Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to the doctor, weren’t seen on time and then spent just a few minutes with your doctor before being ushered out? Or perhaps your health care provider sent you home with a few new prescriptions and no real explanation as to why your health was suffering?
Welcome to medicine in 2017 where we now have more progressive, holistic and effective options. While many traditional doctors do their best, unfortunately, they only treat the symptoms and in most cases their patients never actually get healthier. The good news is more physicians are being trained in functional medicine and integrative medicine where the focus is on addressing the root cause of disease.
Many of these doctors recommend solely natural approaches where some combine holistic and only use conventional if necessary. These practitioners will use a blend of dietary recommendations, nutritional supplementation, nutrient blood work profiling, stress reduction techniques, exercise recommendations and natural treatments from IV chelation to stem cell therapy.
As complementary and alternative medicine continues becoming more mainstream, there’s no doubt that you’ll see more functional doctors in medical practices. Below are 50 who are doing amazing things. This list is by no way exhaustive — I wish I could add even more! Keep your eyes on these superstars who are truly shaping the functional and integrative medicine fields.
Dr. Will Cole, DC
Dr. Will Cole is a leading functional medicine practitioner who specializes in clinically investigations of underlying factors and customizing health programs for chronic conditions, such as thyroid issues, autoimmune, hormonal dysfunctions, digestive disorders, diabetes, heart disease and fibromyalgia and more. He consults locally in the Pittsburgh, PA area as well as consultations for people across the country and around the world. Dr. Cole is a health writer for international publications and lectures nationally as well at conferences, including PaleoFX and the Autism Education Summit.
With a background in chiropractic, Dr. Pompa follows his “5R Principles” of cellular healing as the roadmap to healing. He’s all about addressing the root cause of disease, not chasing medicine to treat symptoms. He specializes in detoxification and was one of the physicians to bring back ancient medicine practices such as intermittent fasting, the ketogenic diet and doing a bone broth fast.
Dr. Pompa fought through a three-year battle with chronic fatigue syndrome, which he ultimately came out all the better for. His victory against the disease, extensive research and faith have led him to help others suffering from chronic diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, autism, sensory integration disorders and other neurotoxic conditions.
No grain, no pain is Dr. Osborne’s philosophy (and also the name of his book!). Known as “The Gluten-Free Warrior,” he’s well-versed in the health problems that can stem from gluten and how to support chronic autoimmune issues using gentler, natural methods. He sits on the advisory board for Functional Medicine University and frequently teaches functional medicine seminars, training other doctors to incorporate dietary therapy, nutritional supplementation, blood work analysis and natural options into their clinics.
When it comes to disease prevention, Dr. Katz knows his stuff. He founded Yale University’s Prevention Research Center in 1998 and serves at its director, investigating chronic diseases and how to prevent them, particularly through nutrition and weight control.
His passion for evidence-based, integrative medicine led him to found the True Health Initiative in 2015, an international organization dedicated to creating a world that’s free of preventable chronic diseases and people can live long and healthy lives. Dr. Katz recognizes there’s power in numbers; the organization is made up of more than 250 world-renowned health experts from nearly 30 countries. Preventing almost 80 percent of chronic disease and premature death might sound like a lofty goal, but I love Dr. Katz’s willingness to go all in on it.
Dr. Gundry is a cardiologist and heart surgeon who, throughout a 40-year career, has performed more than 10,000 surgeries. But he’s never shied away from research, either, and it was his inquisitive mind that helped change the course of his own career. In 2001, by making changes in the diet of a “hopeless” patient who wasn’t well enough to even be a candidate for surgery, Dr. Gundry watched as the man had a complete health turnaround, improving so much that Dr. Gundry was able to perform the quadruple bypass surgery that saved his life.
The experience led Dr. Gundry to dig deeper into the role food plays in our health and to understand that many of the foods we eat are toxic to our bodies, while we’re deficient in other nutrients. Since then, he’s advocated for a plant-based diet to help people not only lose weight, but fight and prevent disease. Dr. Gundry also served as President of the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association’s Desert Division and is the Founder and Current Director at the Center for Restorative Medicine.
