What Is Functional Nutrition? – What You Need To Know

Nutrition as a concept includes a lot of different theories, ideas, and beliefs. This can make it hard to keep up with what is true, false, or the newest trend. 

What Is Functional Nutrition - What You Need To Know

As nutrition science keeps adapting, there are many nutrition principles to choose from. Popular include intermittent fasting, Keto, and veganism. Functional Nutrition is another example, a concept that focuses on bio-individuality. 

Bio-individuality is the notion that no one ‘best’ diet plan works for everyone. The lifestyle practices and food that you consume should be different from other people. You can nourish your body better by listening to what it wants and needs.

You’ll find out more about Functional Nutrition in this post, including how it’s different from regular nutrition, its pros and cons, and how to practice functional nutrition in your day-to-day life. 

Functional Nutrition – The Basics

Functional Nutrition is a holistic nutrition outlook to living a healthier lifestyle. Essentially, it involves nutrition catered to the individual person, looking at living conditions, food, functional activity, and mental health. 

The approach also aims to look at prevention methods that target the primary cause of health issues, instead of simply curing surface symptoms.

Functional Nutrition heals the body’s imbalances by using lifestyle, food, and supplements to restore healthy function.

This outlook understands that being healthy doesn’t just involve being disease-free, but living in an energetic state of vitality. 

Functional Nutrition is related to the concept of functional medicine. This is a method that aims to prevent and treat disease.

Every person has a unique mental and physical makeup that requires different lifestyles and dietary practices. If you and another person live with the same disease, the best treatment for you won’t necessarily work for the other patient. 

Instead of simply prescribing medication and checking in with you later, functional medicine (see also: What Is Functional Medicine? – The Ultimate Guide)looks at why you first developed these symptoms. 

A doctor would aim to establish whether poor sleep, stress, or inadequate nutrition led to your symptoms. They would aim to address these underlying causes, instead of simply treating these symptoms on the surface. 

The same ideas that relate to functional medicine matter nutrition-wise too. Functional nutrition, like functional medicine, is a personalized well-being approach.

The practice involves using food as a treatment, primarily to help people become healthier overall. 

This is why it’s important to understand what nutrition plan is best for you, so you can start living more healthily. 

How Is Functional Nutrition Different From Regular Nutrition?

Regular nutrition often looks at facts, like a food’s capability to impair or promote well-being. 

Functional nutrition also addresses these details, but it also takes into account a person’s individual makeup and the way they live. This includes their activity level, stress level, and the extent of personal relationships. 

In essence, even though a certain food may be thought of as ‘healthy’, this doesn’t mean that the food is good for you.

Functional nutrition rejects the ‘one-size-all’ approach to nutrition in favor of an individual perspective. 

How Does Functional Nutrition Work?

Now that you know more about functional nutrition, let’s look at how the practice works. As mentioned above, functional nutrition is related to functional medicine. 

Say a person goes to their doctor with gastrointestinal symptoms, like bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pains. A regular dietician may recommend a certain meal plan, but a functional medicine nutrition would carry out more tests. 

They may look at labwork or run food sensitivity tests to find out how your personal system works. The dietician will then use the work to see how your body handles particular foods.

These tests can pin down what ingredients or foods have led to these negative symptoms. 

A function medicine dietician may also test for mineral and vitamin deficiencies that may have caused these symptoms. 

A functional medicine nutritionist may suggest an elimination diet. This method involves removing particular foods from your diet for a particular amount of time. The aim is to figure out if the product has caused your health problems. 

Depending on your practitioner, the functional medicine dietician may recommend foods or supplements. These may restore any vitamin or mineral levels that could be absent from your diet. 

After your functional medicine practitioner has found the best diet plan for you, they may advise looking into other lifestyle factors. 

Activity level, stress, sleep, and other elements can affect when and how your symptoms show up. Functional nutrition aims to tackle these components too. 

Getting more activity and sleep, while also lowering stress levels, may have as large of an effect on your condition as the food you eat. 

Functional Nutrition Vs Regular Nutrition

Functional nutrition can lead to better well-being, particularly for anyone that still experiences symptoms despite following regular nutrition advice. 

For instance, someone may have increased their activity level and eaten healthier foods, but have continued to put on weight. 

A regular nutrition approach may conclude that the person is following the right advice. A functional nutrition approach understands that other factors may have caused the weight gain(see also: Can Uterine Fibroids Cause Weight Gain?). 

Hormone imbalances, high-stress levels, and an underactive thyroid are all possible explanations for weight gain.   

To compare the two approaches, here are the advantages and disadvantages (see also: The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Complementary Medicine)of both regular and functional nutrition:

Advantages Of Functional Nutrition

  • Personalized to meet the individual’s unique requirements.
  • Dietary options are clarified by a practician that understands your health history and lifestyle. 
  • Views food that you’re consuming in account of your lifestyle. This ensures that the person is nourishing their system effectively. 

Disadvantages Of Functional Nutrition

  • Based on the practician or expert you obtain functional nutrition information from, the outlook could cost more than visiting a regular dietician.

Advantages Of Regular Nutrition

  • Based on the practician or expert you see, the visit may cost less, particularly if you want general nutritional advice. 

Disadvantages Of Regular Nutrition

  • Some factors can make practicing regular nutrition advice more difficult. This includes food sensitivities to any recommended foods, the practician not knowing your personal health history, and not ruling out the primary cause behind certain symptoms. 

Practicing Functional Nutrition

Practicing Functional Nutrition

Following functional nutrition involves making daily nutritional choices with the health practice in mind. 

If you want to practice functional nutrition yourself, here are some significant things to be mindful of:

Eating Whole, Real Food

Optimal well-being is related to obtaining essential vitamins and nutrients from whole foods. These include whole grains, high-quality protein, healthy fat, fruit, and vegetables. 

Looking After Your Gut

Your gut is home to over 70% of your immune system, so you’ll ensure your food and lifestyle practices support your gut environment. 

Eating lots of processed foods can impair your gut lining, which can cause lots of symptoms. These include inflammation, brain fog, gas, bloating, and indigestion. 

On the other hand, keeping hydrated, staying active, and eating lots of fiber can help you look after your gut. 

Lifestyle Changes Outside Of Food

Though food is important, other parts of your life affect how your body processes and digests the things you consume. 

If you have high-stress levels and don’t sleep enough, your body won’t be primed to use any nutrients that you give it. 

Poor sleep and stress can make you reach for high-sugar foods as well. These may lead to a ‘feel good’ sensation, but can lead to energy and mood crashes later on. 

As you look at your lifestyle factors outside of food, functional nutrition can help you make nutritional decisions that suit your health circumstances. 

Final Thoughts

Functional Nutrition is a health practice that focuses on each individual person’s needs. 

Two people may experience the same symptoms but may have entirely different nutrition requirements.

Instead of following general health advice, Functional Nutrition involves personalized care to figure out what is the best diet plan for you. 

We hope that you consider making Functional Nutrition part of your lifestyle!

Clare McAfee
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