We ran a quick poll in the Nowgevity private group to see how many members are familiar with functional medicine. Based on the replies, it seems clear that this is not yet a widely understood practice, so we thought it useful to write a quick introduction to it.
The focus of functional medicine is on prevention. This stands in stark contrast with the traditional focus of medicine which is on the treatment and (sometimes) cure of disease. There is a growing consensus that many of the chronic diseases afflicting 6 out of 10 American adults (eg. diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases) are highly preventable and even reversible through lifestyle adjustments (i.e. nutrition, exercise, health, stress management).
Functional medicine tries to achieve this by doing two things:
- Taking a systems approach to health by focusing on identifying the root cause of disease. It does so by understanding the interplay between all aspects that determine our health status. This approach corrects for the very siloed views that are common in doctors today due to extreme specialization, which leads them to focus narrowly on treating symptoms and not necessarily finding root causes.
- Collecting, analyzing, and tracking data from blood tests, genetics, epigenetics, gut microbiome sequencing, sleep and mental health in order to paint a comprehensive picture of your current health status and be able to track improvements over time.
We think these two pillars make a strong case for exploring functional medicine as a strategy to extend healthspan, especially if the alternative is hoping our doctor does not detect any disease! Thus, your health resolution might be framed as being someone who is “focused on maximizing healthspan” by using functional medicine.Go deeper. Dr. Mark Hyman recently published an 8-episode series on Longevity and Functional Medicine. You can find the first episode here. Get a taste of functional medicine by following the Wild Health podcast. You can also schedule a free consultation with a functional doctor at Parsley Health.