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Recommended Reading

The following is a listing of the best books on functional medicine that will be useful to help anyone start to untangle the web of their current state of health. They will also be helpful for the curious reader who hears conflicting health information and desires a readable and reliable source of information.

Today there is a litany of resources and books that many times are not helpful and often misleading. Here at Richmond Integrative & Functional Medicine, I’ve spent the last several years reading available popular books and have listed those I think will be the most helpful and are the most accurate on functional medicine and functional nutrition. I have found many patients to be misinformed and I have put this list together as a starting point for discovery.

Though I personally do not agree with every point in the resources below, those listed are from professionals who have worked through the medical literature and formulated accurate readings on their thoughts and research. My hope is that this listing of functional medicine books will be a launching point for your personal and intellectual journey.

Silent Spring

Rachel Carson

This is the book that started it all, and eventually led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. As an aquatic biologist, Carson discovered firsthand the unintended consequences of pesticide sprays on aquatic life and tree populations. From the massive destruction of salmon breeding grounds in the North East to the entire loss of elm tree populations in Mid-Western towns, she meticulously documents the results of massive pesticide spray campaigns and then relates how they affect the environment and ultimately human health.

The Brain That Changes Itself

Norman Doidge MD

A sentinel piece on neuroplasticity (i.e. how the brain changes), in 2007 this book brought the concept that the brain can heal to the public consciousness. This single book changed my own daughter’s health trajectory. After reading it I learned of the many different options to help heal a damaged brain (my daughter has Cerebral Palsy) and started to research each of these therapies. This led us eventually to take my daughter to Toronto in 2019 to be among the first in North America to use this therapy to treat a child with CP. It has radically changed her functional trajectory and changed our family forever. A great resource for anyone who either has any type of brain damage or has a loved one with a brain injury.

The Soil and Health

Sir Albert Howard

As one of the founders of the modern organic horticulture movement, Sir Albert Howard is the singular authority on soil health and its effect on animals and human. Sir Albert was sent by the British Empire in the early 20th century to India to oversee crop production. What he learned from his research showed the intricate connection between soil bacteria and fungi in sustaining plant health. He then learned the effect of plant health on the populations who consumed these plants. This book written in 1947 still speaks to us today on the importance of proper organic farming techniques in maintaining our personal health.

The Lyme Solution

Darin Ingels ND

Lyme Disease is a great imitator and can be difficult to eradicate in certain individuals. This book reviews the myriad presentations of Lyme Disease and reviews the complex treatment options that can be implemented in those who do not respond to standard of care treatments.

The Body Keeps the Score

Bessel Van der Kolk MD

Publisher’s Summary: The effects of trauma can be devastating for sufferers, their families and future generations. Here one of the world’s experts on traumatic stress offers a bold new paradigm for treatment, moving away from standard talking and drug therapies and towards an alternative approach that heals mind, brain and body.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

Robert Sapolsky PhD

With a mixture of whit and cutting-edge research, Dr. Sapolsky reveals how chronic stressors can change our bodies function and create an environment of mental illness and physical disease. Unlike Zebras, we can’t switch from a state of dread, being chased by a lion, and then moments later go back into a relation state and begin to graze again.

The Polyvagal Theory

Deb Dana

This book in an essential read for those with personal trauma looking for a way to apply the concepts of Polyvagal Theory to their personal treatment. This theory focuses on mapping one’s nervous system patterns and responses to control centers in the brain and then to create a self-directed treatment plant to reregulate their nervous system. This is a brain-based therapy plan for emotional traumas being held in the central nervous system.

The Blue Zones

Dan Buettner

A modern classic on diet, culture and longevity, this book focuses on the four major Blue Zones of the world were birth records verify these areas have the greatest number of individuals living over 100 years of age. This book debunks some of the current thinking on diet and health and shows there is more to health than meets the eye. A great read for anyone interested in connections of culture, diet, history and longevity.

