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Why Functional Medicine?

Why Functional Medicine?

OVER THE YEARS I HAVE SHARED with many of you my passion for an emerging health care model based on systems medicine — functional medicine — that can reduce the global burden of chronic disease, improve patient outcomes, create healthy communities, and avert an economic crisis from escalating health care costs.

Welcome to my first e-newsletter created to provide in-depth synthesis and review of scientific literature and trends from today’s leading thinkers in this exciting field, whose work represents a paradigm shift from reductionist, disease-based medicine to systems-based or network medicine.

As Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, the newsletter will be part of my effort to support its mission to extend education, research, and collaboration. These are times of powerful change: IFM has just created a five-year, $20-million strategic plan to advance each of those areas.

Through editorials, papers, and commentary in upcoming issues, it’s my hope to deepen your understanding of this medicine of the 21stcentury and share insights about its science and practice.

Why Functional Medicine?

After 15 years of practicing functional medicine and witnessing the extraordinary clinical results from applying this new operating system to chronic disease, I am clear this must be the model for medicine going forward. I want to enlist your help as advocates, activists, and leaders in making this new paradigm the medicine we do now.

Part of this involves learning about the theory and practice of functional medicine through case studies and review articles that will be the subject of upcoming newsletters.

The Institute for Functional Medicine’s strategic plan serves as its handbook and blueprint for how we are going to accomplish the expansion, validation, and diffusion of functional medicine that we know is desperately needed to bring this form of research, medical education, and clinical practice to the forefront.

From heart disease to diabetes, from depression to dementia, from attention deficit disorder to autism, from asthma to autoimmune disease, from digestive disorders to cancer, we must change not only how we do medicine, but the medicine that we do. We cannot arrive at the solutions for our health care crisis only by improving access to care and medical quality and reducing errors or waste while still applying the same 20th century diagnostic and therapeutic methods.

We cannot arrive at a better health care system by doing the same things better. We must transform medical education, research, practice, and policy to match the current scientific shift from reductionist, organ-based medicine to a more ecological understanding of health and disease based on systems medicine. We cannot otherwise get to the solutions for our health care crisis, or solve the problem of chronic disease.

Functional medicine is the best-kept secret in science and medicine today. That must and can change by implementing initiatives in research, education, collaboration, and policy on a large scale to support and nurture the seed of a viable health care system nationally and globally.

The new National Council on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health, created within the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is poised to become a vehicle for transformation through changes in related policy in the health sector, education, agriculture, transportation, and the environment.

I was recently nominated by Senator Harkin to be part of a 25-member advisory group to support the new council. Functional medicine provides a framework for how to create health, not simply treat symptoms or diseases, and can serve to inform the policy changes needed to create a healthy nation.

The nation’s first “health council” is chaired by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and composed of senior government officials across federal departments and agencies. The council is charged with elevating and coordinating prevention activities and designing a focused strategy across federal departments to prevent disease and promote the nation’s health.

This presents a historic opportunity to bring prevention and wellness to the forefront of the nation’s efforts to improve the health status of all Americans.  Functional medicine needs to be at the forefront of this activity.

I know there are many things competing for your time and interest, but I believe that functional medicine is one of the most important ideas of our time — an idea that can help relieve the unnecessary suffering of millions. I encourage you to explore, learn, investigate, question, and become re-enchanted with medicine alongside me, through the doorway of functional medicine.

I hope that you look forward to hearing from functional medicine’s leading thinkers, teachers, and scientists — including colleagues like Jeffrey Bland, Sidney Baker, Leo Galland, Joe Pizzorno, Patrick Hanaway, Bethany Hayes, and Catherine Wilner — starting in the next issue.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

Comments (23)

  • What an exciting time to be in medicine. I agree with you 100% that we have the potential to change the face of medical care and education. Just as I felt I was ready to give up the practice of medicine,I came upon so many like-minded collegues who like me are looking for more. I am so fortunate to be enrolled in the University Of Arizona Fellowship for Integrative Medicine. I haven’t been this excited since my residency!

