Functional medicine is personalized medicine that deals with primary prevention and underlying causes, instead of symptoms, for serious chronic disease. This type of medicine seeks to improve the outcomes of patients with chronic illnesses through careful analysis of common underlying pathways that interact to produce disease and dysfunction.
Systems Biology Approach
Functional medicine reflects a systems biology approach because it includes an analysis of how all components of the human biological system interact functionally with the environment over time. It has been shown that most diseases are rarely the result of a single physiological problen localized to a single organ. In contrast, most chronic disease results when multiple organ systems and multiple physiological and biochemical pathways interact with environmental influences and genetic predispositions.. Functional medicine responds to our need to understand these interactions.
New Strategies for Chronic Disease
Functional medicine is also a response to the rapid increase in chronic disease. 78% of healthcare expenditures are now for the treatment of chronic disease, and most physicians are not adequately trained to deal with these complex problems. Conventional medicine is oriented toward acute care, the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness, such as appendicitis or a broken leg, that is of short duration and in need of urgent care. However, this approach is less appropriate for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. Functional medicine helps healthcare practitioners to identify dysfunction and improve function in the physiology and biochemisty of the human body as a primary method of improving patient health.
The Institute for Functional Medicine
Jeffrey Bland, PhD, and Susan Bland founded the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) in 1992. IFM is a nonprofit educational organization that provides continuing medical education for healthcare providers (http://www.functionalmedicine.org).