Functional Medicine: The Concept

Dr Haffejie has been practicing medicine since 1997 following graduation from Wits medical School in Johannesburg.

He is a metabolic and anti-ageing medicine specialist and is only one of two South African doctors Board certified in Anti-ageing and regenerative medicine by the American academy of anti ageing medicine.

Dr Haffejie is also certified in Functional medicine.


With the busy lifestyles of the modern world, it is easy to overlook minor aches and discomforts as a part of stress or fatigue. Allergies, headaches, digestive problems and more may seem like annoying but harmless symptoms of our lifestyles. Few of us are aware that these symptoms may be early warning signals of impending disease.

Our society is seeing a sharp increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders and there is a gap between emerging research and conventional medical practice.

A global revolution in medicine called Functional Medicine seeks to identify the root cause of disease and then treat the body as an integrated whole by treating imbalances and dysfunctions before they manifest as a chronic disease.

Functional Medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease. The overall goal is to maximise whole body functions at all levels. Many environmental factors interact with our genes, including our diet and nutritional status. Our hormones and brain chemistry also influence the balance of our health, as does our mind.

Optimum Health is therefore a journey towards a better balance and an environment in which disease is far less likely to occur.

The Concept of Functional Medicine

The conventional model of disease reduces symptoms to their component parts. The movement today is towards a more wholistic approach, not towards alternative medicine but towards a more integrated scientific model.

Just as we understand that the ecosystem of our planet is a complex whole, so can we see that the body works in much the same way. Understanding how the component parts relate to each other and how the optimal balance can be disturbed is becoming more important than treating a disease as an isolated problem. It may seem obvious, but this interdependence has been ignored in medicine for a long time as we have refined and learnt how to treat each specific disease. Whilst conventional medicine helps at the end stages of a disease, functional medicine seeks to treat the problems before they reach that stage.

Dr Haffejie describes a visual analogy:

“Imagine the 7 key ingredients to optimum health as a perfectly harmonized colour palette with 7 essential colours. Each individual canvas is made up of a particular combination and extraction of these colours, depending on how they have painted their canvas. How these colours are combined and the concentrations used in each mixture will determine the hues of the painting. Those hues represent your health. The overall picture may be too dull, or too heavy on some hues and lacking in others. The aim is to keep the integrity of the original colours as pure as possible, or to adjust them until they are returned to their original and vibrant harmony”.

The aim is not simply to treat disease, but to prevent it and restore the patient to vibrant health. It is apparent that Functional Medicine requires a more balanced partnership between patient and practitioner. The patient takes on more responsibility in understanding his own lifestyle and Dr Haffejie spends more time understanding the unique genetic make-up and lifestyle factors that contribute to individual health.

Next: Functional Medicine: The 7 Keys to Optimum Health

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