What is Functional Nutrition? Everything You Need to Know
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
I often discuss the defining elements (or “tenets”) of a Functional Medicine practice, but what exactly is Functional Nutrition?
Functional Nutrition derives from Functional Medicine. Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition share three fundamental principles:
- valuing the therapeutic relationship
- working with systems and frameworks
- always aiming to address the root causes (as opposed to just chasing signs and symptoms or “treating” a diagnosis).
And yet, Functional Nutrition and Functional Medicine differ.
Like all Functional Nutrition Counselors, I work within a distinct scope of practice. That scope does not include diagnosing, prescribing or treating patients. It includes:
- Understanding the whole person: I take a holistic and bioindividual approach, considering all aspects of a person’s health and history.
- Addressing the terrain: I focus on the environment in which signs, symptoms, or diagnoses manifest.
- Educating the patient: I empower patients to understand why their health challenges arose and how to take back control of their own health.
- Bridging the gap: I use my unique skill set to fill the gap that exists between the physician and the patient within the current medical system.
Functional Nutrition fills the gaps in traditional healthcare
The gaps begin with education and communication. The doctor knows and speaks in medical terms. The patient knows how they feel, what they’re going through, and where they’d rather be (i.e. their goals.) Those gaps in education and communication create misunderstandings, lack of empathy, and decreased compliance. In short, it halts the healing process and creates a gap between client and physician.
In order to fill that gap, we need to speak the languages of both parties. The language of the doctor is one of physiology and biochemistry and all too often targeted specialization. The language of the patient is one of managing their symptoms, getting through every day and navigating lifestyle changes in an effort to create new habits that help them to finally feel better. When we speak both languages, we’re working in therapeutic partnership and enabling all parties to experience more success.
This ability to speak both languages has, honestly, been my ‘special sauce. I’ve been able to break down the science of the body so that the patient can understand themselves and their diet and lifestyle choices more comprehensively. This, by the way, is the best way to initiate what is often called “client compliance.” And, I’ve been able to work with clinical empathy, to translate the needs of the patient into actionable recommendations that work in tandem with any therapeutic plan prescribed by their physician and move them toward their goals. This is what I teach in Full Body Systems. Win-win.
Functional Nutrition is the future of healthcare
Functional Nutrition goes beyond coaching. It’s not about dietary theory. Functional Nutrition is a nuanced way of thinking, rooted in a comprehension of what it means to be human—to have a history and a culture and a body. All of it! As I like to say: Everything is connected. We are all unique. All things matter.
Functional Nutrition truly makes a practice functional. It’s the most practical way to work because it works. I’ve not only seen this in my own practice, but in the practices of thousands of other practitioners around the globe who have embraced the teachings in Full Body Systems, our Functional Nutrition training program.
Functional Nutrition is the future of healthcare, not because it’s new or fancy, but because it meets the needs of the patient population. It fills the gaps we’re experiencing even in Functional Medicine. It makes sense as a modality that supports and educates the patient in what’s going on in their body and how targeted diet and lifestyle modifications can help them meet their goals by shifting their terrain.
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