What is Integrative & Functional Nutrition?
So you might be asking yourself some seemingly “silly” questions…such as:
What does “nutrition” mean?
What does an Integrative Functional Nutrition Practitioner do, anyways?
So, no… it’s actually NOT a silly question at all! Looking at wellness through a nutritional lens definitely applies to you (no it’s not just about weight loss), and seeing an integrative and functional nutritionist can be extremely beneficial if you are looking to get to the root cause of why you are experiencing less-than-ideal health.
Let’s break it down.
What is Nutrition?
In general, conventional nutrition is associated with eating basic foods that your body needs to remain healthy – micro/macronutrients, water, minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, carbohydrates, fats, protein and fiber. However, this is a very narrow and outdated scope that sees the body as a separate set of organs and systems in isolation. It’s looking at each health “puzzle piece” out of context instead of seeing the big picture of someone’s health status.
How is Integrative & Functional Nutrition Different than Conventional Nutrition?
Integrative & Functional Nutrition is different. It is a more updated, comprehensive approach to health restoration and self-care maintenance that includes interrelated factors such as food, sleep, exercise, stress, lifestyle, environment, genetics, relationships, and mindset. It focuses not on the condition or symptoms as the problem, but rather as clues to the underlying issues.
Integrative and Functional Nutrition is both a science and an art, drawing from clinical evidence from targeted assessments and insight to find underlying root causes. The goal is to establish a closely monitored, individualized, effective treatment plan to restore health and to teach the client how to practice self-care for life.
What does "Integrative Nutrition" mean?
Integrative Nutrition reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing. This means integrating/considering other disciplines outside of the nutrition realm that are related (and many times equally important to support health and healing) using both conventional and complementary therapies (aka “CAM”, such as medical care, dental care, massage behavioral therapy, energy medicine, physical therapy, chiropractic care, addiction therapy, acupuncture, herbal care, yoga, and art therapy).
What does "Functional Nutrition” mean?
Functional Nutrition (part of the Functional Medicine paradigm) addresses the underlying root cause of dysfunction and dis-ease by identifying interrelated factors (mentioned above) through clinical nutritional assessments and targeted therapies. Functional nutrition looks at the body as an interrelated set of systems, and focuses on interactions between the environment and the gastrointestinal, endocrine, and immune systems as it related to diet and nutrition. Functional nutrition practitioners develop individualized diet, nutrition and lifestyle plans.
Functional/Integrative Nutrition Core Practices:
Integrative & Functional Nutrition uses "food first" (eating simple, organic, clean, unprocessed, REAL food from the source) to prevent, mitigate, and reverse health conditions. Food functions as medicine and is the foundation for total emotional, mental, and physical health.
But it doesn't stop there.
Integrative & Functional Nutrition includes “Soul Food”. From an evidence-based mindbody medicine perspective, it is equally as nourishing and necessary for health. Soul food is just as important (and sometimes more detrimental to our wellbeing) as what we eat. An integrative approach to nutrition means looking at all parts of life that impact our well-being on a mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical level. Even more, how we eat is as important as what we eat. Food is a sensory pleasure, a social and cultural joy, and our relationship with food can mirror our relationship with life and self. Learning to practice the art of mindful eating can drastically enhance our ability to assimilate nourishment from the food we eat and contribute to a state of health and wellness.
Why Symptoms are NOT the Focus:
The symptoms are NOT the problem – they are a result of the underlying problem(s)!
The science of Functional/Integrative nutrition uses a systems biology which allows the practitioner to use a custom approach to investigate the hidden reasons for the conditions rather than treat the condition only. Symptoms are often far removed from the source of the issue. The body is an interconnected set of systems that impacts one another, so functional nutrition sees the body as an interrelated whole rather than independently operating parts.
Our nutritional assessments help us detect healing opportunities that inform supporting the body’s innate healing capacity and vital reserve while removing the things triggering dysfunction, which leads to symptoms and a state of dis-ease.
Using various diagnostic and therapeutic strategies – with the cooperation of other health professionals as needed -- is a patient-centered rather than condition/symptom-centered approach to restore health at the source. While I do not diagnose or treat anything specific, integrating various healing strategies re-balances the body naturally. The wonderful “side effect”? When the body is given what it needs and the things harming it are removed, symptoms progressively diminish and optimal health is cultivated over time.
Functional/Integrative Nutrition Key Tenets:
· To advocate the importance of the patient-centered therapeutic relationship between client and practitioner
· To focus on the whole person and lifestyle
· To focus on healing through a range of assessment tools in practice, using all appropriate therapeutic approaches whether they originate in conventional or alternative nutrition
· To abide by the concept of bio-individuality and client uniqueness, from clinical assessment and diagnosis to the broad spectrum of prevention and disease management
· To incorporate the impact of the client’s environment with distinct internal and external factors that influence interactions between the mind, body, and spirit such as physical, social, and lifestyle factors
· Internal and external factors are recognized to give rise to core physiological imbalances and dysfunction in physiological systems, including the significant influence that “long-latency nutritional insufficiencies” have on the development of chronic disease
· Focuses on addressing the root cause of nutritional imbalances and preventative care
· Goal is to cultivate optimal health, described as “something other than the absence of disease; conceived as an integrated function of biology, environment, and behavior; and measured as a product of physical, mental, social, and spiritual variables”
· Proposes that even a minor imbalance within the body can produce a cascade of biological triggers commonly termed a “snowball effect,” with long latency effects that can eventually lead to poor health and chronic illness
· Focus on restoring optimal function as well as managing symptoms and promoting overall health
· To address such situations, use a range of assessment tools in practice