Even after years of helping patients reach their potential, Dr. Kellyann hit a wall and struggled to feel her best. She underwent intensive research on the lifestyle changes necessary to take back control of her health, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries. Dr. Kellyann is an advocate of a Paleo diet, promotes bone broth for a healthy gut and loves helping families get their kids on board with a real foods lifestyle.
Dr. Ludwig is an endocrinologist and researcher and a Harvard professor, and is well known for his work on obesity and carbohydrates, particularly how food affects hormones and metabolism. Dr. Ludwig emphasizes that all calories aren’t created equal; diets high in refined carbohydrates and refined sugars are metabolized differently and stored in the body differently. At a time with seemingly dozens of different theories on how we should be eating, this common sense approach is refreshing.
Better known as The Paleo Mom, Dr. Ballantyne is committed to help families lead a healthy Paleo lifestyle. She’s particularly excited about sharing her Paleo modifications for people who suffer from autoimmune diseases like herself. Her blog is heavily influenced by her own experiences, too.
Dr. Ballantyne was enjoying a successful academic career when she decided to become a stay-at-home mom after the birth of her first child. Dr. Ballantyne was morbidly obese and suffering from more than a dozen immune- and autoimmune-related diseases at the time. After the birth of her second child, she discovered the Paleo diet. It transformed her health, helping her lose 120 pounds and reversing her long list of health issues, like IBS, asthma, fibromyalgia and more. Since then, she’s become a staunch advocate of the lifestyle and how food isn’t only about providing energy, but can actually transform your health from the inside out.
Dr. Minich’s background in yoga, nutrition and medical science mean she’s well suited for creating a detox program that removes not just toxins found in foods, but the harmful elements found in other parts of our life, like emotional baggage, pessimistic thoughts and stress.
She’s identified seven areas of health that are critical for a total physical and spiritual detox, and uses her own past health issues to help others create lives they love.
Those of us who’ve experienced a natural approach to health and wellness know how powerful it can be. Not everyone, unfortunately, has been exposed to it, and that’s what Dr. Murray has set out to change. As one of the most recognized authorities on natural medicine, he’s written more than 30 books about how to heal naturally. Dr. Murray is also known as a leader in nutraceuticals, or using vitamin supplements to treat health problems.
You might think about the integrative medicine for your body, but what about your mouth? Dr. Thom, as he’s affectionately known, understands that the mouth is the doorway to our health, and that inflammation and nutrition aren’t important just for the body, but also for our dental health. He practices mercury-free dentistry, and leads patients in a full detox protocol before and after removing their mercury fillings.
Dr. Thom is one of the cutting edge leaders in natural dentist movement. In addition to being a dentist, Dr. Thom also has a naturopathic medical degree (NMD), bringing holistic oral health full circle.
If you’re struggling with diabetes, it’s The Diabetes Coach to the rescue. He was one of the first doctors to be certified to practice functional medicine by the Institute for Functional Medicine and has focused on type 2 diabetes since 1998. In that time, he’s managed to help patients reverse their type 2 diabetes and improve type 1 diabetes using resources like a healthier diet, essential oils, supplements and stress reduction.
Dr. Wolfson runs a full-service holistic cardiology practice to help people tackle their heart health naturally, without pills or invasive procedures. His point of difference? The focus on eliminating the cause, not just treating the symptoms. He recommends getting back to the hunter-gatherer diet of our ancient ancestors, taking supplements including fish oil and turmeric, and also refers some of his patients get chiropractic adjustments. Though he sometimes has controversial stances compared to most other cardiologists , Dr. Wolfson’s willingness to eschew conventional trends and take a closer look at what’s being prescribed is welcome.
As a holistic cardiologist, Dr. Kahn focuses on plant-based nutrition to help prevent heart disease. He began practicing traditional cardiology in 1983, but it wasn’t until he switched to a plant-heavy vegan diet that he dived deeper into non-traditional ways to treating the heart. Today, he’s in the midst of his own personal mission to prevent 1 million heart attacks over the next two years, a goal that’s been embraced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Surgeon General.
