Personalized Health Care

Functional Medicine Leads the Way



Natali_ Mis/Shutterstock.com

Historical Overview

During the last 25 years, a less drug-based grassroots model for dealing with chronic illnesses in the U.S. has emerged. First labeled holistic, the movement gained momentum as alternative approaches morphed into being considered complementary to conventional medicine, warranting studies by the National Institutes of Health. Responding to public interest, an integrative model of care that focuses on the whole person has taken root in medical institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio.

The latest evolution to a systems-oriented, patient-focused clinical model of functional medicine, which seeks to address causes of illness, rather than simply treat symptoms, has been garnering increasing interest by the public and pioneering medical professionals. It’s now maturing into personalized functional medicine.

New Standard of Care

One of the best-prepared, traditionally trained medical professionals in explaining this approach is Jeffrey S. Bland, Ph.D., recognized as the father of functional medicine, and author of The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer and Happier Life. He co-founded, with his wife, Susan, the Institute for Functional Medicine, in Washington, which provides a system geared to understanding the complexity of chronic illness and design individualized programs for more effective healing.

“Medical science didn’t have the advanced technology 25 years ago to perform the research that now helps us better understand the complexity of chronic illness, as well as our present ecological view of the body. Today we’re examining how all the networks of our biology intersect in a dynamic process that creates health when in balance or disease when out of balance,” attests Bland, whose career has focused on searching for a unifying principle behind all healing that can be used to discern the best possible therapy for specific individuals.

Incorporating what he learned from Linus Pauling, Ph.D., two-time Nobel Prize laureate, and Lee Hood, M.D., Ph.D., as well as systems biology and practicing lifestyle medicine, Bland founded the nonprofit Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute in 2012. Seeking to transform the entire medical approach to chronic illness, the Seattle-based organization is a virtual and onsite hub for health professionals, researchers, educators and the public to share ideas and converse about how personalized functional medicine can be delivered to everyone as an improved standard of care.

Role of Genetics

The National Human Genome Research Institute, in Bethesda, Maryland, maintains that an evolved approach to medicine starts with using an individual’s genetic profile to determine the best path to preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases. By 2003, scientists had delivered the first essentially complete sequence and map of all the genes in the human body.

Three decades ago, the medical fraternity had few reliable explanations for the origins of chronic health issues. Today, accepted factors include predispositions for a specific disease related to an individual’s genome, along with contemporary epigenetic influences such as nutrition, environment and lifestyle. None of these elements, however, necessarily define our destiny.

“This genomic personalized medicine approach is creating friends among all healing arts practitioners because it facilitates our using information to design a less-toxic environment, lifestyle, diet and treatment to meet an individual’s specific needs and particular circumstances that led to a disease,” says Bland.

“Diseases are only names assigned to a collection of symptoms,” says Bland. “They don’t indicate how the individual became afflicted. If 10 patients with Type 2 diabetes each had epigenetic variations that triggered getting the condition, it would be unwise to treat them all the same; it’s far better to treat those factors that specifically led to the disease.”

Addressing the concern that genetic test results might be used to deny someone health insurance, Bland notes, “This is a significant misunderstanding about genetic testing. Our genes don’t tell us how we are going to die. They tell us how we should live. Understanding how our genes can help us live to 100 is a model of enlightenment. Those that practice this systems biology approach are counting on functional personalized medicine becoming the updated standard of care.”

Physicians often offer genetic testing services. At-home DNA testing can be done using a saliva collection kit mailed to a laboratory, offering both ancestry and health information that must be interpreted by an informed professional.


Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. Connect at LindaSechrist.com.


This article appears in the May 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

News Briefs

Autism's Gut-Brain Axis

Autism's Gut-Brain Axis

A Promising Approach to Healing
Universal Healing Arts Touching Lives in Cortlandt Manor

Universal Healing Arts Touching Lives in Cortlandt Manor

"The staff heals on a physical, mental and spiritual level."
Indigo Helm—‘More Than Yoga’—Opens in Cortlandt Manor

Indigo Helm—‘More Than Yoga’—Opens in Cortlandt Manor

"This is a discovery place! Drop-ins are welcome."
Fluoride Dangers Focus of Holistic Moms Meeting