  • I completely understand what your saying. In 2010 I got diagnose with MS I refuse all medications and steroids even though I couldn’t walk and having doctors yelling at me because i refuse. But tell I went to an awesome doctor in IRVINE CA. I got on the macrobiotic diet and she put me on supplements and vitamin and within a month in a half I got rid of the wheel chair and walker my doctor encourage me to become a Health Coach and thats why now I am attending the Insitute for Integrative Nutrition. My mission for the Lord is to educate more people with the disease and to go the HOLISTIC route. I really pray for more doctors like my doctor – Leigh Erin Connealy and you and much more doctors to go this route.

  • Dr. Hyman,
    How about making a conference for physicians who are trying to bring functional medicine into their practice? I find so many physicians at the hospital are also noticing the failures of traditional medicine and looking for better answers for patients. So many of us would be glad to have contact with other physicians who are coming to the same conclusions.
    Dr. Madeleine Kitaj, neurologist

  • Dr. Hyman,
    Thank you so much for all of the work that you do in advocating functional medicine as the future of the medicine. As a burgeoning intern in family practice intern, is there any programs available for residents in which we can begin to apply the fundamentals of functional medicine for our patients?
    Dr. Donald Tait, family medicine resident

  • Is there something in the new Health Care Act that will make insurance companies accept doctors such as yourself into their networks. I have a caddilac health care plan through my employer but it does me no good that I cannot find a doctor in the plan who will work with me to find the root cause of my chronic edema and weight gain instead of taking useless blood tests and writing all kinds of prescriptions. I’ve become involved with an EO and wellness company but still feel there is something wrong with my endocrin system that is not showing up in the standard blood tests. My insurance will not pay for the saliva test.

    • Hi Ann Marie,

      We are glad you wrote in with your concerns and can happily tell you that some doctors practicing functional medicine do indeed take insurance. Where do you live? To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your zip. Progress accordingly from there.

      If you feel your root issues involve your hormones you might be very interested to know that Dr. Hyman’s new book, The Blood Sugar Solution is a thorough examination on the underlying issues in hormone imbalance, namely, insulin. Even moreso, the book has a complete guide to taking back your health via diet, supplements and other well researched lifestyle tools to normalize your entire system. And, there is a complete online community of people just like yourself who can answer questions and provide resources. All without once stepping foot in a doctors office and paying for anything you do not need!

      Learn more here:

      In good health!
      Nutrition Coaching Program



  • In the past year, when I became chronically ill with a host of crazy, unfamilar symptoms, I saw five ‘specialists’ who could not agree on a method to ‘cure’ my auto-immune disease. Not one could define just exactly what it was. Feeling desperate and abandoned by the practitioners, I had to become my own healthcare advocate! I sought help through two naturopaths. One did not have an understanding of the importance of diet and did not incorporate Functional Medicine into his practice. My intuition told me something wasn’t quite right. Then I found a naturopath who mentioned Functional Medicine in her method of treatment–then I was hooked! I finally have hope as I’ve seen a huge shift in my health. It tooks years of poor eating habits (along with pathetic environmental exposure to toxins, etc.) to bring me to my present-day chronic illness. I never dreamed certain food types could be a great source of pain as we age. Thank you for being one of the champions working to get other physicians educated and on board! Great work…keep it up!

    • Hi Suzette,

      Your story has inspired us as well. You keep it up too! Thank you for sharing,

      Nutrition Coaching Program

  • Where do I find such a practitioner in the Phoenix AZ area? Please list them on the website under PRACTITIONERS.

  • Dear Dr.Hyman,

    I was wondering if you have any insight into the newly formed Masters in Nutrition and Function Medicine by Inviversity of Western States. Some of their material is licensed via the Institute of Functional Medicine. I would like to pursue this masters degree, it comes close to a real nutrition degree and seems better than the conventional courses taught towards a dietician’s certificate.

