Functional Nutrition looks at the foundational way that food affects your body on the cellular level just as Functional Medicine approaches the body from the perspective of treating the root cause of disease. We all know that food is energy in the form of calories. However, food is much more than that, food is information – and there are millions of molecules of information in every bite of food that you eat. These molecules come into your body, effect how your cells behave and how you feel. Food is connection with memories, emotions and social connectedness all being linked with what we eat. Food is medicine. The largest therapeutic toolbox available to the functional medicine physician is food. Appropriate nutrition is essential to the success of any individualized functional medicine management plan.
The Individualized Functional Nutrition Evaluation
Our world is inundated with nutrition related messages and the definition of an overall healthy diet has been controversial at best. For example, a vegan diet can be hugely successful for one individual and a disaster for another. The same can be said for low-fat, low-carb, vegetarian, Paleo, Mediterranean and the list goes on and on. Functional nutrition acknowledges a vast array of food plans and then tailors a dietary approach to the specific physiological needs and personal preferences of the individual. The emphasis is on choosing high quality foods with a diversity of phytonutrients and eating them in such a manner as to support metabolic balance and optimal nutrition status, rather than counting calories. This customized approach to recommending foods will address any underlying imbalances in core clinical functions and bring attention to the importance of creating a healthy relationship with food. The ultimate goal is to teach patients to become aware of how food may be impacting their health and contributing to the development and persistence of chronic disease.
• The Core Food Plan provides a healthy balance of quality protein, fats, and carbohydrate with a diversity of beneficial and phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables to establish a baseline healthy eating plan for anyone interested in improving their diet. It is an introduction to the types of foods that provide the macro- and micronutrients needed for a body to function properly. It is an ideal food plan for those that are generally healthy and just want to improve their eating choices, or for those that are new to healthy eating and aren’t ready yet for a specific therapeutic diet plan. This is the fundamental food plan upon which further dietary interventions are based.
• The Elimination Diet helps to uncover which food or foods may be causing adverse food reactions, whether it be due to true allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity. Often, symptoms that have failed to respond to conventional medical therapy will resolve by following an elimination diet. After the initial period of eliminating foods, many chronic symptoms should improve or disappear. Many people with food sensitivities don’t even realize how awful they have been feeling until the “trigger” foods are removed from the diet. Then, through a guided reintroduction process, individuals can become more aware of trigger foods and the kinds of symptoms they experience when exposed to those foods.
• The Cardiometabolic Food Plan addresses blood sugar dysfunction, insulin resistance, central obesity, dyslipidemias, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and associated inflammation. It does this by emphasizing therapeutic low-glycemic foods while reducing simple sugars, increasing dietary fiber, and helping people to time meals appropriately.This plan can provide targeted calorie amounts, low-carbohydrate macronutrient balance, and directed serving allowances while focusing on ideal serving sizes to prevent overeating, postprandial inflammation, and metabolic distress.
• The Detox Food Plan reduces intake of common food triggers and focuses on long-term nutritional support of the major body systems involved with detoxification, such as the gut, liver, and kidneys. It places a strong emphasis on eating clean foods for life (organic when possible) and on reducing food contact with contaminating elements, such as plastics.The goals of this plan are to create a gut–liver axis of support, lower the burden on the immune system, and provide adequate nourishment.
• The Mito Food Plan is an anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic, gluten-free, low-grain, high-quality- fats approach to eating.The plan focuses on supporting healthy mitochondria through foods that improve energy production. Mitochondria are within all cells of the body and are responsible for almost all of our energy production. This plan supports the body in its production of energy, restores a sense of vitality, promotes healthy aging, and assists in both preventing the development of and treating chronic neurological disease. This plan has flexible calorie allowances and options for advanced personalization including a mild ketogenic focus range or a stricter ketogenic variation.
GI Specific dietary options are available for people with gastrointestinal complaints
who have followed the Elimination Diet but are still experiencing symptoms. In cases like these, further dietary interventions and assessments, may be indicated including an antifungal (anti-Candida) diet, a low FODMAP diet, specific carbohydrate diet, gut and psychology (GAPs) diet, and a restoration diet. Which diet and when to use it will depend on the signs and symptoms the person is experiencing as well as functional lab findings. The individual’s unique microbiome may impact individual response to the various food plans and a trial and error approach may be needed to find the right combination of foods that provoke the least amount of GI distress and create the optimal nutritional environment for beneficial gut bacteria.