Functional medicine (FM) is a form of alternative medicine that encompasses a number of unproven and disproven methods and treatments.[1][2][3] It has been described as pseudoscience,[4] quackery,[5] and at its essence a rebranding of complementary and alternative medicine.[5] In the United States, FM practices have been ruled ineligible for course credits by the American Academy of Family Physicians because of concerns they may be harmful.[6][7]

Functional medicine was created by Jeffrey Bland,[8] who founded The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) in the early 1990s as part of one of his companies, HealthComm.[9] IFM, which promotes functional medicine, became a registered non-profit in 2001.[10] Mark Hyman became an IFM board member and prominent promoter.[8][10]


David Gorski has written that FM is not well-defined and performs "expensive and generally unnecessary tests".[11] Gorski says FM's vagueness is a deliberate tactic that makes functional medicine difficult to challenge.[12]

Proponents of functional medicine oppose established medical knowledge and reject its models, instead adopting a model of disease based on the notion of "antecedents", "triggers", and "mediators". These are meant to correspond to the underlying causes of health issues, the immediate causes, and the particular characteristics of a person's illness. A functional medicine practitioner devises a "matrix" from these factors to serve as the basis for treatment.[13]

Treatments, practices, and concepts are generally not supported by medical evidence.[1]


FM practitioners claim to diagnose and treat conditions that have been found by research studies not to exist, such as adrenal fatigue and numerous imbalances in body chemistry.[14][15] For instance, contrary to scientific evidence, Joe Pizzorno, a major figure in FM, claimed that 25% of people in the United States have heavy metal poisoning and need to undergo detoxification.[6] Many scientists state that such detox supplements are a waste of time and money.[16] Detox has been also called "mass delusion".[17]

In 2014, the American Academy of Family Physicians withdrew course credits for functional medicine courses, having identified some of its treatments as "harmful and dangerous".[6] In 2018, it partly lifted the ban, but only to allow overview classes, not to teach its practice.[7]

The opening of centers for functional medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and George Washington University was described by David Gorski as an "unfortunate" example of quackery infiltrating academic medical centers.[5]


  1. ^ a b Sampson, Wallace (October 30, 2008). "Functional Medicine – New Kid on the Block". Science-Based Medicine. Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved March 6, 2024.
  2. ^ Sampson, Wallace (July 9, 2009). "Functional Medicine (FM) What Is It?". Science Based Medicine. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  3. ^ Pal, SK (March 2002). "Complementary and alternative medicine: An overview". Current Science. 82 (5): 518–24. JSTOR 24105958.
  4. ^ Hall, Harriet (2017). "Functional Medicine: Pseudoscientific Silliness". Skeptic. Vol. 22, no. 1. pp. 4–5.
  5. ^ a b c Gorski, David (September 29, 2014). "Quackademia update: The Cleveland Clinic, George Washington University, and the continued infiltration of quackery into medical academia". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Bellamy J (October 26, 2017). "AAFP: Functional Medicine lacks supporting evidence; includes 'harmful' and 'dangerous' treatments". 6 March 2024. Science-Based Medicine. Archived from the original on October 15, 2019. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Bellamy J (October 27, 2018). "AAFP should publish research behind finding that functional medicine lacks evidence, contains harmful and dangerous practices". Science-Based-Medicine. Archived from the original on June 12, 2019. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Functional medicine: Is it the future of healthcare or just another wellness trend?". independent. October 23, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2023.
  9. ^ Barrett, Stephen (September 11, 2013). "Some Notes on Jeffrey Bland and Metagenics". Quackwatch. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Institute for Functional Medicine 2001 tax forms". ProPublica. May 9, 2013.
  11. ^ Gorski DH (2018). "Chapter 14: 'Integrative' Medicine: Integrating Quackery with Science-Based Medicine". Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science. MIT Press. pp. 309–330. doi:10.7551/mitpress/9780262037426.003.0014. ISBN 978-0-262-03742-6.
  12. ^ Gorski, David (April 11, 2016). "Functional medicine: The ultimate misnomer in the world of integrative medicine". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved March 6, 2024.
  13. ^ Knott L (February 6, 2015). "Therapies and Theories Outside Traditional Medicine". Patient. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  14. ^ Gorski, David (December 17, 2018). "Functional medicine: Reams of useless tests in one hand, a huge invoice in the other". Science-Based Medicine. Archived from the original on November 1, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  15. ^ "Adrenal Fatigue | Hormone Health Network". Archived from the original on October 20, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  16. ^ "Scientists dismiss detox schemes". BBC. January 3, 2006. Archived from the original on February 13, 2021. Retrieved March 6, 2024.
  17. ^ Dixon, Bernard (2005). ""Detox", a mass delusion". The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 5 (5). Elsevier BV: 261. doi:10.1016/s1473-3099(05)70094-3. ISSN 1473-3099. PMID 15854880.

Further reading