What is Functional Nutrition?
You are unique. You have your own genetic makeup, health history, and lifestyle. Your nutrition plan should be unique to your individual body, too! Here at Root, we use functional nutrition as a key part of treating the root cause of your symptoms.
But, what is functional nutrition, exactly?
In this blog, we’ll review functional nutrition, how it’s different, and how we use it to help you restore wellness, find balance in the body, and prevent disease.
First, Let’s Review: What is Functional Medicine?
To understand functional nutrition, we need to first quickly review functional medicine as a whole.
Functional medicine is an approach to treating health conditions and preventing disease by finding the root cause of your health issues. However, instead of stamping you with a diagnosis and only treating your symptoms, functional medicine doctors find out WHY you have the diagnosis. They will do an in-depth assessment to look at ALL of your body systems (not just the one causing symptoms), and evaluate how well your body is communicating.
Then, functional medicine doctors will recommend interventions to help restore balance by addressing factors such as nutrition, movement, stress, sleep, and relationships.
What is Functional Nutrition?
Functional nutrition is a powerful cornerstone to functional medicine. It uses food as a natural medicine to help restore balance, replete nutrient deficiencies, heal the gut, and more.
Here are a few ways in which functional nutrition is different from conventional practices.
Functional Nutrition is Personal
Personalization is the main difference between functional and conventional nutrition.
Functional nutrition focuses on the patient instead of the disease. It is a personalized method of optimizing your health based on your individual genetics, lab values, lifestyle, and more. There are no generic meal plans or handouts, because each individual person is different!
Let’s use a case study as a quick example. Imagine Mrs. M comes in to see the dietitian for nutrition counseling for her Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). She suffers from bloating, indigestion, and occasional diarrhea. In a conventional nutrition setting, Mrs. M may receive a generic low-FODMAP meal plan, which is a standardized diet that eliminates foods that may worsen symptoms in IBS patients. However, the foods are not the direct cause of her IBS, and not all IBS patients have the same reactions to all foods.
Now, let’s imagine Mrs. M’s case from a functional nutrition perspective. While each treatment is different, a functional nutrition dietitian may order personalized lab testing, like the MRT food sensitivity test, to learn how Mrs. M’s individual immune system is reacting to specific foods. We may also request nutrition labs to assess for underlying vitamin or mineral deficiencies. From there, we would develop a personalized elimination diet based on Mrs. M’s lab results to reduce inflammation, heal the gut, and (of course) reduce her symptoms!
Functional Nutrition Uses Food as Medicine
A whole food diet rich in fruits, vegetables and minimal processed food is always a great foundation. However, some patients require more targeted interventions with specific foods in order to treat the underlying cause of their health issues.
Functional nutrition honors the fact that food is not only fuel for your body, but also an extremely useful tool to help us address the underlying cause of your condition. Let’s go back to Mrs. M’s story as an example. After 1-2 months of eliminating her food sensitivities, a functional medicine dietitian may want to use specific foods or supplements to further heal her gut. The dietitian may recommend certain anti-inflammatory foods, gut-healing compounds like glutamine or probiotics, or targeted supplements to replete any nutrient deficiencies found on her lab testing.
Functional Nutrition Is Not Just About Food
While functional nutrition honors the powerful nature of wholesome food, it also respects that there is more to health than what you eat.
For instance, a functional medicine dietitian may ask you about your stress levels, sleeping habits, and overall environment. Not only do these factors play a huge role in your overall health, but they also have a bidirectional effect on your nutrition. For example, chronic stress can worsen IBS symptoms, like in Mrs. M’s case. Additionally, your sleep habits and stress levels all affect how nutrition is digested and absorbed in the body. A functional medicine dietitian can help you establish a stress management routine to further reduce your symptoms. We may recommend various foods or nutritional supplements to help your body cope with the added stress as well.
We Embrace Your Uniqueness
With functional nutrition, we embrace your uniqueness and use it to tailor your individualized nutrition recommendations. We can use personalized lab testing, functional food as medicine, and lifestyle interventions to further your healing process. We work closely with you to find a nutrition plan that is realistic for your lifestyle, while also reducing unwanted symptoms and restoring balance in the body.
Are you interested in working with a functional medicine dietitian to help you find a personalized nutrition plan? Contact us today to learn more!