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Functional Diagnostics: Redefining Disease

Mark A. Hyman, MD

Medical diagnosis has a storied and embarrassing past. The taxonomy of disease morphed as we moved from symptoms to anatomy to molecular biology to genomics and metabolomics. A penchant for naming is intrinsic to the human mind. Hippocrates categorized disease into the 4 humors: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Linnaeus, the 18th-century Swedish scientist known for the naming and classification of plant species, developed 11 categories of disease, including painful disease, motor disease, and blemishes. Tibetans distinguish 404 diseases divided into 4 causes: karmic disease originating in past lifetimes, disease resulting from influences in early life, disorders involving spirits, and superficial disorders resulting from diet and behavior.

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