Though America’s health care has become a political battlefield, we the people can be grateful for, among other advantages, our top-notch acute hospital care and our unparalleled ability to guide an injured citizen through a medical crisis. Chronic disease, however, is where we fail miserable so much so, that we’re currently ranked 37th of industrialized nations, yet we spend two times more than the second highest-spending nation.

The solution: functional medicine. A unique and dynamic approach to preventing, assessing, and treating complex chronic disease, functional medicine helps identify the key factors causing physiological and biochemical dysfunctions. It acknowledges the fact that all disease is preceded by long-declining function in one or (usually) more body systems, resulting from lifelong interaction with one’s lifestyle and biochemical individuality– a unique biochemical profile based on one’s genetics, nutrition, and environment.

Functional medicine, then, is necessarily patient-centered, not disease-centered, and applies science-guided information to address an individual’s dynamic balance, internal and external, that affects not only the body but also the mind and spirit. The functional-medicine practitioner tailors a concise, clear, pragmatic plan so that the patient can take charge of their health and restore it to positive vitality.

While not a cookie-cutter modality, functional medicine does have certain elements you can expect. First, a practitioner should use cutting-edge diagnostics that gauge your results against the norms of a healthy population, not according to a bell curve that determines varying diagnoses based on geographic region. Second, a practitioner should explain your results such that you respond, “Oh, that’s why I feel like this!” Third, you should leave the practitioner’s office feeling confident you’re in good hands because you have a treatment plan designed for your body.

Functional medicine is one promising aspect of America’s health-care future, in that it resolves medical issues at their source, before they become chronic challenges in your future.