What an honor to interview the “Father of Functional Medicine”, my good friend, Dr Jeff Bland, about his excellent new book, The Disease Delusion. Jeff has taught and influenced thousands of Practitioners over the last 30 years and done more to change the way we practice medicine in this country than anyone else. He now shares his brilliance and wisdom with a lay audience. This book is basically a user-friendly Manifesto for a New Medicine and essential reading for anyone interested in health. I highly recommend it.
Dr. L: What does the title of your book—The Disease Delusion—mean? Are you trying to say diseases do not exist?
Dr. Bland: Not exactly. What we call a “disease” is a result of imbalance in one or more of seven core physiological processes.
Let’s go back and look at our healthcare system, which is really tremendously successful in treating disease as we know it. In fact, the advances made in pharmaceuticals, and in surgery, and in immunity are major breakthroughs that have allowed for the treatment of many infectious diseases.
Now we have a new class of disorders that we call chronic illness that are the dominant problem. These are heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and dementia. These conditions require a personalized approach to their management.
Dr. L: Are these diseases that can’t be cured?
Dr. Bland: What I would say is that these are disorders that are not really diseases (hence, The Disease Delusion). They are conditions that a person has that can rob a person of his or her health, and therefore we need a system that is focused on health, not just on the treatment of disease.
Dr. L: Why is the US ranked 37th in healthcare system performance?
Dr. Bland: It seems very paradoxical, doesn’t it? The fact that we are spending 50% more per capita on health care than almost any other country, yet one out of every two people in our country has one or more chronic illnesses? How does this all work? The reason for it is that we’re approaching these chronic illnesses in the wrong way. We are attempting to use the same tools that we use to treat acute disease. Unfortunately these kinds of conditions—diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, dementia, etc.—don’t respond to a single pill. They’re not treated by a single remedy. You have to use a complex approach of lifestyle, diet, and environment to get these people to really get well. In the end, health is really the outcome that we’re searching for, not just disease treatment. We’re trying to encourage people to be healthy.
Dr. L: Do our genes determine our health?
Dr. Bland: That’s the big discovery of our age—that genes, in and of themselves, don’t cause disease. It’s when our genes are plunged into a harmful environment (unique to us), and that is when we see what we call disease. So we change our environment, we change the way our genes speak to our body, and health is the result.
Dr. L: Can you give an example of the differences between disease care and health care?
Dr. Bland: I think a good example would be a 40-year-old gentleman that came to us and was experiencing high blood pressure. He was being medically managed correctly for his high blood pressure with proper drugs. The problem was that he had impotence as a side effect. He was low energy, tired, had sleep disturbances. So his quality of life was very, very diminished. We put him on a healthcare program designed to his individualized need—a personalized program—and over the course of three months all of his medication needs went away. His energy came up. Rather than treating his disease, we improved his health and the disease went away on its own.
Dr. L: How can The Disease Delusion help readers?
Dr. Bland: In the book, I outline a course for starting individuals on the path to develop their own personalized health programs. In eight questionnaires included in the book – based on 30 years of experience in assessing an individual’s health care needs – readers will be guided through evaluating their current state of health and instructed on ways they can develop their own personalized health care program, focused on realizing their overall best health, not just the treatment of disease.
You can begin your path to personalized medicine today by taking a health assessment questionnaire on Dr. Bland’s website. For further details on Functional Medicine and the future of health care, preorder your copy of The Disease Delusion here.
Jeffrey Bland, PhD
Dr. Bland is known as the “Father of Functional Medicine,” which is a medical approach that focuses on the personalized prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. Over the past 35 years Dr. Bland has traveled more than 6 million miles teaching more than 100,000 health care practitioners in the USA and Canada and more than 40 other countries about Functional Medicine. He has been a University biochemistry professor, a research Director at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, the co-founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine in 1991, and the founder/President of the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute. He has authored more than 100 scientific publications and 10 books for the health professional and health consumer. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Susan and his three sons and their families while pursuing his hobbies of boating, surfing, scuba diving and a life-long passion for learning.