Functional medicine

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Functional medicine is a form of alternative medicine that encompasses a number of unproven and disproven methods and treatments.[1][2][3] Its proponents claim that it focuses on the "root causes" of diseases based on interactions between the environment and the gastrointestinal, endocrine, and immune systems to develop "individualized treatment plans".[4] Opponents have described it as pseudoscience,[5] quackery,[6] and at its essence a rebranding of complementary and alternative medicine.[6]


The discipline of functional medicine is vaguely defined by its proponents.[6] Oncologist David Gorski has written that the vagueness is a deliberate tactic which facilitates the discipline's promotion, but that in general it centers on unnecessary and expensive testing procedures performed in the name of "holistic" health care.[7]

Proponents of functional medicine oppose established medical knowledge and reject its models, instead adopting a model of disease based on the notion of "antecedents", "triggers", and "mediators";[8] these are meant to correspond to the underlying causes, the immediate causes, and the particular characteristics of a person's illness respectively.[8] A functional medicine practitioner will devise a "matrix" from these things which acts as a basis for treatment.[8]

Treatments, practices, and concepts will generally be those not supported by medical evidence;[1] these include:

Institute for Functional Medicine[edit]

Institute for Functional Medicine
FounderJeffrey Bland, PhD
Focus"To serve the highest expression of individual health through the widespread adoption of functional medicine as the standard of care."[23]
MethodEducation, Research, Collaboration
Key people
Mark Hyman, MD, Chairman

Functional medicine was invented by nutritionist Jeffrey Bland,[24] he and Susan Bland founded the Institute for Functional Medicine in 1991 as a division of HealthComm.[25][26] That year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said that Jeffrey Bland's corporations HealthComm and Nu-Day Enterprises had falsely advanced claims that their products could alter metabolism and induce weight loss;[25] the FTC found that Bland and his companies violated that consent order in 1995 by making more exaggerated claims. The UltraClear dietary program was said to provide relief from gastrointestinal problems, inflammatory and immunologic problems, fatigue, food allergies, mercury exposure, kidney disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis; the companies were forced to pay a $45,000 civil penalty.[25]

The opening of centers for functional medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and at George Washington University has been described by Gorski as an "unfortunate" example of pseudoscientific quackery infiltrating medical academia.[6]


  1. ^ a b Sampson, Wallace (October 30, 2008). "Functional Medicine – New Kid on the Block". Science-Based Medicine.
  2. ^ Sampson, Wallace (July 9, 2009). "Functional Medicine (FM) What Is It?". Science Based Medicine. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  3. ^ Pal, SK (March 2002). "Complementary and alternative medicine: An overview". Current Science. 82 (5): 518–24. JSTOR 24105958.
  4. ^ Ehrlich, G; Callender, T; Gaster, B (May 2013). "Integrative medicine at academic health centers: A survey of clinicians' educational backgrounds and practices" (PDF). Family Medicine. 45 (5): 330–4. PMID 23681684. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  5. ^ Hall, Harriet (2017). "Functional Medicine: Pseudoscientific Silliness". Skeptic. Vol. 22 no. 1. pp. 4–5.
  6. ^ a b c d e Gorski, David (September 29, 2014). "Quackademia update: The Cleveland Clinic, George Washington University, and the continued infiltration of quackery into medical academia". Science–Based Medicine. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  7. ^ Gorski, David (11 April 2016). "Functional medicine: The ultimate misnomer in the world of integrative medicine". Science Based Medicine.
  8. ^ a b c Knott L (6 February 2015). "Therapies and Theories Outside Traditional Medicine". Patient. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  9. ^ "Nutritional Medicine/Orthomolecular Medicine". Center for Functional Medicine. Archived from the original on 2013-08-28.
  10. ^ Hyman, Mark (28 April 2010). "UltraWellness Lesson 5: Detoxification". Dr. Hyman. Archived from the original on 28 April 2010.
  11. ^ "Detoxification/Heavy Metals". Center for Functional Medicine. Archived from the original on 2013-08-28.
  12. ^ Jonas, Wayne (2005). Mosby's Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. ISBN 978-0323025164.[full citation needed]
  13. ^ Hyman, Mark (2009), "Systems biology, toxins, obesity, and functional medicine" (PDF), 13th International Symposium of the Institute for Functional Medicine, retrieved November 10, 2014.
  14. ^ Prescott, David (June 2007). "Lessons from the California practice rights litigation". Chiropractic Journal. 21 (9): 11, 41.
  15. ^ Gaesser, G; Angadi, S (September 2012). "Gluten-free diet: Imprudent dietary advice for the general population?". Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 112 (9): 1330–3. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.06.009. PMID 22939437. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  16. ^ Marcason, W (November 2011). "Is there evidence to support the claim that a gluten-free diet should be used for weight loss?". Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 111 (11): 1786. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2011.09.030. PMID 22027062.
  17. ^ Richard (December 9, 2013). "Gluten summit recap". San Jose Functional Medicine. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  18. ^ "Could an undetected gluten sensitivity be contributing to your symptoms?". Atlanta Functional Medicine. July 18, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  19. ^ Taylor, LE; Swerdfeger, AL; Eslick, GD (June 2014). "Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies". Vaccine. 32 (29): 3623–9. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.04.085. PMID 24814559.
  20. ^ "The Complete Guide to Leaky Gut Syndrome". The Care Group, PC. 2019. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  21. ^ Grisanti, Ronald (n.d.). "Leaky gut: Can this be destroying your life?". Functional Medicine University. Sequoia Education Systems. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  22. ^ "Leaky gut syndrome". NHS Choices. April 9, 2013. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  23. ^ "Our Mission". December 2014.
  24. ^ Leyton E (2006). "Functional medicine". Can Fam Physician. 52 (12): 1540. PMC 1783750. PMID 17279230.
  25. ^ a b c Barrett, Stephen (September 11, 2013). "Some Notes on Jeffrey Bland and Metagenics". Quackwatch. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  26. ^ "Founders". Institute for Functional Medicine. n.d. Retrieved November 10, 2014.

Further reading[edit]