How to Fix Our Broken Health Care System


SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY HAPPENED while I was flying back from Seattle to Philadelphia recently.

I was there teaching other doctors about Functional Medicine at The Institute for Functional Medicine . The course was called Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice — a course that every doctor in America should attend.

On that flight, I read a powerful book with the potential to alter the course of western medicine.  It was Jenny McCarthy’s new book about her autistic son called Louder than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism.  Her insightful words spoke to the biggest problem in medicine today. It is a secret that needs to be told, and Jenny McCarthy is determined to do just that.

What’s the secret?

There IS a “biomedical” treatment for autism.  But what she DIDN’T say was that this biomedical treatment is actually the scientific principles and methods that form the basis of Functional Medicine and the 7 Keys to UltraWellness.

It wasn’t her doctor who informed her of these treatments. It was other mothers, who encouraged her to explore allergy elimination diets, vitamin B-12 shots, other vitamin supplements, antifungal medication, and mercury detoxification.

After each treatment, she observed positive changes in her son.  First he emerged from his dark, locked-in world and began to speak, then he began to look into her eyes, and then he began to laugh.  She witnessed miracle after miracle and asked,

“Why is this approach a secret?”

She wondered why this was not headline news on CNN, on “60 Minutes,” “20/20.” and “Oprah.” How could we have these treatments and no one know about them?

Stories in USA Today and The New York Times reported that a recent research paper showed no negative effects on children from thimerosol or ethyl mercury, which was in all vaccines before 1999 (now it has mostly all been removed).  Shame on them for their weak reporting!

These are the same questions I ask myself every day.

Let me tell you about some of my patients.

Just yesterday I had a 40-year-old woman patient come into my office who couldn’t walk and had to have her husband help her get in and out of the bathtub only six months ago.  She had psoriatic arthritis and was overweight, with metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes). She was on the most powerful anti-inflammatory drugs, like Enbrel and methotrexate.

But by simply fixing her gut, addressing her food allergies, and balancing her nutrition, she was completely free of pain and lost 30 pounds in six months.  She cried in my office, wondering why she had to see five doctors before she could find the answer and regain her health.

Then there was another patient.

She thought she was emotionally disturbed and couldn’t control her constant hunger and cravings and needed more therapy. She also had severe diarrhea, was told she had inflammatory bowel disease, and was taking powerful steroids to treat it.

After one week of clearing out the bad bugs in her gut and eating foods and taking supplements that balanced out her hormones, she realized she was not psychologically damaged.  In fact, all her cravings went away and her digestion returned to normal in ONE week.

There was yet another woman who suffered for five years with disabling autoimmune arthritis, which was untouched by the most powerful anti-inflammatory drugs rheumatologists have to offer — Enbrel and methotrexate.

Within two weeks of having an old infected root canal removed, ALL of her pain was gone and she has stopped all her medications.

Or what about the 12-year-old boy with severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?  He had also been diagnosed with Asperger’s (a mild form of autism) and couldn’t look you in the eye or connect emotionally and had daily fits of anger and violence.

After treatment with diet and nutritional supplements and removal of the toxic levels of lead in his body, he transformed into a warm, insightful, intelligent child and the violent outbursts stopped.  I asked him what he noticed from all his treatments. He said, “I feel like my brain is not short-circuiting all the time anymore.”

There was also a 37-year-old woman who had been depressed for over a decade and had no response from any medication. She had chronic fatigue syndrome and was about 50 pounds overweight and not able to lose a pound.

After getting her mercury level down from a toxic 260 to 10, all of her symptoms of depression went away, she lost 50 pounds, and had no more chronic fatigue syndrome.  And this was just ONE day in my practice!

This type of medicine should be totally accessible.

It needs to be communicated on “60 Minutes,” “20/20,” and “Oprah,” and seen on the front page of The New York Times and the covers of Newsweek and Time.  It should be taught in EVERY medical school.

Millions of dollars in government funding and private donations should be granted or donated to further research and prove this approach.  Postgraduate courses in Functional Medicine should be available for every internist, family doctor, and every specialty in medicine.

