We’re understanding that for the first time that diseases and the names we give things may not be that important anymore, that symptoms are emerging from this complex adaptive system we call “human biology.”
Mark Hyman: We’re at an extraordinary time in health care. We’re at a watershed moment in science and medicine. We are at a point when we we’re completely rethinking disease. We’re moving from the idea that diseases are things, like bacteria that need to be treated with a drug, like an antibiotic, which was a wonderful paradigm for 20th century illness, but it’s not a good paradigm for chronic lifestyle-driven diseases. We’re looking to choose drugs over lifestyle to treat diseases that are really lifestyle-driven illnesses.
We’re understanding that for the first time that diseases and the names we give things may not be that important anymore, that symptoms are emerging from this complex adaptive system we call "human biology." It’s an ecosystem, and we have to understand the body as a network and understand the biological networks and the social networks that are driving our health. Historically, we just tried to find the drug for the bug or the pill for the ill instead of really finding out how to treat the body as a system.
We’re witnessing a paradigm shift that's equal to that of Galileo saying that the earth was not the center of the universe or Columbus saying that the world was round not flat or Darwin saying that species evolved instead of being shown up as fixed entities. We are at that place in science with medicine now. We are really going to be discarding our old notions of disease. There's no such thing as breast cancer. There may be breast cancers. There's no such thing as heart disease. It’s basically a set of imbalances that are derived from multiple insults. How do we understand the body as a system? How do we understand biological networks? How do we understand how those intersect with social networks and how those really determine health or disease?
So this is really systems thinking, systems medicine, and that's where health care is moving. And everybody knows it, and yet the practice of medicine just has not caught up. It takes 20 years for science to become implemented in medical practice.
Functional medicine is a new way of thinking about solving the problem of chronic illness. It’s a way of looking at the body as a system rather than a collection of different parts. It’s a way of connecting the dots between all the things that go wrong in the body, about understanding the body as an ecosystem and treating the system not the symptoms, as we do in medicine. It’s medicine by cause and by mechanism instead of by geography and by symptom. So we classify diseases according to where they are in the body and what your symptoms are, but we don't classify them according to the cause and the mechanism, which is where we need to be going.
So the future of medicine is systems medicine. It’s predictive, it’s preventive, it’s participatory and it’s personalized. So this is the future of health care, and functional medicine provides a roadmap to solve the problem of chronic disease for so many different things.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd