Personal Evidence: The Secret to Personalized Healthcare in Functional Nutrition
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
It’s been over twenty years since my husband Isamu died.
I can remember that morning like it was yesterday. An ending. A beginning. A point in time so clear and finite for each of us—unlike most triggers in our health histories.
One thing I learned, through Isamu’s illness and death, in working with my own autoimmune condition (Hashimoto’s), and through serving thousands of clients in the subsequent years, is that something critical is missing from the way we help the chronically ill in our current medical model.
That something that’s missing is the patient.
Functional Nutrition for patient-centered care
All too often, treatments are based on study evidence—what worked for a small and specific group of people in a controlled setting. One dilemma with studies is that they are subject to a tremendous amount of translation that often gets overlooked in our desire to find validation of our beliefs and our wish for the cure-all.
You can think of this as confirmation-bias.
Media translations of these studies and evidence-based practices can often confuse our collective understanding of the “good” and the “bad”—particularly when it comes to diet and lifestyle modifications—creating mass confusion.
The interpretation of studies is subject to several factors:
- the assessments of variability
- methodologies of measurement
- number of subjects
- timing of the study
- confounding variables
- not to mention researcher bias and more
And yet the biggest issue I have with implementing treatment protocols based on studies alone is that they completely disregard what I call personal evidence. Personal evidence helps us understand that what study evidence might show as protective may actually be destructive, in the wrong hands or body.
No matter what the clincal studies (or books) say, Functional Nutrition asserts that a person has to do what works for their body. And, what works for some may fall into the standard (even, study evidence supported) how-to’s, while others may be vastly different, even contradictory. What works will be personal, unique, not prescriptive. What works will be based on personal evidence.
How personal evidence supports personalized healthcare in practice
Personal evidence is the evidence that’s unique to a person’s body, history, and experiences in their health and life journey.
Let’s consider an example:
A study might conclude that eggs are good for brain health and development because of their high concentration of the nutrient choline. Yet for someone who’s taken several rounds of antibiotics in their childhood (like many of us did), and developed an immune response to eggs as a result (as is true for me), eating eggs will not help, but instead hinder my brain health and nervous system— possibly contributing to systemic inflammation.
Personal evidence and bioindividuality
Personal evidence is the information from a person’s life and their experience. It’s not about what worked for your neighbor, or your friend, or even your twin sister. It’s about your body, your needs, and what’s important to you.
Personal evidence brings bioindividuality out of the realm of theory and puts it into practice. Therefore, gathering personal evidence is a precursor to patient-centered care.
And this brings me back to my husband, Isamu. You see, I advocated for the man I loved, and the work I do is still in response to that memory—a memory of the person I knew so well being treated like a diagnosis alone. Isamu was not a brain tumor. He was not a Glioblastoma Multiforme. He was Isamu. Witnessing him put in a box and seen through the narrow lens of pathology was not OK for me. It’s not OK for the patients we see in the Functional Nutrition Alliance Clinic. And it’s not OK for you, or those you serve.
That’s why Functional Nutrition honors personal evidence. Because your unique experience matters. And because patient-centered care brings the patient, and all of their life experiences, back to the center of care.
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