What is Functional Medicine? – A Short Treatise
During a recent interview, I was asked to explain my definition of Functional Medicine. As a passionate advocate for the Functional Health movement, this was a question I couldn't wait to sink my activated-charcoal-polished teeth into.
As this is an extremely dense topic that has already filled many excellent books, I did my best to condense the most important points into this relatively concise summary. Enjoy:
Functional Medicine is an evidence-based, data-driven approach which uses cutting-edge science to identify the root causes of disease and to design personalized protocols for optimal health.
Far beyond symptom reduction, Functional Medicine seeks to enhance the function of molecular and cellular systems by removing hidden biological stressors and adding healthy nutritional, psychological, and supplemental inputs.
Functional medicine recognizes that because disease processes are multi-factorial, they cannot be effectively reversed through reductionist paradigms which focus on single-molecule interventions for specific organs, tissues, or cells. A holistic approach which addresses the complete exposome, including comprehensive analysis of all internal bodily processes and external environmental inputs, is necessary to improve epigenetic expression and long-term health outcomes.
Compared to traditional “one-size-fits-all” health advice which can lead to frustrating cycles of trial-and-error, Functional Medicine uses advanced lab testing at the forefront of scientific research in the areas of blood chemistry, organic acids, food sensitivities, hormone balance, blood sugar regulation, detoxification, microbiome diversity, and neurochemistry.
At the same time, Functional Medicine practitioners honor the thousands of years of wisdom in ancestral healing modalities. As lifelong learners, we recognize the hubris of the outright dismissal of anecdotal, but highly effective, health interventions only because western science has not yet taken the opportunity to validate them. While a high volume of peer-reviewed research is always a welcome asset, Functional Medicine accepts that current economic and political models allocate significantly more resources towards researching, developing, and marketing pharmaceuticals than nutraceuticals.
This does not dissuade us, because real results speak for themselves. Over the past few decades, Functional Medicine has been consistently reversing diseases once thought impossible to cure - everything from neurodegeneration and mental illness to autoimmunity and cancer. The efficacy and efficiency of working harmoniously with the body, rather than against it, cannot be overshadowed indefinitely by the business interests of outdated conventional medical models.
Amidst an unprecedented global health pandemic, there has never been a more urgent time to empower citizens with lifestyle and supplement education to improve individual and collective immunity. Dr. Jeffrey Bland, often referred to as the father of functional medicine, has identified metabolic syndrome as “A Pandemic Within a Pandemic”, linking dysglycemia-induced inflammation to lowered immunity and increased epigenetic viral risk.
Once considered a “luxury”, foundational elements of Functional Medicine protocols like a nutrient-dense diet, reduced toxin exposure, consistent movement, quality sleep, and stress management are finally starting to move to the forefront of public awareness through the sudden necessity of becoming #hardtokill.
As a passionate Functional Medicine practitioner and advocate, I remain on the frontlines of the holistic health movement. While some might look at comprehensive protocol of 10-15 high-quality supplements as “unnecessary” or “too expensive”, I would challenge them to look at the countless success stories of Functional Medicine clients and patients. These courageous individuals chose to go against dominant medical paradigms because they hoped there could be a better way to regain their health.
Instead of using a few discount supplements with poor efficacy or polypharmacy “drug cocktails” with dangerous side effects, they chose to invest their hard-earned money in comprehensive lab testing and nutraceutical protocols. This process provided safe, effective, and durable restoration to all their body systems simultaneously by filling in nutrient deficiencies, reversing inflammatory processes, improving digestion and absorption, rebuilding a healthy gut microbiome, and balancing their neurochemistry for a more enjoyable experience of life.
And it worked! These Functional Medicine pioneers healed their chronic health conditions and became examples for the rest of their families, friends, and co-workers. They were now capable of not just surviving their symptoms but achieving high performance and optimal potential in all aspects of life.
I know this because I lived this story myself. After I restored my own health through Functional Medicine, I have spent the past 8 years dedicating my life to helping others do the same.
Functional Medicine will never be “just a job” to me. It is who I am. It is the way I live my life and the way I help empower my community through innovation, empathy, education, and service.
Above all, Functional Medicine is common sense. In the words of Bruce Lee: “Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”
Wise words indeed. Cheers to continued innovation towards optimal health.