What Functional Medicine Is — and How It Can Save Your Life

What Functional Medicine Is — and How It Can Save Your Life


What is functional medicine? Discover the natural approach to healthcare that can transform your health and your life.

There is nothing as important as your health; and in today’s world, new and cutting edge medical treatments are coming out to try to mask symptoms and fight off deadly diseases.

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.

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.

There is a lot we can all learn from understanding functional medicine, and from the functional medicine doctors at the forefront of this movement, such as Dr. Mark Hyman (whom we will discuss in just a bit).

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

What Is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine is the science of how the body works as an integrated whole, as opposed to the “naming, blaming, and taming” paradigm of mainstream medicine. 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 is supporting the root cause of the symptom and helps to keep it alive. 

Dr. Mark Hyman
Dr. Mark Hyman

Dr. Mark Hyman, from the Institute of Functional Medicine, is one of the leading voices in the functional medicine movement and 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. 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
  • 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.

Dr. Mark Hyman functional medicine

4 Principles of Functional Medicine

Understanding the definition of functional medicine is only half the battle, there are also several principles of functional medicine 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

When you ask “what is functional medicine?” this principle is most likely to depict exactly what this approach is all about. Functional medicine depicts the idea that health is not just the absence of disease, but a state of immense vitality.

2. Functional medicine views everyone as being genetically and biochemically unique

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

In short, functional medicine 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. Functional medicine is a 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.

When you work with a functional medicine doctor, they encourage patients to really look at the big picture and to 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 with this disease?” functional medicine 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?

When you work with a functional medicine doctor, you are working with an expert that can find the root cause or mechanism involved with your illness or loss of function, so you can get to the root of the problem and reveal why those symptoms appeared in the first place.

How to Upgrade Your Biological Software With Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is the science of upgrading your biological software.

– Dr. Mark Hyman

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 in the way it should be, you can upgrade your software to work out the kinks in order 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. 

Here is a talk from Dr. Mark Hyman at Mindvalley’s A-Fest on how food is the most powerful drug (or medicine). Definitely worth a watch.

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, 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

Every body 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.

Written by
Tatiana Azman - Mindvalley Writer