Millions of people are suffering needlessly because we have a system that maintains the status quo and produces research that supports and benefits the existing paradigm.  In fact, yesterday I read my latest copy of the New England Journal of Medicine and was absolutely enraged at the conclusions of the study on thimerosol and the accompanying editorial.

Stories in USA Today and The New York Times reported that a recent research paper showed no negative effects on children from thimerosol or ethyl mercury, which was in all vaccines before 1999 (now it has mostly all been removed).

Shame on them for their weak reporting!  What they DIDN’T report on were critical aspects of the study and editorial.

  • They excluded all kids with ADHD and autism! These are the kids with the genetic susceptibilities to problems (see my last blog on autism). These are the kids who CAN’T detoxify. That’s like doing a study to see if peanuts cause allergies, but excluding ALL kids with an allergy to peanuts from the study. This is just plain bad science.
  • They did NOT measure mercury levels in the children — just exposure. So if kids were good detoxifiers, of course they won’t have effects from the mercury. They should have measured the total body load of mercury in these children and THEN noted how that correlates to any neurologic or other effects. Again, this is just plain bad science.
  • They DID NOT report on the fact that the vaccine manufacturers who put the mercury in the vaccines in the first place funded the authors of the study and editorial. That’s like putting tobacco companies in charge of doing studies on the risks of smoking.
  • They didn’t explain how it could be possibly safe that little babies received 187.5 micrograms (mcg) of mercury by the time they were six months old — when the safe level is 0.5 mcg of mercury according to the EPA. (Mercury is the second most toxic known substance after plutonium.)

Jenny McCarthy is a shining light, telling the world about one little sliver of the potential of this new model of care.  But there is so much more.

I am on the board of directors and faculty of The Institute for Functional Medicine, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating professionals in this new model. Yet even working very hard with a few extraordinarily dedicated people, we have only trained only a few thousand health professionals since 1999.

There are 600,000 doctors in this country, and there are 67,000 dietitians who are members of the American Dietetic Association (ADA).  Doctors are looking for a new way to help their patients with chronic illness that works better than what they learned in medical school.  After being in practice for a while, they recognize the problems with just prescribing drugs to suppress symptoms and wish that they had better answers.

At the annual ADA conference in Philadelphia this week, my nutrition director Kathie Swift and I spoke to 1,000 dieticians who were hungry for this information.  One dietician even came up to me, crying that this is what she should have done all her life and wished she had known about it.

At The Institute for Functional Medicine, we are creating a certification program to help train professionals so more people can see qualified practitioners of the new medicine.  And we are also working on research at Harvard to prove to the scientific community the power of this model of care to address the 125 million people — that’s 1 in 3 of you — with chronic illnesses.

I know that there are about 10,000 professionals who have joined our UltraWellness community and are reading this right now.  I also know that there are over 200,00 other people reading this right now who know that the time has come for this type of medicine.

But Jenny McCarthy can’t do this by herself, and the big secret needs telling.  By working together, we have the power to create a tremendous change in our medical system.

Here are the things we can do over the next year:

  • Create a comprehensive on- and off-line certification program in Functional Medicine for professionals and create a scholarship program for students and faculty to get training.
  • Get the Textbook of Functional Medicine in the hands of as many physicians, dieticians and health professionals as possible. Learn more at
  • Create Centers of Excellence in Functional Medicine.  This is a new model for clinical care and medical practice that can make this type of medicine available and affordable for everyone. Imagine clinics in your own community based on the principles of systems biology and Functional Medicine. We can help doctors and health professionals learn how to do this so that everyone can have a place to access this type of care.
  • Develop a network of research projects and centers to advance research in this field as quickly as possible. This will allow insurance companies to be able to pay for it because they will see that Functional Medicine is not only more effective than conventional approaches, but it will save billions of dollars.

The goal of The Institute for Functional Medicine is to raise $20 million over the next year to accomplish this. And the more we have the faster we can go.

And you all can make it happen with very little effort.

