Chronic diseases are rapidly increasing, with ever-increasing costs. Most of these diseases were virtually unknown until the last few generations. They are correlated with our increasingly-industrialized diets and environmental changes, a mismatch with our Stone Age genetics and biology. Life expectancy has actually started decreasing in recent years in spite increasing health-care spending.
Conventional medicine developed when acute infectious diseases were the leading causes of death, with new “cures” for killing “biological invaders” (microbes, and now also cancer cells). However, chronic diseases (80% of today’s healthcare costs) are mediated by biological damage, which can only be repaired by nutrients (which come from nature). Most drugs today are used to alleviate chronic disease symptoms, but can’t repair biological causes (although they can help avoid serious complications like heart attacks and strokes). Conventional medical visits are scheduled with too little time for much more than discussing symptoms and writing prescriptions to relieve them. A new medical paradigm is needed.
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE focuses on preventing and repairing the underlying biological causes rather than just suppressing symptoms. It uses scientific methods of Clinical Nutrition and molecular biology, supported by published medical studies, to analyze the causes and help the body to repair its biological damage. Repairing the major damage mediating chronic diseases requires more than a regular diet, just as repairing earthquake damage requires more than a standard household budget. Functional Medicine is an additional tool for healing chronic health problems, not a replacement for other forms of treatment.
(Don’t confuse scientific Functional Medicine with the many questionable cures and junk science being marketed by a variety of poorly-trained practitioners.)
Wesley G Bradford, MD, MPH
Clinical Assistant Professor
Dept of Family Medicine
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center