Review of The Disease Delusion by Jeffrey Bland, PhD

My longtime mentor in my study of biochemical nutrition, Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., has just completed a new book. The title of the book is The Disease Delusion – Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life.I began studying with Dr. Jeffrey Bland in 1980, and I have continued since then, to learn from this genius of a man. Dr. Bland has a photographic memory, and has been able to quote medical journal resources in rapid fire to me, when we have conversations. In his monthly audio program called Functional Medicine Update he has interviewed hundreds of leading integrative medicine practitioners and I have learned so much from him.

As my patients well know, and most of my readers know, my approach to taking care of patients over these last many years, has been to look at the underlying function of organs, and to use natural techniques to improve their functioning. By doing this the “side effect” is bringing a person back to good health.

Now in this seminal book, which I consider to be a manifesto for functional medicine, Dr. Bland has made the concepts of functional medicine clear and concise for all to learn.

Functional medicine is an approach to health care that looks at the underlying function of the body organs. It looks at the weblike interaction between all of our organs that lead to the health that we have today. It accepts the concept that genes are not written in stone. Our genes take our environment to activate them or deactivate them and that is what leads to our current health status. Just because your parents had heart disease or Alzheimer’s disease, does not mean that that is your fate. Functional medicine realizes that by modifying environment and lifestyle, good genes are activated and bad genes are turned off.

A recognition of this weblike interaction between our organs, and the effect of environment on our genes, is critical in medicine today. Our current system of healthcare, where we treat “every ill with a pill”, is leading to more and more disability and lost productivity, especially in the elderly. It leads to the constant use of drugs to cover symptoms of chronic disease, rather than looking at the underlying organ dysfunction and supporting that with natural therapies.

My colleague Mark Hyman, M.D. has written a wonderful preface to Dr. Bland’s book which I quote here:

“That is the exactly the state of medicine today as we face the tsunami of chronic diseases that will cost our global economy $47 trillion over the next twenty years and kill twice as many people around the world as infectious disease.

As we spend more and more for health care we get less and less. The United States has worse health-care outcomes and lower life expectancy than almost every other developed nation. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, dementia, allergies, asthma, arthritis, depression, attention deficit disorder, autism, Parkinson’s disease, hormonal problems like early puberty and infertility—these and more cause endless suffering and drain our financial resources. Chronic diseases now affect one in two Americans and account for 80 percent of our health-care costs. Yet despite a host of new drugs and procedures, the incidence of chronic disease continues to rise, not only in the United States but around the globe as developing countries adopt the worst of our food and culture.

The answer to this paradox should be obvious to all of us: what we are doing is not working. Our current medical model was constructed to treat acute disease, which we have mostly vanquished. We identified a single agent for illness—a microbe—and a single agent to treat it: antibiotics. Since then, medicine has pursued a quest: to find a pill for every ill. This quest has failed. We need a different paradigm, a different model for diagnosing and treating this new epidemic of chronic disease.

Disease as we think about it is a false idol. It does not exist in the way we think about it. The names we give diseases are useful for finding the right medication but not for truly getting to the cause or creating a healing response. Knowing the name of a disease tells us nothing about its true cause; nor does it lead us to the right treatment. This is the disease delusion.”

Dr. Bland lets us know that by chronic diseases he means all those conditions, ailments and illnesses that make you sick and then really never go away. “That’s not their nature”, he says, “Their nature is to stay or to come back again and again.” And any conscious thinking doctor sees this all day in his practice.

Dr. Bland points out that the title of his book is based on the idea that disease is a delusion, one that has been shattered by the still emerging science of genomics. As he says “these so-called diseases are dysfunctions of each individual’s physiological functioning; they are due to varied causes and they demand treatment approaches as different from one another as are the individuals.”

He goes on to point out that almost half of adult Americans – 133 million people -now suffer from at least one chronic disease. Among Medicare beneficiaries, 65 and older, the statistics are even worse. More than half of Medicare patients are being treated for multiple chronic conditions – diabetes and hypertension and heart disease, are the most common of them.

Chronic diseases account for 80% of our healthcare costs. And even though we have new drugs and procedures to treat them, the incidence of chronic disease continues to increase not only in our country but in countries all over the world.

It is this very approach to treating chronic disease of giving a drug for each symptom that leads to what doctors call polypharmacy. I teach my medical students at UCLA to avoid polypharmacy. However, when a patient comes in with multiple complaints, it is hard not to give him a drug for each symptom. This leads to drug-drug interactions with its own set of side effects, which often can result in hospitalization and more expenses.

After several chapters describing what is going on in medicine today and the basics of the functional medicine approach, Dr. Bland looks at the seven core physiological processes in our body. These are:

  • Assimilation and elimination
  • Detoxification
  • Defense
  • Cellular communications
  • Cellular transport
  • Energy
  • Structure

After reviewing these basic physiological processes that functional medicine addresses, in part three of his book Dr. Bland looks at how to personalize your own health management plan.

I urge all my patients and my readers, to read this wonderful book, which will explain functional medicine to you in an eloquent fashion. For, in my opinion, functional medicine is the future of healthcare in our country.

If you or a family member, or friend has a chronic health condition, or is concerned about getting a chronic health condition, this book will give you a new approach to thinking of that condition. And most importantly, it will give you a lot of hope!

Dr Bland has given several interviews about his book and I post them here for your review.

This first video is Dr Bland talking about his book ( The audio was not working when I posted this, but hopefully Vimeo will get it working by the time you read this! )

This video is a great interview of Dr. Bland, by a Christian Radio Announcer, Rick Wiles, whose own wife was helped by functional medicine. For those of you who do not follow Christian radio, you can advance the slider to exactly 16 minutes and 28 seconds –16:28 and you will hear a wonderful interview with Dr Bland where he has the time to really talk about functional medicine in an expanded way.

Let me know your thoughts! Do you have a chronic health condition that has been benefited by a functional medicine approach?

Wishing you the best in health

Dr. Soram


About Dr. Soram Khalsa

As an MD, Dr Soram specializes in Integrative Medicine combining diet, nutrition, acupuncture, herbs and nutrition. Visit Dr Soram’s Healthy Living Store where you’ll find high-quality nutritional supplements: