Functional medicine

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For the assessment and treatment of human behavior, see Functional analysis (psychology).

Functional medicine is a form of alternative medicine[1][2] which presents a medical philosophy that differs from that of mainstream medicine, but which is often practiced alongside conventional medicine. Practitioners emphasize the development of individual treatment plans for their patients.[2] There is some controversy surrounding the field of functional medicine, with some medical practitioners arguing that its philosophy and modalities are not evidence-based.[3]


Functional medicine is an alternative medical philosophy to that of the mainstream medical model. Functional practitioners emphasize the importance of identifying systemic root causes of chronic health problems. They focus on lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors in treatment, believing that addressing these areas can solve the underlying physiological issues that, over time, will give rise to disease.[4] Popular modalities and principles include

  • Orthomolecular medicine [5]
  • Detoxification of undocumented toxins.[6]
  • "Biochemical Individuality" (i.e. the notion that the nutritional needs, chemical constitution and disease states are unique for every individual;[7] this represents a recrudescence of the mainstream medical conception of disease common before the development of germ theory[8])
  • Promotion of the discredited link between MMR vaccine and autism (the retracted Lancet paper by Wakefield et al. is cited in The Textbook of Functional Medicine)[9]
  • Organ reserve
  • Diagnosis of chronic occult infections (e.g. chronic Lyme disease)
  • Homeopathy, including "Biopuncture", the injection of homeopathic remedies[10]
  • Dubious nutritional interventions, including avoidance of gluten for people who do not have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity[11][12]
  • Leaky gut syndrome

Functional medicine typically seeks to provide chronic care management based on the assumption that "diet, nutrition, and exposure to environmental toxins play central roles in a predisposition to illness" and "provoke symptoms, and modulate the activity of biochemical mediators through a complex and diverse set of mechanisms."[13]

The Institute for Functional Medicine[edit]

Jeffrey Bland and Susan Bland founded the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) in 1991.[14]


In 1991, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission charged that two corporations led by Jeffrey Bland, HealthComm and Nu-Day Enterprises, had falsely claimed that their diet program could cause weight loss by changing consumers' metabolism and cause them to lose weight without exercising so that fat would be lost as body heat instead of being stored.[15] In 1995, the FTC charged Bland and his companies with violating the 1991 consent order by making further unsubstantiated weight-loss claims for several products, including the UltraClear dietary program, which had been falsely claimed to reduce the incidence and severity of symptoms associated with gastrointestinal problems, inflammatory and immunologic problems, fatigue, food allergies, mercury exposure, kidney disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis. The second settlement agreement included a $45,000 civil penalty.[15]


  1. ^ Pal, Sanjoy K. (March 2002). "Complementary and alternative medicine: An overview". Current Science 82 (5): 518–24. 
  2. ^ a b Ehrlich, Gillian; Callender, Travis; Gaster, Barak (May 2013). "Integrative medicine at academic health centers: A survey of clinicians’ educational backgrounds and practices". Family Medicine 45 (5): 330–4. PMID 23681684. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Sampson, Wallace (9 July 2009). "Functional Medicine (FM) What Is It?". Science Based Medicine. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "What is Functional Medicine?". The Institute for Functional Medicine. Retrieved October 18, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Nutritional Medicine/Orthomolecular Medicine". Center for Functional Medicine. 
  6. ^ "Detoxification/ Heavy Metals". Center for Functional Medicine. 
  7. ^ Jonas, Wayne (2005). Mosby's Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. ISBN 0323025161. [full citation needed]
  8. ^ Carter, K. Codell; Carter, Barbara (2005). Childbed Fever. A Scientific Biography of Ignaz Semmelweis. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 9781412804677. 
  9. ^ Baker, Sidney MacDonald; Bennet, Peter; Bland, Jeffrey; Galland, Leo et al. (2010). Textbook of Functional Medicine. Institute for Functional Medicine. ISBN 9780977371372. 
  10. ^ Prescott, David (June 2007). "Lessons from the California practice rights litigation". Chiropractic Journal 21 (9): 11, 41. 
  11. ^ Gaesser, Glenn; Angadi, Siddhartha (September 2012). "Gluten-Free Diet: Imprudent Dietary Advice for the General Population?". Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112 (9): 1330–1333. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.06.009. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  12. ^ Marcason, W. (November 2011). "Is there evidence to support the claim that a gluten-free diet should be used for weight loss?". J Am Diet Assoc. 111 (11): 1786. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2011.09.030. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  13. ^ Galland, L. (2006). "Patient-centered care: Antecedents, triggers, and mediators". Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 12 (4): 62–70. PMID 16862744. 
  14. ^ "Founders". Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Barrett, Stephen (11 September 2013). "Some Notes on Jeffrey Bland and Metagenics". Quackwatch. Retrieved June 2014. 

Further reading[edit]