Sign In
Systems: The Cornerstone of Functional Medicine Training - Blog Image

Systems: The Cornerstone of Functional Medicine Training

BY: Andrea Nakayama

DATE: 2019-12-17

When it comes to Functional Medicine Training, there is a fundamental principle that stands out: adopting a systems-based approach. This entails recognizing the intricate interconnections within the internal environment and embracing a frameworked thinking to transform our approach to care.

Two pivotal components of the systems-based approach

Systems biology teaches us that living systems are complex and dynamic. Their behavior and expression will be difficult to determine from the attributes of distinct parts of the whole.

Systems thinking focuses on how something being studied interacts with other elements of the same system. Instead of isolating the specific item and getting more specialized and limited in scope, systems thinking expands the view to take in a broader set of interactions.

It’s the systems thinking that I want to speak into today.

The Full Body Systems curriculum: Exploring interconnections

The Full Body Systems curriculum was intentionally designed to provide health and wellness practitioners with a deeper understanding of the web of interactions within the body. It emphasizes that no one system exists in isolation. Moreover, the entire Full Body Systems curriculum complements this comprehensive approach by providing coaches and clinicians with the tools and frameworks that enable dynamic and effective management of multifactorial cases – an increasingly prevalent reality in our field.

The relevance of systems thinking in healthcare

Just as we need systems thinking to understand the body as a whole, we also need systems thinking to understand a case as whole. A person is more than their diagnosis, and we need systems to understand all the factors that contribute to that person’s well-being.

Systems thinking becomes particularly relevant in healthcare when we encounter:

  • complex challenges that are due to myriad underlying factors

  • recurring problems or those that are made worse by previous efforts to “fix” them

  • signs and symptoms whose solutions are not obvious

These situations are increasingly prevalent and demand that we address them with more acuity if we are to help this population and have success in practice. Conventional approaches that rely solely on prescribing pills or following rigid protocols– whether pharmaceutical or nutraceutical – are falling short. A systems-based approach serves as the solution.

The framework for comprehensive data collection

To embrace a systems-based approach we need tools and frameworks that help us capture and organize data for complex cases. Instead of relying on a formula, we shift our focus to a framework that accommodates the uniqueness and complexities of each individual.

While I know that it can be challenging to accept the reality that there is no formula for clinical success—that the diet that works for you may not work for me—frameworks provide systems and structures that enable us to better think into the unknown.

Frameworks acknowledge that each person is unique and complex.

Frameworks help you to capture relevant information about a person’s history and physiology, organizing what truly matters, and guiding our next steps. 

In the Functional Nutrition Alliance clinic, we use a number of frameworks to help us unravel the systems biology and step into systems thinking so that we can do our best to work toward addressing the root causes for more sustainable clinical results. I can’t wait to share those systems with you!

Donella H Meadows, renowned environmental scientist and systems thinker, shared an enlightening Sufi story that we often overlook: “The behavior of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made.” This timeless wisdom encapsulates the very essence of systems thinking and its remarkable ability to bring about transformative change.

Ready to start thinking in systems? The functional medicine training in Full Body Systems combines the realms of systems biology and systems thinking, and unlocks the powerful potential of Functional Nutrition.

Related PostsMapping Systems Thinking with Dr. David Haase

Andrea Nakayama

By: Andrea Nakayama, FxNA Founder & Functional Medicine Nutritionist

Functional Nutrition Alliance provides the comprehensive online Functional Nutrition training in the Science & Art of the Functional Nutrition practice. Learn to address the roots of your clients’ suffering with client education, diet & lifestyle modifications.


Get Program Information

Plus, exclusive access to tuition discounts, bonuses and FREE live events.

Want to talk to someone?

Give Us a Call Now At 1-844-246-6335