    Thank you for your time,

  • Dear Dr. Hayman I live in Jamaica W.I and was recently told I have premature ovarian failure. I did some research and based on my symptoms I think that this may be due to an under active thyroid or what’s called hypothyroidism. I’ve read some medical blogs on the subject, including yours. I hate taking medication and prefer to fix things the wholistic way.

    The problem I have is that i’m not able to find the thyroid supplements in Jamaica. I also wanted to get the Immunocal to boost glutathione that you mentioned in one of your blogs.

    Do you know of any distributors that ship those supplements or is there something else in the market that I can take to help my situation?


  • Dear Dr Hyman,
    After running around with variety of manifestations of Auto Immune Disorder, like Allergic sinus , Chronic Bronchitis , Hypothyroidism, Gastric trouble , Irritation in eye , I have only got superfluous “I know everything ” allopathy doctors replies saying all these are not curable can only be remissioned. Really looking forward to ur guidance..

  • I completely agree that functional or integrative medicine is a must. I have been practicing as a doctor of natural health for almost 20 years with a 98% success rate in all cases, including cancer. (and the only ones of those that failed had their feet in both buckets – allopathic and holistic – which sometimes does not work unfortunately!!) My husband also being a master herbalist , we have a fantastic practice in southern tennessee and would love to be part of planning a national conference to raise awareness about natural health care- DRUGS are seldom ever the answer- and sometimes create a good deal of the problems we face. Nutrition is the best answer, and the patient load in this country would go WAY down if we could start by educating the CHILDREN and getting things like high fructose laden sodas OUT OF SCHOOLS!!

  • Greetings from Wyoming. I know you’re very busy so thanks in advance for your time.
    I hope you can help. Dr. Terry Wahls suggested we find a Functional Medical Practitioner to do a complete review of my mom’s health. We’re in Wyoming but willing to travel anywhere. We’re looking for the best and hoping you can point me in a direction?
    My mom, 67, has been living with MS for 35 years. For years, although always in pain and tired, she did pretty well with it. She is my hero. Most would not know she has MS. But we are very concerned because in the last 2 years, and especially in the last 3-6 months, her health is in major decline. Her memory is lapsing significantly…short term memory issues (she repeats things over and over again and doesn’t remember simple things she did), and she even forgot much of mother’s funeral, which she spoke at, etc., 2 years ago. She is one of the most thoughtful women in the world, and these memory issues are a huge concern for her and are affecting her quality of life. She also has not slept, chronically. We’re talking years of no good or solid sleep. I’m sure that is taking a huge toll. I’m also guessing her adrenals are shot…
    And to add to this, she has deep despair and “melancholy” that starts early every single evening. She’s paranoid and doesn’t want to be alone.
    This is an active, social and go-getter woman I’m talking about!
    Sorry to ramble… my question is we (my dad and my sisters and brother) are wanting to take her to to a top medical center to get a COMPLETE HEALTH REVIEW. Her case is complicated and we need to go to a top medical center to see a variety of doctors who are experts in their field. Dr. Wahls suggested Functional Medicine Practitioner and we respect her very much, hence this note to you. There are so many issues and we’re in Wyoming and we just aren’t on top of her health… We’ve taken her to an Alzeimers doctor and she tested fine.
    We are wanting to take charge and help her reclaim her health — at least what she is able to reclaim.
    Any thoughts you can offer me would be appreciated more than I can say.
    M. Johnson

  • My father in law is a 74 year old male, on a host of meds. They just had him in the mental ward in San Diego for 14 days and now he is released. Family is looking for a memory care facility, Do you know of any facility, that practices functional medicine where he would be safe and can be slowly taken off the meds, if at this late stage that is even possible. I have looked at the list but dementia is not listed under anyone on the list.

    Thank you,
    Troi Suliman

  • I am looking to get a degree in functional medicine. I live in florida and I am having no success finding anything.