Altered Traits

Daniel Goleman PhD

What if you could change your brain size, brain function, response to stress and personality? What if there was research to prove it and there were individuals with brain scans and psychological testing to verify this? Dr. Golemen brings his life’s research and studies together in an engaging book showing that meditation and prayer practices can enlarge your hippocampus (site of memory), decrease your amygdala (improving emotional control) and improve your overall state of well-being.

The Nature Fix

Florence Williams

Nature everywhere is shrinking yet exposure to nature has been a critical part of human development for millennia. Forestry Medicine is used in Japan to treat stress, nature exposure in the U.S. has been historically used to rehabilitate troubled teens, yet Americans today have less nature exposure than any other time in history. This book is a great overview of nature, the out of doors and some of their positive effects on our stress levels, ability to cope and personal sense of well-being.

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

Weston A Price, DDS

This book is the Opus Magnum on cultural diets and the effect of the Western diet on health and physical degeneration and disease. When Dr. Price’s son died from a dental abscess, he was struck with the paradox of how an apparently healthy individual could get a simple treatable infection and then die. The result was his 30 years of world travel researching the diets of the Mauri, Masai, Aborigines and other secluded cultures and then comparing it to those of these cultures who had become westernized. His discoveries were profound. He uncovered a link between maternal diet and infant diseases, dental arch malformation and processed foods, tuberculosis and white bread consumption. His study of the bones and skulls from the indigenous peoples of Peru and Florida uncovered ancient groups averaging 6 feet in height with perfect dental arches an almost no cavities. For anyone with a deep interest in cultural diets and its effects on health, this is a must-read.

The End of Alzheimer’s – The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline

Dale Bredesen, MD

Alzheimer’s incidence is quickly rising to the point of being an epidemic. Dr. Bredesen’s life research has focused on the intricacies of Alzheimer’s Disease. To date, he has discovered over 38 different pathways and five major classifications associated with this degenerative disease. This is the first and only work of its type and is a must read for anyone with memory issues, declining memory or a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Toxin Solution – How Hidden Poisons in the Air, Water, Food, and Products We Use Are Destroying Our Health—AND WHAT WE CAN DO TO FIX IT

Joseph Pizzorno, MD

Dr. Pizzorno is best known for founding Bastyr University and writing the textbook of Natural Medicine. This book represents his most recent research project on the association between environmental toxins and chronic illness. This book is enlightening in its clear exposition of the association of entities from diabetes and autoimmune diseases to cancer and their close association with environmental toxin exposure. This is a great recommendation for anyone who is skeptical of the association between environmental toxins and human health.

The Gut Balance Revolution

Gerald Mullen, MD

It seems like every year a new connection is made between the gastrointestinal tract and human health. Dr. Mullen, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, learned early in his career about the close association between gut health and personal health. His research at the University of Maryland and now Hopkins has shed light onto the association between the bacteria in the gut and obesity, metabolic syndrome and systemic inflammation. This book would be a good read for anyone wanting to know more about the human microbiome, from one of its top researchers in the country.

The Plant Paradox

Steven Gundry MD

Dr. Gundry is an internationally recognized heart surgeon whose career has changed over the past two decades through his research into diet and its effects on the cardiovascular system. In this book, Dr. Gundry summarizes his decades of practice and research. The main theme is: plants can heal and harm. Certain plant-based foods have incredible healing properties and others can be harmful. This insightful work in a must read for those with a history of heart disease or a family history of heart disease.

The Brain’s Way of Healing

Norman Doidge, MD

The traditional way of thinking about brain health is that once you reach adulthood, you start to lose brain cells and once lost, they can never be recovered nor the connections they represent. Dr. Doidge shows that this is actually not the case. He reviews the science behind miraculous stories of recovery from conditions such as stroke and brain trauma to Parkinson’s Disease. His second book, The Brain That Changes Itself is a continuation of his work. Your brain is changing your entire life, you can take charge to positively direct this change.

Real Food

Nina Planck

Why is it that cows know which type of grasses are more nutrient dense and yet most Americans struggle with the most basic food choices? What we now call food would not have been recognized by our grandparents as such. In “Real Food,” Nina Planck tackles the now-difficult question of what is real food. This is a great book for anyone starting their real food journey and even for those further along the path. She writes in a clear yet concise style that will be enjoyable to all.

