In a world where nutrition advice can feel overwhelming and conflicting, functional nutrition offers a personalized, proactive approach to achieving optimal health and wellness!
Among the many branches of nutrition, functional nutrition goes beyond simply counting calories. In this blog post, we’re diving into what exactly a functional nutritionist is, the principles of functional nutrition, and how a functional nutritionist can help someone achieve optimal health!
The difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist
What is a dietitian?
A dietitian is a healthcare professional who has completed specific educational requirements to become a registered dietitian (RD) or a dietitian nutritionist (RDN), including:
- A minimum of a bachelor of science degree in dietetics, nutrition, or a related field with coursework in biology, chemistry, physiology, food science and nutrition
- According to the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the minimum degree requirement will change to a masters degree in 2024
- A dietetic internship of 900+ hours of supervised practiced hours through an accredited program
- Passing of a national board-certifying exam and obtain licensure
- Completion of 75 continuing education units (CEUs) every 5 years to maintain the credential
It’s important to note that the terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” are often used interchangeably, and while a dietitian is a nutritionist, a nutritionist is not always a dietitian.
What is a nutritionist?
The term “nutritionist” does not have a standardized or regulated definition, which means that anyone can technically call themselves a nutritionist. Some nutritionists may hold relevant degrees or certifications in nutrition, but ultimately dietitians have more extensive clinical education and training.
The 5 principles of functional nutrition
A functional nutritionist recognizes that each person has unique nutritional needs and biochemistry. They conduct thorough assessments, including comprehensive health histories and functional lab testing, to identify imbalances or deficiencies to develop personalized nutrition plans.
Root cause investigation
Instead of just addressing symptoms, a functional nutritionist aims to identify and address the underlying causes of health issues. There are so many factors that play a role in one’s health, including nutrient deficiencies, gut health, inflammation, hormonal imbalances and food sensitivities… to name a few!
Functional nutrition takes a systems-based approach, recognizing that different body systems and processes are all pieces of the same puzzle. Rather than focusing solely on a specific symptom or organ, functional nutritionists consider the whole person.
Food as medicine
A functional nutritionist places a strong emphasis on the healing properties of whole, nutrient-dense foods! It recognizes that food is not only a source of energy, but specific foods like herbs, spices, and nutrients serve as a powerful tool for promoting health and preventing disease.
Functional nutrition goes beyond diet and nutrition alone and recognizes the impact of lifestyle factors on overall health. It emphasizes the importance of sleep, stress management, physical activity, environmental influences, and other lifestyle factors in promoting wellness!
Benefits of working with a functional nutritionist
Improved overall health and well-being
Functional nutritionists take a holistic approach to health, considering the interconnectedness of various body systems. By addressing underlying imbalances and deficiencies, they help individuals achieve improved overall health and well-being. Rather than focusing solely on symptom management, functional nutritionists aim to optimize the body’s functioning.
Prevention and management of chronic diseases
Functional nutritionists play a crucial role in the prevention and management of chronic diseases. They understand that many health conditions stem from imbalances within the body, such as inflammation, hormonal disruptions, or impaired digestion. By identifying and addressing these underlying imbalances through targeted dietary and lifestyle interventions, functional nutritionists can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.
Enhanced energy levels and vitality
Many individuals struggle with persistent fatigue and low energy levels, which can significantly impact their quality of life. Functional nutritionists recognize that energy levels are influenced by a variety of factors, including nutrient deficiencies, adrenal health, sleep patterns, and stress levels. By assessing these factors and designing personalized nutrition plans, functional nutritionists can help individuals regain their energy and experience enhanced vitality.
Optimal digestion and gut health
The health of the digestive system plays a vital role in overall well-being. Functional nutritionists understand the intricate connection between gut health, nutrient absorption, and the immune system. They can help individuals address digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome by identifying trigger foods, improving gut microbial balance, and supporting digestive function through targeted dietary recommendations and supplements. By optimizing digestion and gut health, individuals can experience improved nutrient absorption, reduced inflammation, and enhanced overall health.
To sum it up: What is a functional nutritionist?
A functional nutritionist is a healthcare professional who approaches nutrition from a holistic and personalized perspective. Unlike conventional dietitians or nutritionists, functional nutritionists focus on identifying and addressing the underlying root causes of health imbalances rather than just treating symptoms.
Whether you’re seeking to address chronic health issues, optimize your nutrition, or enhance your overall well-being, adding a functional nutritionist to your healthcare team can be a valuable step towards achieving optimal health!