What Functional Medicine Is — and How It Can Transform Your Health

8 min read -
Irina Yugay
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Table of Contents
Summary: What is functional medicine? Dr. Mark Hyman shares what it is and how it can transform your health and your life.

There is nothing as important as your health. And in today’s world, most of the new and cutting-edge medical treatments are created only to mask symptoms or give temporary relief.  

However, in all of the hustle and bustle caused by modern advancements and scientific discoveries, many people have started to forget about what it actually means to be healthy. 

We need to separate the idea of “health” from “treating symptoms and diseases.” And this is where functional medicine comes in.

If you want to learn how it can help your body return to its natural state of health, here’s what you need to know:

There is a lot we can all learn from understanding functional medicine and its doctors at the forefront of this movement, such as Dr. Mark Hyman, a leader in the field.

Let’s start with the core principles of this approach to medicine.

What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is all about the science of how the body works as an integrated whole. It focuses on getting to the root of the problem and is less focused on just the symptoms of the problem.

While many in the medical world today will try to name the symptom, blame it on a disease, and then try to tame these symptoms with medication.

This is masking up pain, symptoms, and discomfort—this is not helping people get healthy. Rather, it supports the root cause of the symptom and helps to keep it alive. 

Dr. Mark Hyman, physician and best-selling author from the Institute of Functional Medicine, encourages people to understand their body’s system as a whole—not just the symptoms.

It is a medicine of why — not of what.

The goal of functional medicine is to remove the things that impede your health so that your body can function the way it is naturally supposed to. For instance, there can be one cause or issue in the body that can lead to many diseases and many symptoms. If you don’t eliminate that cause, you will only continue to deal with these health issues.

In his book, The Ultramind Solution, Dr. Mark Hyman discusses these foundations of functional medicine, showing readers how there is one diet they can use to cure all of the diseases that seem to plague our world today.

This diet not only helps fix your body but your brain as well. On top of all of that,  it has some very simple yet effective rules:

  • Never eat anything that comes in a box or package,
  • Eat food that comes directly from nature,
  • Detox so that your system can live green and clean, and
  • Take the right supplements, such as vitamin D and fish oil.

Doing this will give your body what it needs to fight off disease and for your to start living your best, healthiest life possible.

Mark Hyman
Dr. Mark Hyman, physician and best-selling author

What Does a Functional Medicine Doctor Do?

A functional medicine doctor identifies the root cause of the complex illness, looking at the human body as a whole, not as an isolated condition or symptom. This approach allows them to come up with a personalized treatment.

There are three main aspects of their work — collecting information, proposing a treatment plan, and tracking the progress

First, they gather your medical history, including your overall lifestyle. Generally, they ask questions about:

  • Symptoms and their timeline
  • Sleep patterns
  • Exercise habits
  • Nutrition
  • Daily stressors
  • Intimate relationships
  • Emotional life
  • Genetical predispositions

Second, they devise a treatment plan to manage both causes and triggers contributing to a chronic condition: prescription medications, supplements, and other therapies.

Finally, they track the progress and propose changes as needed. 

When you work with a functional medicine doctor, they encourage patients to really look at the big picture and not let the presence of disease get in the way of their health or their ability to focus on their bodies.

Instead of asking what drug matches a certain disease, these doctors will ask questions such as:

  • Why do you have this problem in the first place?
  • Why has function been lost?
  • What can we do to restore that function?

This is why it’s a collaborative process, where the doctor considers your input to find the root cause or mechanism involved with your illness or loss of function. Still, you are responsible for your daily choices, which will determine your healing process.

Is Functional Medicine Legit?

Yes, it’s a legitimate practice when performed correctly, so the specialist’s skill mainly determines it. 

The main criticism of it is the lack of scientific evidence. Researchers at The Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine have been building that evidence base. 

They were the first to conduct a study to assess outcomes and costs associated with this type of care. It has been shown that a comprehensive functional medicine approach creates better outcomes at lower costs. 

In fact, functional medicine is as natural as the body’s ability to heal. For example, when you cut your finger, your body kickstarts healing instantly as soon as the wound occurs, without any external intervention. If you follow essential rules such as eating properly, drinking enough clean water, and exercising regularly, your body will heal naturally.

man running in nature

4 Principles of Functional Medicine

Understanding the functional medicine definition is only half the battle. There are also several principles of it that are essential to understanding this medical approach.

According to functional medicine doctors, health is self-care, and these principles can help guide you in the right direction toward your optimum health.

1. Health is not just the absence of disease

Functional medicine depicts the idea that health is not just the absence of disease but a state of immense vitality. And its approach perfectly depicts this principle.

2. Everyone is genetically and biochemically unique

Since functional medicine views us all as different, both genetically and biochemically, it gives way to a more personalized healthcare approach. This approach focuses on treating the individual, not the disease.