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

Weston A Price, DDS

This book is the Opus Magnum on cultural diets and the effect of the Western diet on health and physical degeneration and disease. When Dr. Price’s son died from a dental abscess, he was struck with the paradox of how an apparently healthy individual could get a simple treatable infection and then die. The result was his 30 years of world travel researching the diets of the Mauri, Masai, Aborigines and other secluded cultures and then comparing it to those of these cultures who had become westernized. His discoveries were profound. He uncovered a link between maternal diet and infant diseases, dental arch malformation and processed foods, tuberculosis and white bread consumption. His study of the bones and skulls from the indigenous peoples of Peru and Florida uncovered ancient groups averaging 6 feet in height with perfect dental arches an almost no cavities. For anyone with a deep interest in cultural diets and its effects on health, this is a must-read.

The End of Alzheimer’s

Dale Bredesen, MD

Alzheimer’s incidence is quickly rising to the point of being an epidemic. Dr. Bredesen’s life research has focused on the intricacies of Alzheimer’s Disease. To date, he has discovered over 38 different pathways and five major classifications associated with this degenerative disease. This is the first and only work of its type and is a must read for anyone with memory issues, declining memory or a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Toxin Solution

Joseph Pizzorno, MD

Dr. Pizzorno is best known for founding Bastyr University and writing the textbook of Natural Medicine. This book represents his most recent research project on the association between environmental toxins and chronic illness. This book is enlightening in its clear exposition of the association of entities from diabetes and autoimmune diseases to cancer and their close association with environmental toxin exposure. This is a great recommendation for anyone who is skeptical of the association between environmental toxins and human health.

The Gut Balance Revolution

Gerald Mullen, MD

It seems like every year a new connection is made between the gastrointestinal tract and human health. Dr. Mullen, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, learned early in his career about the close association between gut health and personal health. His research at the University of Maryland and now Hopkins has shed light onto the association between the bacteria in the gut and obesity, metabolic syndrome and systemic inflammation. This book would be a good read for anyone wanting to know more about the human microbiome, from one of its top researchers in the country.

The Plant Paradox

Steven Gundry MD

Dr. Gundry is an internationally recognized heart surgeon whose career has changed over the past two decades through his research into diet and its effects on the cardiovascular system. In this book, Dr. Gundry summarizes his decades of practice and research. The main theme is: plants can heal and harm. Certain plant-based foods have incredible healing properties and others can be harmful. This insightful work in a must read for those with a history of heart disease or a family history of heart disease.

The Brain’s Way of Healing

Norman Doidge, MD

The traditional way of thinking about brain health is that once you reach adulthood, you start to lose brain cells and once lost, they can never be recovered nor the connections they represent. Dr. Doidge shows that this is actually not the case. He reviews the science behind miraculous stories of recovery from conditions such as stroke and brain trauma to Parkinson’s Disease. His second book, The Brain That Changes Itself is a continuation of his work. Your brain is changing your entire life, you can take charge to positively direct this change.

Real Food

What to Eat and Why

Why is it that cows know which type of grasses are more nutrient dense and yet most Americans struggle with the most basic food choices? What we now call food would not have been recognized by our grandparents as such. In “Real Food,” Nina Planck tackles the now-difficult question of what is real food. This is a great book for anyone starting their real food journey and even for those further along the path. She writes in a clear yet concise style that will be enjoyable to all.

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living

Jeff Volek PhD and Stephen Phinney MD, PhD

This book dives deep into the science of cholesterol and fat biology and how fat metabolism is the preferred manner of energy production in humans. They focus on ketogenic diet, low carb diets and the science behind them. This book is a little technical and requires a moderate grasp of medical concepts. It is a thorough and deep read on ketogenic diets.

Why Can’t I get Better?