I don’t ask things of my community very often — and I am not asking for me, but for the millions of suffering people who could benefit if we come together and work to create change.

And if you know ANYONE who wants to see a different kind of healthcare, please send this along now and ask for his or her help.

If each of you forward this to just 10 key people you know and ask for their help, we could raise enough money overnight to transform medical education and research. That is the power of a grassroots community to create change. We can’t wait for government or industry to bail us out.

So here is what I am asking:

  1. Please donate whatever you can. Imagine if each of you reading this gave $100 to The Institute for Functional Medicine to help create a comprehensive certification or fellowship program in Functional Medicine and to support research in Functional Medicine.
  2. Imagine how fast we could change things if everyone just gave a little bit. Our goal is to raise $20 million dollars to change things almost overnight! It is tax deductible and a 501c3 nonprofit. 
  3. Call The Institute for Functional Medicine directly at  800.228.0622 .

Thank you so much for support. As I leave you this week, I’d like you to remember the famous words of Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Have you read Jenny McCarthy’s book? What did you think?

Have you noticed any changes involving Functional Medicine in your own community?

Do you have any other ideas you’d like to share to help support the cause of Functional Medicine?

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below—but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

PS – For more information on this and other blogs, please go to:

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16 Responses to How to Fix Our Broken Health Care System

  1. Lou Ann Lutsch May 5, 2013 at 6:56 am #

    I have long been interested in nutrition for health and am very interested in a field in nutrition. The problem is, I dont agree with the information they are taught. They recommend low fat processed food and they follow the Canada Food guide, which I believe has mostly wrong information. I would like to take a course in something I believe in and can passionately teach and recommend. I believe in the mind/body approach to health and well being. Our food is the # 1 problem with our health and if it doesnt change, more and more people will be sick and dying needlessly and big companies will be getting richer.

    • Zabelisa January 12, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

      You could enroll in the Integrative Nutrition course online at IIN. It’s the best and most progressive program and it applies all the functional medicine principles. Cheers!

  2. Patty C. May 5, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    Thank YOU! I believe this to my core! I am not a doctor nor do I have any medical training, but being a mom has inspired and educated me a LOT. I planned to be a psychologist but never pursued that (young & in love). My 14 yr. old son got a double whammy geneticially inheriting “anxiety” but his takes on a whole new level as it’s root is OCD and this past year has been hellacious for him. I MUST say that his psychologist & psychiatrist (out of network) have been very supportive and helpful to him and me through this journey. He’s doing so much better, thanks to his great support network and prayers! I am very distraught about the state of our mental health system. I KNOW we’re learning more & more about the brain these days but like you say it’s all connected. I’m grateful I have access to the doctors I do have but I wish insurance was more understanding of the nuances of this field and offered more opportunity for some coverage! I feel this is soooo important!

    • Kathryn Gossien March 20, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

      A young lady I work with in training to be a dietitian says they are working on making it illegal for Dr.s to give diet advice. Anybody have any info. on that?

  3. Liz May 5, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Thanks Dr. H. I read your newsletter all the time-which says a lot since I don’t read many! I am a Certified Health Coach and am so interested in Functional Medicine. I feel like I could BE one of those patients you highlight!
    Question for you…

    Are the Functional Medicine Classes only for Drs and PA’s? Do you feel you need to have a medical license to use Functional Medicine (on anyone but yourself of course)? Would love some answers on this as I’d like to be integrating it into my own practice.
    Is there any certification that you can get in FM as a non-medical professional?

    • Profile photo of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff August 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

      Dear Liz,

      Thank you for your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. While we are excited about your passion and enthusiasm for functional medicine, right now a medical background is required. You can learn as much as you want by going here:

      For more personalized nutrition advice, Dr Hyman’s nutrition coaching team would be happy to work with you on an individual level to help you reach your goals. To work with the nutrition coaching team please go to: OR call (800) 892-1443 to get started.
      In Good Health,
      The Nutrition Team

  4. Marg May 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    After a number of years, I switched my primary to a Functional Med doc as I was impressed with a brief talk he gave. I am now feeling that because this trained doc is still under the pressure of the group she works under, he is not able to practice F.M. Because it Requires that the Doc actually takes time to get to know the patient. Ugh. Disappointed.

