Thomas A. Sult, MD is dedicated to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through a groundbreaking whole-systems medicine approach called Functional Medicine.
He is a family physician, and a leader in his field of Functional Medicine. Through his private practice, education efforts, writing, research, and advocacy, he empowers others to stop managing symptoms and start treating the underlying causes of illness, thereby tackling our chronic-disease epidemic.
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE is the future of conventional medicine–available now. It seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease, and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties. Functional Medicine uses new research that for the first time allows treatment of the underlying causes of disease, instead of managing or masking the symptoms as conventional medicine does, never treating the actual cause. It’s the fastest growing field in medicine. Functional Medicine will repair our broken healthcare system. It’s a fundamental change in our thinking, a whole different paradigm, like the world-is-round-not-flat shift. It changes our approach. Now we can truly treat and cure disease.
Functional Medicine promises to be what most doctors will be practicing in 40 to 50 years.
Unlike conventional medicine, treatments are very personalized based on the patient’s unique needs. We are all different, and our bodies react to conditions in different ways. The name of a disease matters less as we understand the cause. For example, heart attacks may be caused by too much insulin (metabolic syndrome), mercury toxicity, a deficiency of folic acid, a genetic cholesterol disorder, or even bad teeth. Treatment must be matched to the cause, not the disease.
Functional Medicine uses the science of health to create and maintain health. It applies the technologies we have, the clinical innovations, and includes the one element that has been missing—an understanding of the root cause of disease, addressing those causes, and getting on the path back to health.
Conventional medicine creates specialties such as the cardiologist, rheumatologist, neurologist, endocrinologist, and more, who independently treat each of the body’s systems. Functional medicine recognizes that our bodies are made up of a complex interconnected web of biological systems and processes that need to be treated simultaneously as a whole. It’s not bad luck that one person has multiple “diseases” like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma, ADHD, irritable bowel syndrome and migraines. They are all related. In conventional medicine, when we treat the part and not the system, we can’t effectively prevent, treat or reverse chronic illness.
For the first time ever, practitioners can focus on the seven core underlying biological processes that determine whether we are healthy or sick—in my practice, we call them “The 7 Keys to Functional Medicine.” These processes account for more than 90 percent of our illnesses and disease. The 7 Keys are: environmental factors (toxins), nutritional imbalances (poor diet), hormonal imbalances (too much insulin, a low thyroid or adrenal exhaustion etc), inflammation, impaired metabolism (any breakdown in the way our bodies make energy), oxidative stress (the “rusting,” broadly speaking, of our own tissues), impaired detoxification (any inability to rid our bodies of toxins), and the damage that comes from high levels of stress where the mind harms the body.
Most people don’t know how poorly they feel until they feel better. In fact, most of us don’t recognize that fatigue, digestive problems, aches and pains, allergies, headaches, and more aren’t just annoying symptoms. They are early clues to impending diseases that can disable and kill us. Most heart disease starts in the womb. You can detect brain changes in teenagers that can predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Blood tests in children can predict who will develop diabetes later in life. Most cancers take more than 30 years to grow to the size where they can be detected.
How can we address problems that we don’t even know we have? There is an answer. It lies in the revolution that is happening in medicine today. That revolution is called Functional Medicine. This eight-article series will introduce you to its principles.