Functional Medicine: Revolutionary Hope for Chronic Disease

Functional Medicine: Revolutionary Hope for Chronic Disease
Photo by Jason Briscoe / Unsplash

Trends show an overall increase in chronic diseases worldwide. The rate of chronic disease has been on the rise and expected to increase exponentially by 2040. Due to this rise, the practice of functional medicine has been gaining awareness and popularity. This practice gives a refreshing, promising perspective and approach to chronic disease prevention, treatment, and management.

Unlike conventional medicine that treats disease based on a group of symptoms, functional medicine addresses the root causes of symptoms by using a comprehensive, personalized patient-centered approach. Functional medicine takes a deeper look into why people are sick and develops a unique treatment plan to restore health and balance for patients with chronic illnesses.

Why is Functional Medicine Important?

The scope and cost of chronic disease continues to rise and it accounts for 86% of all healthcare costs. Functional medicine is transforming healthcare and reversing trends of chronic disease by providing better cost savings and outcomes for patients.

Six in 10 U.S. adults have a chronic disease, and four in 10 adults have two or more chronic conditions. Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability. Every year 70% of deaths are caused by chronic illnesses and most of them are preventable by changing lifestyle behaviors.

Causes of Chronic Disease

Functional medicine determines how and why illness occurs by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual. Chronic conditions can have multiple etiologies and pathologies. Underlying health factors including genetics, microbiome imbalances, stress, inflammation, and unhealthy lifestyles contribute to dysfunction and disease.

It is important to note that chronic disease development does not happen overnight and takes time- years, and is usually preceded by a period of declining function in one or more of the human body's systems and common heath conditions, such as, depression, fatigue, and pain.  

Diagnosis + Advanced Testing

Functional medicine takes a look at chronological age versus biological age. A key tool in the diagnostic process is the functional medicine timeline. This intuitive tool provides a structure for tracking a patient's health over time. Clinicians must help patients view their health journey on a timeline to gain better awareness of their health.

A functional medicine practitioner will perform an initial evaluation, which will provide a base for the path of the wellness journey unique to each patient. The initial evaluation will consist of a comprehensive history, an advanced physical exam, nutrition screening, and wellness lifestyle evaluation.

To diagnose and manage chronic conditions, functional medicine clinicians must understand each patient's story, the factors which may have predisposed that individual to a chronic condition, and what may have triggered the onset of the condition. Multiple extensive assessments are performed to uncover risk factors and root causes of health issues and explore gut health, hormone balance, and immune function.

Testing for chronic diseases includes, but is not limited to a comprehensive functional lab panel, ambulatory BP monitoring for 24 hours, full body imaging, DNA testing, early cancer cell detection, pH and nitric oxide testing, and organ function. Advanced functional testing includes microbiome evaluation, early signs of aging, biomarkers, and hormones.


Functional medicine uses precise, leading-edge organic therapies. Treatment is personalized and provides a unique longevity blueprint based on an individual's genetic profile. The purpose of treatment is to slow aging, help patients feel better, and achieve optimal health.

Treatment and management typically consists of a functional medicine practitioner, a board-certified health coach, personalized supplements, and early cancer cell detection. Some organic therapies include functional nutrition, peptide therapy, anti-aging therapeutics, IV infusions, and hormone replacement therapy.

Lifestyle Foundations of Functional Medicine

Key factors such as sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress, and community boost health and longevity and combat chronic disease. According to the CDC, these five health behaviors are critical for disease prevention: not smoking, regularly exercising, consuming moderate to no alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Only 6% of Americans include all five behaviors in their daily routine.

Making sustainable lifestyle changes and gaining new tools to empower healthier outcomes is crucial on the journey of achieving optimal health. The core lifestyle practices of functional medicine include sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress management, relationships, and behavior changes.


Sleep plays a crucial role in health and well-being by helping maintain optimal physiological and cognitive function and regulating metabolism and immunity during all stages of the lifespan. Adults who average less than seven hours per night are more likely to develop a chronic disease. Poor sleep quality is also associated with a higher rate of depressive symptoms.

58% of middle schoolers and 73% of high school students get less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age, and 50% of adults feel sleepy during the day. Poor sleep drives many inflammatory, metabolic, and autoimmune diseases. Developing proper sleep hygiene is critical to both physical and mental health and is the most important foundation of functional medicine.


A sedentary lifestyle is a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular metabolic health, chronic disease, and mortality. While exercise has a range of benefits, from bone and muscle health to improved mood, cognition, and weight management, it may not be enough to combat the effects of a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.

Short bursts of low-impact, low-interval exercise is a great starting point for engaging patients in daily movement. Vigorously active men and women lived 6.3 years longer in good health and 2.9 years longer without chronic diseases between ages 50 and 75 compared to inactive individuals.

Combined with better nutrition and improved sleep quality, consistent exercise, no matter the duration, can positively influence a patient's health outcomes.


Nutritional imbalances contribute to disease pathologies and progression and micronutrient deficiencies are linked to several chronic conditions. Several nutrient shortfalls have been noted within the US population. Data shows that an estimated 31% of the US population is at risk of developing one or more micronutrient deficiencies.

Nutrition-based interventions are fundamental components of many therapeutic strategies used to combat chronic illness and restore optimal health. Nutrition is a frontline treatment in functional medicine and helps patients see dramatic improvement in their symptoms and experience a renewed vitality.

Stress Management

Stress influences sleep patterns, food intake, blood sugar imbalances, and cardiovascular disease. 55% of Americans report feeling stressed during the day. Many diseases stemming from chronic stress and inflammation have early warning signs, meaning some cases can be prevented or improved with lifestyle changes that help manage stress.

The functional medicine model dials in on identifying stress as a cause of dysfunction and utilizing specific interventions like exercise, meditation, and yoga that work for the individual patient.


Relationships are just as critical as exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Poor social relationships are associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke compared to those with strong social connections.

Strong relationships improve longevity and life expectancy, and maintaining social relationships helps achieve and sustain positive improvements in health. Connection to a sense of purpose, community, and belonging has profound impact on individuals health and mental well-being.

Behavior Changes

Patients are feeling empowered and want more resources to support their health at home. 59% of patients with a chronic illness do not feel they are doing everything they could to manage their conditions. Lifestyle factors are uniquely intertwined with individuals daily schedules, and many may not feel they have the time to maintain healthful changes long-term.

Making small, but meaningful, consistent, and achievable changes to your health behaviors and habits can kickstart the healing journey into motion and achieve optimal health.

Final Thoughts

Chronic disease is a multifactoral, worldwide health problem that is on the rise. Functional medicine provides a new framework for diagnosing and treating many of the common and complex chronic diseases that are affecting individuals everyday. The practice views health and illness as part of a continuum in which all components of the human body interact dynamically with the environment, producing patterns and effects that change over time.

The purpose of functional medicine is to provide personalized health and wellness care to live better and longer by addressing and treating the root cause specific to each patient. Core lifestyle practices that can help prevent and manage chronic disease include sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress management, community, and everyday habits. Take control of your health today and seek a professional functional medicine practitioner for a deeper dive into your health and wellness journey.

Thank you for reading this article.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.