The Rise of Functional Medicine

New Paradigm Gets to the Root Cause of Disease

By the end of 2014, Trina Mills, of Parker, Arizona, had given up on conventional medicine. She’d been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder 17 years earlier and taken medication ever since without feeling her symptoms of fatigue, muscle aches and stomach problems ever fully subside. She’d visited endocrinologists, gastroenterologists and a half-dozen other specialists, each of which offered a different diagnosis and prescribed a different drug.

At one point, she had her gallbladder removed. At another, her doctor suspected she had bleeding in her brain and sent her for a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan. Some thought she was a hypochondriac; others said she was depressed. “I would tell them, ‘I’m just depressed that you can’t figure out why I’m so sick,’” she says.

Weighing a skeletal 82 pounds, the 54-year-old mother of three finally wrote out a living will and braced for the inevitable. Then she heard of a new Center for Functional Medicine opening at the prestigious, century-old Cleveland Clinic. As the first clinic of its kind to open at an academic medical center, it promised to look at the underlying causes of disease, while focusing on the whole person, rather than isolated symptoms.

Intrigued, Mills caught a flight to Ohio and soon was offering up 30 tubes of blood, stool and saliva samples, as well as an exhaustive life history. One year later, thanks to a series of personalized diet and lifestyle changes, she’s 10 pounds heavier and feels better than she has in decades. “I spent a lot of years and money in the traditional medical system and got nothing,” says Mills. With functional medicine, “In a very short time, they had me feeling nearly 100 percent.”

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