Richard Horowitz MD

Dr. Horowitz is an internal medicine physician who moved his practice Hudson Valley, New York almost 30 years ago. He had no idea he was moving into the Lyme capital of the country. Over the years, treating many patients with Chronic Lyme Disease, Dr. Horowitz has developed a very specialized practice and way of evaluating and treating Lymes and MSIDS patients. He outlines his 16 point MSIDS map and treatment paradigm in this book. He follows the ILADS model. His book is a good overview of this treatment paradigm and he is a thought leader in this arena. He is not a functional medicine practitioner per sea and so doesn’t necessarily follow the functional medicine matrix systems based model. This book is great for anyone who currently has or is interested in Lyme’s, Multiple Systems Infectious Disease Syndrome or associated diseases.

The Autoimmune Solution

Amy Myers MD

In her book, Dr. Myers describes her own battle with Grave’s Disease and her journey that resulted in the resolution of her own autoimmune illness. She outlines the Functional Medicine approach and summarizes the key steps she uses in her practice to address autoimmunity. The audiobook comes with a 146-page guide that includes recipes and reviews the basic concepts in the book. This guide is very useful. This book, as well as Dr. Bloom’s, are general works that address autoimmune diseases and are not all-inclusive. Autoimmunity is a very complex topic and difficult to distill into one concise book.

The Immune System Recovery Plan

Susan Bloom MD

This is an overall general survey of the functional medicine approach to addressing autoimmune issues. Dr. Blum uses a modified 5R approach (actually a four-prong approach) in her book. This book, as well as Dr. Meyer’s, are general works that address autoimmune diseases but are not all-inclusive. Autoimmunity is a very complex topic and difficult to distill into one concise book.

The Autoimmune Paleo Plan

Anne Angelone

This concise book is dedicated to the concepts of what an autoimmune paleo diet (AIP) is and how to implement it. The book is full of ideas and concepts as well as recipes. This is one of the best concise resources for the AIP diet. It’s also available on Audible. This diet is usually used therapeutically by those with Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid, or other autoimmune illnesses.

Missing Microbes

Martin Blaser MD

In this book, Dr. Blaser reviews his 30-year career as an infectious disease specialist and how his research at Vanderbilt and now NYU have shown a link between overuse of antibiotics and multiple modern diseases ranging from Celiac Disease and Crohn’s Disease to Autism and MRSA infections. This book is research heavy and is a little dense but it a good primer on the risks of modern antibiotic overuse.

The Blood Sugar Solution

Mark Hyman MD

Dr. Hyman is a past board member of The Institute for Functional Medicine and currently is the chairman for Functional Medicine at The Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Hyman outlines how processed foods through sugar fluctuations and insulin variations are responsible for many medical illnesses. His book focuses on nutritional medicine and how it can be used to regulate hormones, modulate the immune system and effect detoxification. This is a good introductory book for those who are new to the concepts of functional medicine and is a very easy read.

Grain Brain

David Perlmutter MD

Dr. David Perlmutter is a thought leader in the area of functional medicine (FM) and neurology. Grain Brain precedes Brain Maker and in it, Dr. Perlmutter focuses on the negative effects on neuronal health caused by wheat. He discusses the concept of Alzheimer’s Dementia as ‘type III diabetes’ and how this neuron damage is started and propagated by wheat. This is a well-written, easy read and a good introduction to those unfamiliar with nutritional medicine, functional medicine or food-based systemic inflammation.

Brain Maker

David Perlmutter MD

David Perlmutter is a thought leader in the area of functional medicine (FM) and neurology. In Brain Maker he focuses on optimization of brain function using functional medicine concepts. This is not a disease-centered book but focuses on neurological function optimization. This is a great read for anyone, especially those who wonder what a focused FM approach in particular systems would look like. The audible version comes with a companion PDF that has a brain optimization diet and meal planning.

Wheat Belly

William Davis MD

Dr. Davis is an integrative cardiologist who through years of clinical practice and research came to discover that wheat consumption, through the immunologic response to gluten and processed wheat products, is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease in our country today. This book is a thorough review of gluten-containing wheat and its cardiovascular effects. This is a great book to read in combination with Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter. It will change how you view bread and make you reconsider your daily grain food choices.

