Full Body Systems Graduate Spotlight: Vaish Sarathy
Posted by Heather McCue
Dr. Vaish Sarathy is a Functional Nutrition practitioner, science educator, and the founder of the functional nutrition practice for children, “Functional Nutrition for Kids”. Her TEDx talk “Who decides how smart you are” is credited as perspective-shifting both by parents and practitioners working with kids with disabilities about the value of assuming intelligence. Vaish’s doctorate is in Environmental Chemistry. Prior to becoming a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor Vaish was not a medical doctor and had no experience working in a clinical setting. Now she’s doing phenomenal work helping so many other families through their healthcare challenges.
She believes that sound nutrition, equal education, and a rested mind are the blood right of every child. Her practice expanded in scope due to her exceptional ability to recognize the need for a functional approach to healthcare for both her own child as well as other children with learning challenges and/or disabilities.
How did you fall into the gaps of healthcare when it came to your own family’s healthcare?
Vaish: My son has down syndrome and autism. He’s non-speaking. When he was about 7 or 8 years old, I’d already started some basic anti-inflammatory diets and a gluten-free casein-free diet, but I didn’t really have much more insight into how I could tweak those diets, or how they would fill the gaps on gut health.
All I knew is there were specific diets that kids with autism used. When I went to meet other functional nutrition, and functional medicine practitioners I was given supplements and wasn’t provided any in-depth conversation about why or how these diets performed. What were we trying to address?
We were being trigger-happy with supplements, just point and shoot. Even the doctors that I saw who were actually functional practitioners themselves didn’t provide much discussion on coming back to the basics, and asking questions like: What is it that we’re looking for? What are we trying to stabilize?
Is that when you decided to seek out training from Andrea and Full Body Systems?
Vaish: Yes! I decided to learn from Andrea because I had a couple of nutrition calls with a nutritionist on her team, and given my background in chemistry and food traditions as they relate to Autism, I realized that I wanted to study with her too.
It really helped me understand where I was going, and what the frameworks were through which I could think about my son’s health. I wanted to get a fundamental understanding of what we were doing and where I needed to go.
What made you select Andrea and Full Body Systems as your pivot into Functional Nutrition for Kids?
Vaish: One practitioner of my son’s, his cranial osteopath, had recommended Andrea. And before that there was another friend who had mentioned her teachings and that she was local to Portland. So, I decided to learn more.
What advice would you give to someone who may not have medical training on pursuing this journey as a Functional Nutrition Counselor?
I tell everybody that the Functional Nutrition Alliance is a great place to start because it rounds out the fundamentals really well. It brings you back to the basic questions on how to base your practice. Don’t be shy of learning new things, because there is a mind shift that takes place to not only learn new things but to also recognize that you’re never going to know everything. But if you define your scope of practice well enough you can clarify your fundamentals. That’s what I love about Andrea’s teachings. She reminds us to come back to the basics.
Andrea calls that the information trap correct?
Vaish: Yes! And I think a lot of times people fall into that trap of wanting to know everything and being afraid of not knowing what you don’t know. I recommend being really comfortable in the words you use and also being comfortable saying that this is not my scope of practice. And bringing forward how to bring it back to the basics.
How do you bridge the gap using Functional Nutrition for Kids?
Vaish: Usually the clients are coming to me convinced that they need something extremely fancy. So for me, it’s just sharing the information using foundational steps like blood sugar balance, sleep, and regular bowel movements that Andrea calls the Non-Negotiables. What she calls Tier One.
There are some clients where more will be needed, but you need to be able to convey the information that you really cannot progress without stabilizing your foundations first. So I really work on conveying that. It’s a lot about the language and about reaching out to the client to make sure that they understand that.
When my clients are not seen a lot of times there is what’s called a diagnostic overshadowing. This means that the recognized answer to your child not doing X is because he has autism, or your son not doing Y because he has down syndrome, which really isn’t an answer, as we know. It’s why I did the TEDx talk because I want my clients to first believe that the diagnosis doesn’t define their kids. Connecting with and bridging the gap to my clients is about sharing examples and showing them that their child is capable. We just need to look beyond the diagnosis.
So whatever communication is needed for that client, however I can meet them, we begin with the basic foundational step, which is first presuming competence in their own child!
Can you share a success story from your experience using Functional Nutrition for Kids in your approach?
Vaish: I’m doing a program right now called Roadmap to Attention and Regulation. It’s a group program which addresses foundational food as medicine strategies for attention and creating a base to optimize attention, increase focus, and bring in emotional regulation.
In this program, one of the things I do is come back to the foundations again and again. And I’ve seen just by doing that with blood sugar imbalances, we can see how hard it is to help maintain an inner state of calm.
One kid was waking up in a terrible mood. His mood would get worse and worse as he went through the day. He would go to sleep and wake up so angry. We used a couple of techniques to help the child sleep and to stabilize his blood sugar. After the mom did this the child came off his melatonin supplementation, is sleeping well, and wakes up happy. This, as any parent knows, is a big thing!
At the Functional Nutrition Alliance we’re big fans of Vaish’s work and her commitment to articulating and implementing the importance of the Tier 1 work to help so many kids claim their balance.
Read more from the Functional Nutrition Alliance:
To learn more about Dr. Sarathy and the work she is doing you can go to functionalnutritionforkids.com
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