  5. Chuck Holmes May 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Thank you for the information. Perhaps my question relates to the above article in some way. My son is 31 y/o. He did crystal meth and who knows what. He eats organic foods and is paranoid of chemicals dust etc.. I believe he is free of drugs now and does not smoke anymore. The problem is he is either passive and will not interface with us or wants to fight, get in your face and has spit in my exes face. He does not fit in society right now.Outside of having him arrested for assault and dealing with the court system and we cannot force him to get help. Do you have any suggestions to help him get back on the road to normal?

    Sincerely, Chuck Holmes

  6. Paulina May 5, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    I wanted to alert you about gadolinium toxicity from MRI &MRA IV contrast. There are lots of people now who have Gadolinium toxicity from extravazation as well as from just getting the contrast and our kidneys work well. It’s called GASF (gadolinium associated systemic fibrosis) instead of NSF (nephrogenic systemic fibrosis) . We have systemic fibrosis and being ignored by the medical and pharmaceutical companies. What chelation/ detox would work on gadolinium toxicity?

  7. Bonnie Pickhardt May 6, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    Please list the dates you’ll be discussing health issues on Katie Couric’s show, as my local program guide doesn’t list that information, and I often watch another channel for in-depth local news and weather. Also, some folks,(like me)have resisted social media sites, and are thus out of the loop.

  8. MariaSkinner May 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Deeply resonating with all your work. Why is it taking so long for the medical establishment to catch up with this?

  9. Glenn Isabelle August 11, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I am a retired 58 year old optometrist with a history of misdiagnosis because the 4 physicians that I saw that were not aware of food sensitivities. I have been working on my noncommercial Disease Prevention and Rreversal Project for the last 2 years. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services(CMS) engaged in a 16 year internal and external review of the Dr.Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease. It was approved for funding in January 2011. Many insurance companies also cover the 72 hour training program. CMS and the insurance companies like the program because
    it is less expensive than surgery. The CMS criterion is that the program be published in peer reviewed journals. Dean Ornish M.D. started the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in1984. The website is The heart disease reversal program is based on the concepts in the book entitled The Spectrum. The website is This shows us what CMS requires. IIntensive cardiac rehabilitation (ICR) refers to a physician-supervised program that furnishes cardiac rehabilitation services more frequently and often in a more rigorous manner. As required by §1861(eee)(4)(A) of the Social Security Act (the Act), an ICR program must show, in peer-reviewed published research, that it accomplished one or more of the following for its patients: (1) positively affected the progression of coronary heart disease; (2) reduced the need for coronary bypass surgery; and, (3) reduced the need for percutaneous coronary interventions. The ICR program must also demonstrate through peer-reviewed published research that it accomplished a statistically significant reduction in five or more of the following measures for patients from their levels before cardiac rehabilitation services to after cardiac rehabilitation services: (1) low density lipoprotein; (2) triglycerides; (3) body mass index; (4) systolic blood pressure; (5) diastolic blood pressure; and, (6) the need for cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes medications. Individual ICR programs must be approved through the national coverage determination process to ensure that they demonstrate these accomplishments.

    These are the two other CMS links that I have discovered that overlap the above link.

    This is the link for the explanation of Medicare coverage in

    This is the section called the proven program and the research in Click on the gray bars for the full story.
    If you would like to receive an email with the best material that I have please email [email protected]. Much of it has been selected to be convincing to patients and physicians. I can not get rid of this”e” at the end.

  10. Diana Bahena April 23, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    I just can not take anything from Jenny McCarthy seriously — she is not qualified for her claims. However, I believe in functional medicine concepts. The claims you make, in terms of the bad research reported on USA today and NY times… do you have a link for the article they are reporting on?

  11. stemcelltheapy March 11, 2015 at 2:52 am #

    great information.

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