Clean Gut

Alejandro Junger MD

Dr. Junger chronicles his own personal journey and how he developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome starting during his cardiology training. After traveling to India and practicing there for two years he returned to the US and using his medical training and adding what he learned in India he created the Clean Program. This is a good read for those interested in gut health and how it relates to overall wellbeing.

Why Isn’t My Brain Working?

Datis Kharrazian DC

This is an amazing resource for understanding brain function and the myriad of reasons optional brain function isn’t achieved. Dr. Kharrazian goes from autoimmunity to the gut-brain axis and reviews how adrenal fatigue, gluten, stress, etc … can impact your brain and lead to neurodegeneration. If you’ve already done a lot of changes, seen many practitioners and you still have ‘foggy brain’ this is a great resource to see what you may have missed. Like his other book, this is a complex work and it is best to be working with a functional medicine practitioner while you go through this book.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Isabella Wentz PharmD

In her first book, Dr. Wentz does a great job outlining the scientific basis for autoimmune thyroid disease and then discussing its treatment. This book is geared towards those with a more scientific background. Reading this book first and then diving into Hashimoto’s Protocol would be the ideal sequence for anyone wanting to know more about Hashimoto’s and then in implementing a treatment for it.

Hashimoto’s Protocol

Isabel Wentz PharmD

This book is a follow up to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause. The first book was more technical and research-based. In this book, she focuses on the basics of treating autoimmune thyroid disease, the diet changes, and protocol needed for treatment. This more clinically-based work is a must-read for anyone wanting a basic approach to treating their thyroid.

Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?

Datis Kharrazian DC

This is a large work that does a great job of addressing autoimmune thyroid disease. It is very detailed and complex but it covers almost every aspect of autoimmune thyroid disease and gives many of the treatment modalities. This book in combination with Dr. Wentz’s are probably the best two resources on the topic but both are complex and will require the reader to invest time in digesting the information. If you are new to integrative and functional medicine this may be a little hard to digest.

The Wahls Protocol

Terry Wahls MD

Dr. Wahls is a professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts research on Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus using her medicinal dietary protocol. She developed this protocol after her own Multiple Sclerosis http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS failed all the current conventional treatments. She then embarked on her own research to treat herself and in the ensuing years, she developed her protocol that eventually resulted in the remission of her Multiple Sclerosis. This book is a great primer for those who would like to learn about other treatments for autoimmune diseases including MS, Lupus, Rheumatoid, etc.

The Disease Delusion

Jeffery Bland PhD

Dr. Bland is one of the founders of The Institute for Functional Medicine and considered one of the founders of functional medicine. In The Disease Delusion, Dr. Bland lays out a new paradigm for evaluation and treatment of chronic diseases. This paradigm is a new way of evaluating disease and getting to the root cause of illness by using systems based biology, nutrigenetics, nutrigenomics and now metabolomics to uncover the true causes of modern chronic diseases. This way of thinking is the basis of Functional Medicine. This book is an excellent introduction to the foundational principles of functional medicine.

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Recommended Reading

Podcast

Foundations of Functional Medicine: Episode 4

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Foundations of Functional Medicine

In this [long-awaited, yet very timely] podcast episode, Dr. Hartman addresses the third pillar of the foundations of Functional Medicine: Stress & Relaxation. What is stress? How does it affect our health, and is it an issue currently in our culture? What are some new scientific insights that are helping us understand the importance of stress on our health, and what can we do to utilize these new insights to optimize our health? Listen in for answers to these questions and lots of resources to help you manage stress and anxiety effectively.

Foundations of Functional Medicine: Episode 3

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Foundations of Functional Medicine

In this episode, Dr. Hartman continues to explore the first pillar of functional medicine, Diet and Nutrition, by discussing several of the most popular diet trends of today. If you’ve heard of Paleo, Keto, Gluten-free, and Vegan and sometimes wonder what may be the best choice for you, you’ll want to listen in to this episode.

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