Traditionally, researchers and physicians have explored one component of various physiological systems without looking at the complexity of the whole individual. The physician may isolate the problem to be Neurological, Endocrine, Immune, or Digestive among others. Rarely, is there acknowledgement of the interplay between different systems and attention to consequences of environmental influence and genetic predisposition on multiple organ systems in the body. Sadly, most diseases are rarely the result of a single physiological breakdown localized to a single organ or system.
As Jeffrey Bland PHD explains; “Health care is an enterprise focused on the alleviation of human suffering caused by disease and dysfunction. Disease has its start as a functional impairment (a dysfunction) that, left untreated, becomes a diagnosable disease that later can become the cause of death.” Interpretation: Each disease has a past, a present, and a future tied to the progressive loss of function and vitality.
As you may notice, a major challenge for healthcare is to move away from the band-aid pharmaceutical model toward a thorough understanding of physiological mechanisms that underlie disease rather than just sticking a label on late stage effects. Today, 78% of all health care expenditures are spent on chronic disease which physicians are not well equipped to deal with. This is new territory for most and very different than medical conditions fifty years ago.
Basic principles of Functional Medicine:
1. Biochemical Individuality: Everyone is unique and responds differently to environmental input.
2. Support a patient-centered rather than a disease-centered approach to treatment.
3. The search for a dynamic balance among the internal and external factors in a patient’s body, mind and spirit.
4. Understanding interplay between different systems in the body.
5. Identification of health as a positive vitality, not merely the absence of disease.
6. Promotion of wellness and expanding years of health not just life.