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Functional Medicine Dietitian

Functional medicine has been gaining traction for its personalized approach to understanding and treating the root causes of various health issues. Central to this root cause approach is nutrition. In this article, we’ll discuss the crucial ways in which our functional medicine dietitians support an individualized and effective functional medicine treatment plan.

What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is a highly trained and qualified healthcare professional specializing in the field of nutrition. RDNs are experts in translating scientific information about nutrition into practical advice to help individuals make informed and healthy choices about their food and lifestyle.

All RDNs must have a bachelor’s degree* (at a minimum) from an accredited academic program and undertake a supervised practice program. This internship, typically lasting 9 to 12 months, provides hands-on experience and practical training in various settings. Finally, all RDNs must successfully pass the national board examination for registered dietitians, and (if applicable) apply for state licensure. To keep up-to-date on the latest evidence-based research, RDNs must complete and submit a minimum of 75 hours of continuing education credits every five years.

*Effective January 1, 2024 all new registered dietitian nutritionists are required to obtain a master's degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam. 

What is a Functional Medicine Dietitian?

A functional medicine dietitian is a registered dietitian nutritionist with specialized training and experience in functional medicine. Learn more about the difference between conventional and functional medicine. However, what sets functional medicine dietitians apart is their inquisitive nature and their commitment to going beyond surface-level assessments. Instead of merely addressing symptoms, they explore the "why" behind the conditions, aiming to unravel the web of interconnected factors affecting an individual's well-being. 

Let’s review a few more key differences between a general RDN and a functional medicine dietitian.


Unlike most conventional medicine models, functional medicine recognizes that nutrition is not just about calories; it is foundational to optimal health. Blood sugar balance, micronutrient status, gut health, and hormone health are intricately tied to what we eat. To practice functional medicine effectively, a collaborative effort between physicians and dietitians is key. At Root, our dedicated team of doctors and functional medicine dietitians work hand in hand, acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between proper nutrition and treating the root cause of your symptoms.

While dietitians cannot diagnose medical conditions, they play a crucial role in providing nutritional support and guidance. The collaboration between dietitians and physicians at Root ensures a comprehensive approach to patient care. Our dietitians can recommend appropriate supplements, certain functional foods and, when necessary, refer clients to our physicians for a formal diagnosis.

Functional Testing

Our functional medicine dietitians are also able to order and interpret functional tests related to nutrition. This includes blood sugar and insulin levels, nutrient assessments, gut health tests, and more. This expanded scope allows dietitians to gain a deeper understanding of a client's unique biochemical makeup and tailor nutritional interventions accordingly. Personalization is the main difference between functional and conventional nutrition. Learn more about how our dietitians may use functional nutrition with our members.

Beyond Food

You can eat a perfect diet, but still suffer from a multitude of symptoms due to high stress, poor sleep habits, and living constantly on-the-go. Not only do these factors play a huge role in your overall health, but they also have a bidirectional effect on your nutrition. A functional medicine dietitian will often ask about your lifestyle and help you brainstorm techniques to incorporate more healthy lifestyle changes and/or supportive supplements. 

Functional Nutrition Case Study

Consider the case of a client with multiple food sensitivities. A conventional approach may recommend an elimination diet to identify their food triggers. While this may initially result in a reduction of symptoms, the client has to stay on a restricted diet in order to keep their symptoms at bay. Over time, they may notice that even the previously “safe” foods begin to cause digestive problems. 

However, a functional medicine dietitian would guide this patient through a comprehensive gut healing protocol. This approach isn’t merely about avoiding trigger foods; it involves a personalized strategy to heal the gut lining, rebalance the microbiome, and address underlying issues contributing to food sensitivities. The goal in this approach is to treat the root cause of the client’s food sensitivities and allow for the most liberalized diet possible.

Key Takeaways

Functional medicine dietitians at Root play a pivotal role in unraveling the intricate relationship between nutrition and health. Our dietitians are trained in understanding the "why," using functional testing, and collaborating seamlessly with Root doctors to support an effective approach to reducing symptoms and optimizing the health of their clients.

Learn more about how to work with a functional medicine dietitian at Root.

Get to the Root at Home 

Curious about where you should start your functional medicine journey? 

Take our Get to the Root Quiz so you can start working towards reversing disease and optimizing your health at the Root cause.
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