Fluoride Dangers Focus of Holistic Moms Meeting

7:30 p.m., December 6
Voice Empowerment Workshop with Ronni Sarrett Lederman

Voice Empowerment Workshop with Ronni Sarrett Lederman

1 to 4 p.m., December 2
SearchLight Medical Featured on Comcast Cable Show

SearchLight Medical Featured on Comcast Cable Show

Laurie Mallis, M.D., a licensed acupuncturist, discusses and demonstrates AcuGraph Qi Analysis and Auricular (ear) Acupuncture
Flawless Skin Is a Popular Holiday Treat

Flawless Skin Is a Popular Holiday Treat

Through December, all clients will receive a free gift of anti-aging serum.
Weekly Qigong Classes in Two Dutchess Locations

Weekly Qigong Classes in Two Dutchess Locations

“No experience is necessary—your practice is based upon never exceeding your own capacity.”
Holistic Health and Wellness Series in Beacon

Holistic Health and Wellness Series in Beacon

“Each workshop will focus on the most important information for you to make positive changes in your life."
Chapel at Croton Falls Holds Solstice, Christmas Eve Services

Chapel at Croton Falls Holds Solstice, Christmas Eve Services

Winter Solstice celebration at 6 p.m. on December 16, followed by Christmas at the Chapel at 7:30 p.m. on December 24.
April ‘Heal Your Life’ Teacher Training in Tampa

April ‘Heal Your Life’ Teacher Training in Tampa

April 20 to 27 in Tampa, Florida
Three-Part Winter Transitioning Workshop in Ossining

Three-Part Winter Transitioning Workshop in Ossining

December 8, 15 and 22
Poughkeepsie Farm Selected for Funding Accelerator Program

Poughkeepsie Farm Selected for Funding Accelerator Program

Trains food entrepreneurs from across the region to attract outside investment.
Fable to Hold Winter Farm Fest in Ossining

Fable to Hold Winter Farm Fest in Ossining

December 9
Fair Trade Festival December 1 in White Plains

Fair Trade Festival December 1 in White Plains

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., December 1
‘Energy Shifts’ at Temperance Center

‘Energy Shifts’ at Temperance Center

"These alternative modalities can help you open yourself up to the universal signs, trust yourself more and manifest what you want in your life.”
Eco-Justice Group The Greenheart to Perform in Ossining

Eco-Justice Group The Greenheart to Perform in Ossining

8 to 10 p.m. on November 24, at Good Choice Kitchen, in Ossining
Thanksgiving Day Plant-Based Potluck in White Plains

Thanksgiving Day Plant-Based Potluck in White Plains

1 to 4 p.m., November 22, at Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation
Mindfulness and Empowerment Retreat in Ossining

Mindfulness and Empowerment Retreat in Ossining

5 p.m. on November 30 to 1 p.m. on December 2
Awaken Wellness Fair Returns to Tarrytown November 18

Awaken Wellness Fair Returns to Tarrytown November 18

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors to this entertaining and educational event can browse products and services designed to support a healthy lifestyle, listen to expert speakers on a variety of issues, and consult with intuitive readers and holistic healers.
More Couples Want Inspirational, Nontraditional Wedding Ceremonies

More Couples Want Inspirational, Nontraditional Wedding Ceremonies

Michael Rosenbaum, an ordained minister and spiritual counselor, says he’s seeing a growing trend among engaged couples.
Beacon of Light Offers Fall Healing Events

Beacon of Light Offers Fall Healing Events

Events include women's healing circles, shamanic circles, breath work and sound meditations, live chanting and workshops on dance, drawing and Thai massage.
Open House at Yellow Monkey Village

Open House at Yellow Monkey Village

2 to 6 p.m. on November 3
Mindfulness Workshops and Retreats at Garrison Institute

Mindfulness Workshops and Retreats at Garrison Institute

Cultivate mindfulness, awareness and compassion.
Hudson River Museum Is Thanksgiving Weekend Destination

Hudson River Museum Is Thanksgiving Weekend Destination

November 24
Boscobel Hosts Holiday Twilight Tours

Boscobel Hosts Holiday Twilight Tours

Holiday tours will take place from 3:30 to 7 p.m., November 23-25, December 1-2 and December 8-9.
Bodyworkers’ Approach to Pain Transcends ‘Mechanics’

Bodyworkers’ Approach to Pain Transcends ‘Mechanics’

"The majority of chronic pain is actually caused by injuries to ligaments, joints, tendons and fibrous connective tissue.”
Hudson Valley Vegfest Returns for Second Year

Hudson Valley Vegfest Returns for Second Year

Add your comment: