Mark Hyman, M.D., Chairman of the Institute of Functional Medicine wrote a recent article for The Huffington Post. In this article, he discussed the proceedings for TEDMED, specifically on the treatment and prevention of cancer in the United States, a disease which continues to rise. It's a very informative article focusing on the new discipline of functional medicine. If you've got a minute, it's a very worthwhile read.(Thanks for the reference, Satya.)
Personally, I don't see functional medicine as the be-all and end-all of the improvement of health in the US, but I do see it as a major step up from the current crisis-centered system that poses as "health" care here. Basically, I see it as a step in the right direction, a step towards wellness.
Why a "step up"?
I say a step up because at least functional medicine recognizes that the body's natural state is health, not disease and that if disease is present it is due to a deficiency or toxicity in the environment. Functional medicine is performed using a series of symptom questionnaires and laboratory tests to determine WHY a system of the body is out of balance (rather than simply naming the disease and treating it with a drug). The remedies offered by functional medicine are usually "natural" supplements and whole foods that treat deficiencies, diet modification, and lifestyle changes (interesting concept). Another focus of functional medicine is on environmental toxicity and removal of heavy metals and other substances that pollute the body (like sugar).
While I do see functional medicine as a better way to deal with chronic diseases like America's top killers of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, etc, I do not see it as a replacement for wellness. This is to say that even after you have "treated" the effects of the problem, to be whole you must conitnue to give the body what it needs and stay away from the bad stuff. Doing this would provide the appropriate environment where disease would have been unable to exist in the first place.
Unfortunately, as a society, we have not yet been conditioned to seek this type of care and it may be a while yet before people come around to wellness, so for now functional medicine may play a critical role in slowly moving us towards improved health.
The Body as a Garden
Here is an excerpt from Dr. Hyman's article which discusses the treatment of cancer, and if you've read my blog before, it may sound familiar:
"Traditionally, we have focused on late-stage curative care, and in doing so, we have missed the thinking and the treatments focused on changing the underlying conditions that led to the cancer in the first place. Diet, lifestyle, thoughts, and environmental toxins all interact with our genes to change the landscape of our health."As I see it, to "treat" a disease without discussing why the illness developed in the first place and how to prevent future occurences is a disservice to the patient. The article continues:
"We have been asking the wrong question about cancer. We have asked "what": What tumor do you have? What kind of chemotherapy, surgery or radiation is needed for that tumor? What is your prognosis? Instead, we need to be asking "why" and "how": Why did this cancer grow? How can you change the conditions that feed and support cancer-cell growth? How did the terrain of your garden become a host to such an invasive weed?I see the next decade as a time when an awakening will be brought about in the American public. Where they will no longer settle for the status quo when it comes to diseases and conditions and treatments, but where they will begin to ask better questions and be given better answers. I hope to be a part of this movement by continuing my research into what IS the appropriate environment for the human being. An environment where diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are unable to exist.
"Surprisingly, scientific literature is abundant with evidence that diet, exercise, thoughts, feelings and environmental toxins all influence the initiation, growth and progression of cancer. If a nutrient-poor diet full of sugar, lack of exercise, chronic stress, persistent pollutants and heavy metals can cause cancer, could it be that a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet, physical activity, changing thoughts and reactions to stress, and detoxification might treat the garden in which cancer grows? Treat the soil, not the plant. It is a foundational principle of sustainable agriculture, and of sustainable health."
In my eyes, these illnesses exist for two reasons: People have been given the WRONG advice when it comes to lifestyle (especially what to eat) AND people simply do not believe that lifestyle matters that much as a result of social conditioning (family, friends, school, TV, government, and doctors).
I will continue to strive to correct both of these reasons for our illnesses by sharing up-to-date, scientific information so that you, the reader, can make a conscious decision. Having acces to this information will reconnect Americans to what they really want but have been missing - freedom to choose sickness or health rather than be victim to circumstances brought on by an IGNOR-ant system.
Cancer is just the beginning - Dr. Steve
As a personal prediction and this is only a guess - I think functional medicine will take over the majority of medicine's current patient load (chronic disease) in the next 15 years which means the drug companies that supply most of the treatment will need to find another line of work (vaccines?) as they will be replaced to a large degree by unpatentable natural supplements. But of course, this depends on how strong a grip pharmaceutical companies can maintain on the hearts and minds of the American public (TV/magazine/internet advertising).