What I’ve Learned about Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition

If you haven’t heard these terms before, chances are you’ll be seeing them in the near future.  They represent a shift in health care, and one that is sorely needed in my opinion. 

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine by definition is a shift from the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach.  Functional Medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional Medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, Functional Medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.  It is holistic in nature and looks at the body from the inside out.

Functional Nutrition

Functional nutrition looks at food as a primary source of wellbeing and views health from the inside out.  What is the body’s constitution? Is there adequate intestinal flora? How do the foods one eats support or diminish the internal ecosystem? The digestive system is viewed as the body’s second brain, possessing an intricate system of interactions that support the immune system and other hormonal functions. It does its best work when we consume food that is compatible with its unique makeup. 

Looking from the inside out when making a health care plan can best be illustrated by looking at an egg.  If an egg is broken from the outside, life ends.  If an egg is broken from the inside, life begins.  Start your assessment from the inside.  How does your body respond to your food? Is it relaxed and energized or does it feel inflamed or sluggish?  Your body will tell you if you listen. 

Demystifying Tummy Troubles

When you listen and identify an issue, whether it is gas, bloating, acid burn, constipation, diarrhea, skin eruptions, or hormonal imbalances, look at your food first. Are you eating processed foods, that is, foods that come in a package?  These foods contain chemicals and additives that can disrupt your hormones, including appetite.  Look at when and where you are eating.  Look at your stress level.  Look at how much or how little you are eating. Look at your hydration.  

A Systematic Approach

A functional nutrition approach takes a careful look at your overall health and your lifestyle. It considers you heredity and environment.  It teaches you to make adjustments in your food choices and lifestyle facors that may be affecting your wellbeing. 

What Should You Eat?

Proper nutrition is like shoes. No one size fits all.  You need to pay attention and see what works.  

In closing, some simple concepts to keep in mind if you want to practice functional nutrition:

  •     if man made it, don’t eat it
  •     grow it, don’t open it
  •     eat food, not chemicals
  •     listen to your body