year at the turn of the 21st century.1 Appearing in 34% of the U.S. population, metabolic syndrome is the leading cause of death in the country and is especially problematic in certain racial and ethnic groups.2,3 Of course, patients with metabolic syndrome are also five times more likely to develop diabetes.4

+ Read More

Functional Medicine Strategies for Migraines

In the following video, Robert Rountree, MD, offers a clinical strategy for a common clinical complaint: migraines.1,2,3 He explains how to use lifestyle and nutrition to relieve migraine symptoms and address their underlying causes. At IFM’s Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP), our educators will teach you strategies to find the underlying causes of this common complaint and many others.

Dr. Rountree on Clinical Strategies for Migraines

Learn more about Functional Medicine strategies to treat various hormonal, gastrointestinal, and cardiometabolic conditions at our next AFMCP. Using a case-based, collaborative format, AFMCP provides the tools you need to build upon your current clinical skills and improve your outcomes with all types of chronic conditions.


  1. Lipton RB, Bigal ME. Ten lessons on the epidemiology of migraine. Headache. 2007;47(Suppl 1):S2-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2007.00671.x.
  2. Rasmussen BK, Jensen R, Schroll M, Olesen J. Epidemiology of headache in a general population--a prevalence study. J Clin Epidemiol. 1991;44(11):1147-57.
  3. Steiner TJ, Birbeck GL, Jensen RH, Katsarava Z, Stovner LJ, Martelletti P. Headache disorders are third cause of disability worldwide. J Headache Pain. 2015;16(58):1-3.

Improving the Odds: Lifestyle Changes for Hypertension

Every year, 38.9 million physician visits involve patients with essential hypertension as the primary diagnosis.1 This makes it the second leading cause of physician office visits (only routine infant/child check-ups are more common).1 Hypertension, as well as many other cardiometabolic conditions, tends to respond well to lifestyle changes, but how do we motivate patients to adopt lifestyle changes that are realistic, achievable, and truly effective?

For some practitioners, the challenge of lack of compliance for lifestyle changes can lead to feeling disillusioned and resigned, reluctant to discuss lifestyle changes that are still considered essential.2 Lifestyle change is hard, for hypertension as well as many other chronic conditions, but with the right tools, we can help our patients get it right.

+ Read More

Healthier Patients, Happier Clinicians


By IFM Educator Shilpa Saxena, MD

Physician burnout is an increasingly common experience reported by nearly 46% of healthcare providers.1 Burnout in primary care physicians has increased over the previous decade not only in the United States but in Europe as well.2,3 Despite the variety of definitions that have been used to measure burnout, certain themes have tended to emerge, including:

+ Read More

What Can Clinicians Expect to Change After Attending AFMCP?

Robert Rountree, MD, describes his perspective on the top takeaways for clinicians who attend Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP). From techniques to increase patient compliance to tools for assessing and treating patients, clinicians walk away from IFM’s foundational course ready to make changes in practice.

Dr. Rountree on Top Takeaways from AFMCP

Worrying Trends Suggest Increasing Morbidity

First, the good news: a recent longitudinal study found that in the US, longevity continues to increase.1 Unfortunately, the study also found that the proportion of a person’s life in which they could expect to live disability-free is decreasing—and that the young will have more years with disability than individuals over 65.1 Decreasing quality of life may continue to be all-too-common as the younger generation matures. As clinicians, we can help by promoting health and wellness for our patients, and doing it early and often.

+ Read More

Functional Medicine Through Active Learning


For two decades, the Institute for Functional Medicine has offered its foundational 5-day program, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP). This groundbreaking program integrates science, research, and clinical insights to help treat and prevent chronic disease.

IFM continues to lead the way in transforming continuing medical education. Our clinical content has always been innovative, and our educational presentation format is state-of-the-art. Instead of hours of long lectures, at AFMCP you are engaged in an active learning experience. IFM leads the way in best practices for continuing medical education:

+ Read More

Lifestyle, Diet, and Helping Patients with Mental and Physical Illnesses

As the incidence of chronic conditions continues to rise, the proportion of Americans with mental health conditions has followed. Anxiety, depression, obsessive behaviors, eating disorders, and other conditions often occur in concert with health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular concerns. In fact, patients with mental illnesses may be more likely to come to the doctor's office with minor illnesses than patients without mental health diagnoses.1 Nutritional changes can address both physical concerns and mental health issues.

+ Read More

Learn More About AFMCP