You might be surprised to learn that one of the 50 most influential pharmacists is also a leader in the integrative health field, but that’s just the dichotomy of Dr. LaValle. He’s adept at integrating natural therapies into people’s treatment plans and understanding what nutrients are being depleted from their bodies in order to address their metabolic issues. As an instructor for the Fellowship for Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Valle is also helping to train the next generation of integrative healthcare professionals.
If you’re looking for information on heart disease and aging, Dr. Steven Masley is your go-to doc. A nutritionist, physician and educator, Dr. Masley has published health books, such as “Smart Fat,” “The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up” and “Ten Years Younger.” He’s all about transforming your health through diet and healthy living. An avid chef, Masley practices what he preaches through healthy eating, clean living and slowing aging through lifestyle habits
Dr. O’Bryan is one of the world’s leading experts in the going gluten-free movement — and, in particular, the disorders such as autoimmune disease that gluten can contribute. He’s the founder of the Certified Gluten Practitioner training program to help healthcare providers better understand gluten-related autoimmune disorders, how to test for them and how to support patients.
Dr. O’Bryan has more than 30 years of experience in working with gluten disorders such as celiac disease and is the author of the bestselling book “The Autoimmune Fix.” If you’re looking for a doctor who can support you in going gluten-free and overcoming autoimmune-related illness, then Dr. O’Bryan is an incredible resource.
Joel Fuhrman, MD (One of our Top pick but his supplement quality is medium to low quality.)
Dr. Fuhrman created the nutritarian diet, a way of eating that emphasizes a nutrient-dense menu filled with plants and anti-cancer superfoods. It’s the result of nearly three decades of treating patients and understanding that food is emotional as well as something we need to survive. His website is full of healthy recipes and tips on helping to reverse chronic disease.
When it comes to science-based natural medicine, few people are as in tune as Dr. Pizzorno. He was the founding president of Bastyr University, the first accredited, multidisciplinary university of natural medicine and the first NIH-funded center for alternative medicine research, no small feat.
Dr. Pizzorno is a staunch believer in the fact that all the toxins found in our food and environment today are a leading cause of inflammation and illness, but also that the negative side effects are reversible.
Stephen Sinatra, MD (Great Doctor.. But unfortunate he offers one of the lowest supplement quality on the market!)
Dr. Sinatra is a modern-day cardiologist who embraces conventional treatments along with alternative, individualized therapies. He was one of the first cardiologists to say that saturated fat isn’t causing heart disease and that cholesterol isn’t actually a risk factor for cardiovascular issues.
Dr. Sinatra emphasizes reducing inflammation and eliminating added sugar as two of the best ways to reduce your risk, something I can get behind!
ONE OF OUR TOP PICK, David Brownstein, MD
This holistic doctor uses natural hormones and nutritional therapies to treat the whole person. In his practice, Dr. Brownstein has taken an alternative approach to tough illnesses like adrenal health, thyroid disease autoimmune disorders and allergies, and turned away from prescription drugs in favor of natural remedies. Healing instead of just treating? I’m all in.
If you want to slow down aging, Dr. Sears is the go-to guy. While we’re all going to get older, he believes that accelerated aging is caused by the modern toxins, chemicals, preservatives and other threats we face daily.
Dr. Sears is also a leader in the study of telomeres, proving that they can be lengthened to keep aging from happening so rapidly, and was one of the first doctors to be board-certified by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.
As one of the most popular psychiatrists in America, Dr. Amen has taken on the challenge of improving our brains and retraining our brain to protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s.
His Amen Clinics use brain-imaging science to understand how an individual’s brain works, so a individual treatment plan designed specifically for a person’s brain can be created, with less medication and other toxic solutions. I love that Dr. Amen helps people work through the emotional blocks that might be affecting their physical health, and does it in an easily accessible way.
