According to the Institute for Functional Medicine, Functional Medicine is an approach to health care that conceptualizes health and illness as part of a continuum in which all components of the human biological system interact dynamically with the environment, producing patterns and effects that change over time. Functional Medicine helps clinicians identify and ameliorate dysfunction in the physiology and biochemistry of the human body as a primary method of improving patient health. Functional Medicine is often described as a clinical application of systems biology.
Chronic disease is almost always preceded by a period of declining function in one or more of the body's systems. Restoring health requires reversing the specific dysfunctions that have contributed to the disease state. Each patient represents a unique, complex, and interwoven set of environment and lifestyle influences on intrinsic functionality that have set the stage for the development of disease or the maintenance of health.
To manage the complexity inherent in this approach, this branch of medicine has created practical models for obtaining and evaluating clinical information that lead to individualized, patient centered therapies. Functional medicine concepts, practices, and tools have evolved considerably over a 30 year period, reflecting the dramatic growth in the evidence base concerning the key common pathways to disease (inflammation, GI dysfunction, oxidative stress); the role of diet, stress, and physical activity; the emerging sciences of genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics; and the effects of environmental degradation of the air, water, and soil on health.