In short, it helps give the body what it needs to function at its highest level. It naturally supports the healing mechanisms that your body already has rather than just focusing on attacking the disease. 

Basically, it is about giving your body what it needs to heal itself.

3. Science-based approach

Research supports the fact that every single component of the body is very connected and that it all works together as a whole. This is why functional medicine doctors like Dr. Mark Hyman support the idea that you need to focus on the organism as a whole instead of the organs in the body. 

4. Your body can heal itself

Functional medicine doctors focus on helping the body as a whole because the body is intelligent and has the capacity for self-regulation. This is why, when your body is healthy and functioning as it should, it maintains a dynamic balance of all of these systems.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, your body can heal itself and prevent nearly all of the diseases that supposedly “come with aging.” It can do this if it has the nutrients it needs to function at its highest capacity.

yogurt with berries

How to Upgrade Your Biological Software With Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is the science of upgrading your biological software.

– Dr. Mark Hyman, international leader in the field of functional medicine

It is a way to not only eliminate the disease from the body but to optimize your health and to change the entire way your body functions.

For example, when your computer or phone is no longer working as it should be, you can upgrade your software to work out the kinks to keep your system up and running in the best manner possible.

Functional medicine works the same way, but instead of using a software update to bring your system up to speed, you primarily use the miraculous, magical medicine of food.

Eating all-natural, wholesome, healthy foods (filled with vitamins and nutrients), paired with a healthy exercise approach, plenty of water, and plenty of rest, are all the things that will help reset and upgrade your biological system.

A functional medicine doctor can not only help you with this basic foundation to maintain your health and wellness, but they can help their patients determine which nutrients their body needs, which foods they should be eating, and which supplements they should be taking to make sure their body is getting exactly what it needs to function at its best level so that it can heal itself on its own. This will create long-lasting vitality and longevity. 

Watch this talk from Dr. Mark Hyman at Mindvalley’s A-Fest on how food is the most powerful drug (or medicine) to learn more.

Food As Medicine Preventing & Treating | Dr. Mark Hyman – Video

Here are six of the other secret ingredients to upgrading your biology:

1. Learn to change your behavior

Eating is a behavior you need to unlearn the bad eating habits you have formed and learn new, healthy habits.

2. Use the power of social networks

Friend power is stronger than willpower. If you surround yourself with healthy friends, you are much more likely to be healthy.

3. Our social threads are more important than our genetic threads

Remember this when you choose who to spend time around — good influences are great, but bad influences can be detrimental to your health. Studies show that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Who do you want to be like? 

4. Change your environment

Your environment can have a major impact on your health and on the decisions that you make.

5. Work together

Everybody needs a buddy. If you have a buddy with you as you attempt to make these major life changes, you are much more likely to succeed. You can even call each other your “accountabili-buddy.”

6. Try it for just 10 days

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, just trying a new healthy approach for 10 days can make all of the difference. Wait and see what happens; you will likely find your biology has been completely transformed for the better.

Dr. Mark Hyman from the Institute of Functional Medicine is part of an organization that has trained tens of thousands of doctors around the world about taking this more natural, healthy, and functional approach to medicine. Those interested in finding a doctor in their area that specializes in functional medicine can visit functionalmedicine.org to find a healthcare provider near your area.

Optimizing Your Health With Mindvalley

Your body is one of the most sophisticated machines, and every single system is designed to work in interconnected coherence. It means that the ultimate health is your natural state, and you can return to it by following simple rules.

Yet, building new habits and changing your behavior is a challenging process that requires daily commitment and professional guidance.

At Mindvalley, you can learn from the world’s leading experts in nutrition, fitness, biohacking, stress management, and so much more.

With Quests like Wildfit by Eric Edmeades, 10X by Lorenzo Delano, The Longevity Blueprint by Ben Greenfield, and Every Day Bliss by Paul MacKenna, you will learn how to optimize your health in a functional and holistic way.

Sounds interesting? Access your sample classes by unlocking your free Mindvalley access.

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Irina Yugay

Irina Yugay

As a former self-development and self-transcendence writer at Mindvalley, Irina uses words to transpire empowering ideas, transcendental feelings, and omniversal values. She's also an ascension coach who helps her clients grow their spiritual awareness and actualize their true nature. With a deep empirical understanding of the spiritual journey, Irina shares her insights and experiences with the readers to inspire them to transcend their limiting beliefs and achieve higher states of consciousness.
Written by

Irina Yugay

As a former self-development and self-transcendence writer at Mindvalley, Irina uses words to transpire empowering ideas, transcendental feelings, and omniversal values. She's also an ascension coach who helps her clients grow their spiritual awareness and actualize their true nature. With a deep empirical understanding of the spiritual journey, Irina shares her insights and experiences with the readers to inspire them to transcend their limiting beliefs and achieve higher states of consciousness.

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