When it comes to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease, Dr. Wentz is one of the world’s leading authorities. Combining her pharmacological background with several years of research and using herself as a guinea pig to combat her own disease, she was able to reverse her own symptoms and is now sharing that knowledge with others. She’s doing some incredible work at educating people — including other doctors on how to treat the root cause of thyroid disease not just treat the symptoms. In her bestselling book, “Hashimoto’s Protocol,” she unveils her secrets on how to heal Hashimoto’s disease holistically.
As a child, Dr. Christianson was teased about his seizures and obesity, a byproduct of the cerebral palsy he had. So in the seventh grade, he did as much reading as he could on nutrition, fitness and health and designed his own exercise and diet program. This set the stage for a life-long passion of changing lives through health. Today, Dr. Christianson is one of the leading natural doctors specializing in endocrinology and thyroid disorders and is the bestselling author of the “Adrenal Reset Diet.”
Dr. Bland is considered the father of functional medicine. He’s a biochemist by training and also a Certified Nutrition Specialist. Not content to just share what he’s done in journals, Dr. Bland, along with his wife, founded The Institute for Functional Medicine in 1991, a not-for-profit organization that educates healthcare practitioners on more natural, effective approaches to the treatment and prevention of chronic disease. Between lectures and medical education events, he’s reached more than 250,000 health care providers around the world!
David Perlmutter, MD
A neurologist who cares about what you’re eating? That’s Dr. Perlmutter. He understands the connection between gut health and what happens in the brain, and advocates, among other things, avoiding gluten entirely, taking probiotics and following a Mediterranean-style diet. While he has his detractors, Dr. Perlmutter continues furthering our knowledge of how our brains and guts are intertwined and how the integrity of our microbiome is essential to total body health.
Dr. Weil has merged his Harvard education with decades of integrative medicine to create an approach to life that fully cares for the body, mind and spirit. He’s the Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, which trains health care providers from around the world in treating the whole patient.
In fact, a huge part of Dr. Weil’s philosophy goes back to helping others. He donates all of his after-tax profits from his Weil Lifestyle products to the Weil Foundation, a nonprofit he founded to support integrative medicine through training, education and research. Since 2005, the foundation has awarded more than $5 million in grants to nonprofits and medical centers throughout the country.
Dr. Hyman believes that what you eat is the most powerful tool to transform your health, and I can’t argue with that! While he’s the director of several medical centers, a frequent medical contributor on a variety of TV programs and has testified before the White House and the Senate on alternative medicine, he’s still a practicing physician. It’s exciting to see how people like Dr. Hyman are helping to turn the dial on how we view complementary medicine, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Katherine Erlich, M.D. and Kelly Genzlinger, C.N.C
Wondering how best to feed yourself and your children for optimal health?
Read Super Nutrition for Babies by Katherine Erlich, M.D. and Kelly Genzlinger, C.N.C. To listen to Dr. Erlich’s interview about Super Nutrition for Babies, click here.
As one of the most famous doctors in America, Dr. Oz has brought natural healing to the masses through his weekday TV show, The Dr. Oz Show. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology at Harvard, and then earned his MD and MBA degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and the Wharton School.
Dr. Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon and teaches at Columbia University, but he first became known to most of the country during his appearances as a health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show. His embrace of alternative medicine and willingness to seek out natural approaches made him an audience favorite and in 2009, his own show was launched.
Dr. Oz isn’t a stranger to controversy, as big pharma hasn’t always loved his segments shedding light on some of medicine’s most dubious practices. But his commitment to health and helping patients get better is what drives him, and he’s encouraged quite a lot of Americans to think a little bit more about their health — and isn’t that what it’s all about?
Editor’s Note: This list was compiled through a set of criteria to determine which doctors were having the biggest global impact on increasing the awareness of functional medicine both to colleagues and to patients. We considered a number of factors, including frequency of speaking engagements, distinguished positions, website visits, social media followers, traditional media mentions, accomplishments and judgment of our editorial team. In addition, we sought out and interviewed several top leaders in the field of functional and integrative medicine who had the largest influence and who submitted nominations for the doctors in the years of 2016–20