The Functional Approach to Treating COVID-19

by Amylee Amos PhD, RDN, IFMCPNews

As quarantine restrictions and regulations ease throughout the world and society slowly starts to open up again, top public health and infectious disease professionals warn of a second wave of COVID-19. Even if the public abides by social distancing guidelines and recommendations to wear masks in public, this potential influx of new COVID cases appears imminent, meaning that our discussion surrounding how to best deal with this new virus needs to continue. Though research is still incredibly scarce, leaders in the functional medicine community have gathered the current body of knowledge about COVID and through a functional medicine lens, identified evidence based strategies to improve outcomes using a phased approach.

Published in the journal Integrative Medicine, this article identifies four different phases which follow the progression of disease, each with differing interventions: prevention, infection, inflammation, and recovery. Depending on the phase of disease that needs to be addressed, these interventions are even contradictory. COVID-19 affects both the innate and adaptive immune systems. Thus, one primary strategy in the early phases of the disease process include supporting and enhancing immune function. The therapeutic interventions change as the disease progresses, as the primary driver of the exacerbation of symptoms and fatality includes rampant inflammation in the form of cytokine storm. As a result, the primary clinical strategy in this phase is to suppress inflammation and prevent the cytokine storm.

These two clinical strategies require fundamentally different interventions because upregulation of the innate and adaptive immune systems inherently promotes inflammation. Thus, the first clinical strategy of immune activation for early in the disease process is at odds with the second clinical strategy of mitigating the inflammatory process later on in the disease progression.

While we undoubtedly need more research before the scientific and medical community can safely say we know how to best approach COVID-19, this article sheds important light on how practitioners should address this novel virus in the interim. The functional medicine approach, which most often shines in the treatment of chronic diseases, in this instance seeks to identify root cause by looking into the mechanisms of action at varying points in the disease process. Hopefully with more and more great minds utilizing both conventional, functional, and integrative approaches, we will be able to curb the impact of the potential upcoming second wave of COVID-19 and save lives.


Yanuck, S.F., Pizzorno, J., Messier, H. & Fitzgerald, K.N. (2020). Evidence Supporting a Phased Immuno-physiological Approach to COVID-19 From Prevention Through Recovery. Integrative Medicine, 19(1): 8-35.