This is a great article from Experience Life that gets at the heart of what I think America’s main health problems are… a state of bodily inflammation from poor nutrition, lack of exercise and stress.
What is inflammation? It’s essentially your body’s immune response. Think about when you get a cut on your finger: the area around the cut may become red and swell up. That’s a sign of inflammation…basically, your body responding to something that is wrong and attempting to correct it. But what I’m referring to is a more full-body kind of inflammation that can be due to MANY factors: stress, being overweight, having high blood pressure, high blood sugar, etc, which can lead to things like diabetes, heart disease and various auto-immune disorders. The primary medical marker of inflammation is white blood cells. Raised white blood cell levels are linked to a higher risk of developing various illnesses, including coronary heart disease.
The term “functional medicine” seems a bit vague to encapsulate this kind of approach, but in a nutshell it’s about working longer term and more holistically with a doctor. You work together to test nutrient levels and inflammation in the blood/body (such as the a1c test: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/a1c-test/MY00142), and get on a proper health plan: good nutrition, sleep, stress management, regular exercise. Instead of looking at one isolated marker, like cholesterol level (which on its own isn’t a guarantee of heart disease) and just signing up for pharmaceuticals, what should be happening is a full test of all kinds of markers to determine health and what can be fine tuned to improve it.