In the 1990s, the US had a growing problem with chronic diseases. One professor of biochemistry, was of the opinion that all chronic diseases could be traced back to aspects of lifestyle and diet.

Dr. Jeffrey Bland coined the term 'functional medicine’ and created a new way of treating patients. Leaning heavily on nutrition, Dr. Bland aimed to provide patients with optimum health. And prevent illness from occurring.

What is functional medicine about?

Functional medicine is an alternative approach to treating illnesses. Instead of looking to relieve symptoms, functional medicine aims to find the actual cause of a problem and cure it. Too often, patient’s symptoms are treated without the root cause being discovered. Functional medicine providers aim to find the underlying cause of ill health.

Instead of only focusing on the illness, FM doctors will delve into a patient’s lifestyle and medical history. Functional medicine providers believe that everything is interconnected. A holistic approach is needed then to fully understand the cause of poor health.

It is clear from visiting that nutrition plays a large part in functional medicine. And there is a belief that every chronic disease is caused by diet and lifestyle. In turn, functional medicine providers can use nutrition and lifestyle changes to improve patient health.

Doctors working in functional medicine look at a patient’s overall lifestyle. From there, a treatment plan will be designed to suit the individual.

What does functional medicine cover?

Functional medicine isn’t about simply treating symptoms. Instead, functional medicine doctors ask what is causing the illness itself. By establishing the root cause of any disease, treatment plans are put into place to remedy the illness and prevent a recurrence.

Providers of functional medicine will look for triggers in patients which include allergens and poor nutrition. Genetics can also come into play.

The human microbiome provides important information to functional medicine providers also. When someone is healthy, symbiotic microbiota will live happily alongside pathogenic microbiota. But, during an illness, the gentle balance of the microbiome may be upset.

A treatment, or healthy living plan, will be given to a patient once their triggers are identified. Instead of just prescribing medicine, a healthy living plan will help the patient to focus on different areas of their lifestyle.

  • Exercise
  • Emotional stressors
  • Sleep patterns
  • Nutrition and diet
  • Relationships
  • Work

Functional medicine can be used to find the trigger point for anxiety and help patients understand why they feel the way they do. Patients will then be able to recognize stressors and be able to cope with certain situations better.

The power of functional medicine in healthcare

A holistic approach means not relying on prescription medicine to treat every symptom. Functional medicine looks to balance the patient’s core being through nutrition and ridding it of toxins.

But, functional medicine can be integrated with Western medical care to provide an overarching treatment for patients. While testing and prescription drugs might be used, FM will focus on nutrition and exercise to provide a preventive form of medicine.

Functional medicine might also include the following: Acupuncture, massage, stress management, botanicals, detoxification, and yoga.

Illnesses covered by functional medicine are wide-ranging too.

  • Asthma
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis
  • Thyroid problems
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Allergies
  • Digestive disorders such as leaky gut

Leaky gut syndrome is an illness involving impairment of the intestinal barrier. This means that toxins might get released into the bloodstream resulting in poor health. Diet and nutrition help improve digestive health, and functional medicine focuses heavily on this area.

Even oral hygiene affects gut health and again shows how everything is connected.

What does functional medicine improve?

Functional medicine providers seek to give patients optimum health. By looking at the causes of poor health, a lifestyle plan can be actioned to change a patient’s diet, exercise plan, and even how they sleep.

By changing these areas, a person can prevent or reduce the chance of many health problems, and live a better life. Evidence-based functional medicine seeks to improve a number of areas for individuals.

Eliminate allergies

When the body senses it is under attack from a foreign substance it defends itself. However, many people’s immune systems overreact and this is what people experience as allergies.

Normally harmless substances trigger unpleasant reactions such as hives or a runny nose due to histamines being produced. A doctor working with functional medicine will try to find the cause of the allergy rather than just prescribe antihistamines.


Food allergies might be caused by a leaky gut for instance. Therefore, curing the gut and improving digestive health may lead to less sensitive reactions.

Optimizing nutrition

With the belief that diet and lifestyle factors can be linked to all chronic diseases, nutrition is critical to functional medicine. Superfoods keep people warm, reduce inflammation, and lower blood pressure. Good nutrition promotes health and wellbeing.

Nutrients are needed to help the body grow, repair and regenerate. Functional medicine helps people improve key areas of their diet by introducing essential nutrients.

A healthy life plan will concentrate on organic food, whole foods, quality proteins, and healthy fats, and avoid processed foods and sugars.

Improved brain function

Functional medicine providers will look for the underlying cause of any cognitive disorders. Botanical medicines and supplements might be used to improve brain function. Movement is also recommended to help brain function.

Yoga, dancing, and exercise improve cognitive abilities such as memory. Combined with nutrition, exercise enhances brain function.

Elimination of toxins

The immune system suffers when toxins and infections occur. An overgrowth of bacteria may occur from everyday products and food. This causes an imbalance to the microbiome.

Additives and preservatives in food may lead to toxins building up and dysbiosis. Even beauty products can cause problems to the immune system. Dysbiosis leads to inflammation and infection.

Functional medicine doctors will look at how dysbiosis has occurred and what the root cause is. By eliminating whatever food or chemical is causing inflammation, chronic diseases might be prevented from occurring.

Balance hormones and increase energy

Functional medicine will find the underlying cause of hormonal imbalances. Often this will be toxin exposure or inflammation. Stress can also trigger hormonal imbalances.

A provider of functional medicine will seek to establish whether there is one hormone problem or several. As the body is interconnected, there may be more than one hormonal imbalance.

Superfoods such as broccoli and cabbage are great for balancing hormones. And a doctor using functional medicine will recommend nutritional changes to improve hormonal balance.

With stress being a factor, diet may not be the only change recommended. Yoga and massage will help a person relax, and good nutrition will be more effective at restoring hormonal balance then.


Functional medicine seeks to heal patients from the inside out. It is heavily based on improving nutrition in patients’ diets. And by making certain lifestyle changes, FM seeks to introduce preventative measures as well as to treat illness.

With an understanding of how the body is connected, functional medicine providers look at the root cause instead of trying to patch over problems. Treating symptoms will give temporary relief, but finding the underlying cause can give a patient a new lease of life.

If every chronic disease is related to diet and lifestyle, then functional medicine may be seen as a way to avoid health problems rather than as a treatment when symptoms have manifested.


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