I've been a registered dietitian for 17 years, and have just been introduced to functional nutrition over the past year after struggling with my own autoimmune disease. In fact, most of the dietitians specializing in functional nutrition have found themselves on this path because they have/had some sort of medical issue that couldn't be healed with conventional medicine. I personally spent 15 years trying to improve my quality of life and heal my autoimmune disease with conventional medicine, without any measurable result. Since learning about the functional medicine/nutrition movement, my life has been forever changed.
So, what is functional nutrition? It's not just about food! It's all about determining the root causes of your symptoms and developing a comprehensive plan to address the health of your entire body. In my case, I had significant digestive issues, joint pain, swelling, headaches, overwhelming fatigue, brain fog, muscular pain, and sleep disturbances. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, and sleep deprivation, but no one could really help me make much progress in improving my quality of life. Because a diagnosis means nothing if you can't effectively treat the root cause. I was tried on numerous medications, none of which helped or they had side effects I couldn't deal with. It was suggested that I get more sleep, but that was difficult to do because my joint pain kept me awake. My conventional labwork always appeared "normal" which made it seem like I was exaggerating my symptoms. I got the general feeling that the specialists I saw didn't believe me. It was disheartening at times and I started to feel as though I would never find any answer. Then, I was introduced to functional medicine and nutrition!
Conventional medicine is meant to help people deal with acute problems, like a cut that needs stitches, or a broken leg that needs a cast. However, the vast majority of people are visiting their primary care physicians due to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, the list goes on and on and on. The conventional model of medicine is not searching for root causes and so these diseases become chronic in nature and worsen over time. When root causes are not addressed, it ALWAYS gets worse. Functional medicine recognizes that there are five basic causes of illness: toxins, allergens, microbes, stress, and a poor diet. By addressing these factors for each individual patient, most "chronic diseases" can be reversed. In addition, functional medicine/nutrition providers are able to look at functional markers (found in blood, urine, and your gut) to help you prevent chronic diseases and create a lifestyle plan that will allow you to experience great health as you get older. I am the perfect example, the root cause of ALL of my autoimmune disease symptoms was a leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability and unmanaged stress. No physician ever addressed either of these as possibilities until I went to a functional medicine center. I spent years trying to treat symptoms, all the while I could have been healed sooner had my leaky gut and stress level been addressed from the start.
By using functional medicine/nutrition, I have been able to heal my leaky gut and better manage my stress. Not only have my symptoms gone away, but I have decreased my risk of chronic disease as I age and the future looks so much brighter. Functional nutrition treats every patient as an individual. What has worked for me may not be as effective for another person with similar symptoms. Those working in functional medicine/nutrition see the whole patient, not just a single diagnosis or disease. We are able to address multiple factors that may be leading to chronic disease symptoms while working with each patient as an individual. The power, so to speak, is in the hands of the patient. When you, as the patient, take control of your own health with the guidance of a functional medicine/nutrition provider so much can improve.
I have experienced a great example of the power of functional nutrition this week. I have been working with a patient well on her way to a diabetes diagnosis. She came to me 3 months ago with alarming conventional lab work. Her primary care provider ordered a statin drug due to her very high lipid levels. Unfortunately, this type of plan is not an uncommon occurrence. However, statin drugs are not indicated for the primary prevention of heart events, and can increase a female patients risk of diabetes by 50 percent! This patient was nervous to start the medication, so we worked together to create a lifestyle management program that she could fit into her daily routine instead of using the medication. By altering her diet (minimally), adding a nutritional supplement to help with blood sugar and lipid control, and increasing her physical activity after meals, she has DRAMATICALLY reduced her risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and/or experiencing a heart attack/stroke. Her conventional labwork is drastically improved in just 3 months time! With functional nutrition, we have addressed the root causes of her disease progression and she has been able change her trajectory!
Functional nutrition can prevent and reverse chronic diseases. LIFESTYLE change is POWERFUL!!! If you commit yourself to working on your own health every day, you can regain control of your life! If you struggle with any chronic disease, you owe it to yourself to try functional medicine/nutrition. I offer free 15 minute phone consultations to help you determine the next step in your health journey! Check out our contact link.