What is Functional Nutrition and How Can It Improve Your Health?

Food is fuel: it is what your body needs to power all daily functions. However, not all food is created equal. Not all bodies are able to process food the same. Due to factors such as age, gender, lifestyle and genetic individuality, each person needs different things from their diet. Functional nutrition takes a whole body approach to diet, considering these needs and creating personalized recommendations. 

How Does Functional Nutrition Differ From Standard Nutrition? 

The field of nutrition can be very overwhelming: fad diets, contradicting concepts, and unsolicited advice from unqualified friends and family members. It’s no wonder that many feel lost and discouraged when trying to determine what their dietary needs are. In a standard approach to nutrition, the focus is placed on nutritional facts, such as a particular food or food group’s ability to promote or damage health. In many instances, food is labeled “good” or “bad”. 

 While the nutritional facts of a food or food group are taken into consideration in functional nutrition, diet is looked at in context with additional factors. For instance, lifestyle, activity levels, age, gender, genetics, and current health concerns are all taken into consideration when developing a functional nutrition plan. 

In addition, functional nutrition looks at food beyond just a means to fuel the body. In functional nutrition, food is medicine. Functional providers will look at current ailments or concerns and tailor the diet to help correct any issues. Because functional nutrition is a component of functional medicine, it looks at solving the root problem rather than alleviating symptoms. A functional provider can help identify nutritional deficiencies and insufficiencies that could be negatively impacting your health.

What are the Key Elements of a Functional Nutrition Based Diet? 

Because of the individualized approach to functional nutrition, no two diet plans are the same. However, there are some elements that remain consistent in all functional nutrition practices. 

Emphasis on real, whole foods 

Whole foods encompass vegetables, fruits, legumes, animal products, and whole grains with minimal processing. It is to separate all foods into two groups, processed and unprocessed, as most foods have undergone some level of processing to be fit for our consumption, such as washing, chopping, drying, freezing, or canning. However, the amount of processing that the food undergoes does impact the quality in terms of nutrition. With increased levels of processing, the likelihood that less-beneficial ingredients such as fat, salt, and sugar are added goes up, and the amount of vitamins and minerals present goes down. A US-led National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 90% of added sugars in our Western diet come from ultra-processed foods. 

By making an effort to avoid processed foods, functional nutrition allows more whole foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals to be included in the diet. 

Repairing and maintaining gut microbiome 

Gut health, or the function and balance of health bacteria in your intestines, is essential for overall health. These bacteria are what is responsible for properly breaking down foods, and if they are not correctly balanced your body could be missing out on important vitamins and nutrients. In addition, poor gut health can lead to issues such as leaky gut, bloating, gas, indigestion, brain fog, and chronic inflammation. Functional nutrition will work to repair and maintain gut health by incorporating plenty of fiber, water, and activity levels into your nutritional plan. 

Supporting a healthy lifestyle off of the plate 

A lot can impact how your body breaks down food and uses the nutrients from it. Stress levels, exercise, and sleep patterns can all affect the way your body processes and assimilates the food you eat. A functional provider will work with you to establish healthy habits in other areas of your life to ensure that your body is feeling its best. 

How Will Functional Nutrition Benefit Me?

Functional nutrition takes a personalized approach to diet. It will look at you as a whole being, rather than just devising a way for you to lose weight or alleviate a symptom. By working with a functional provider you will be able to understand how different food groups interact, what your body needs to function its best, and understand how all the different systems in the human body affect each other. While changes from functional nutrition will not happen overnight and will require consistency and diligence, you will be able to see the impacts beyond just your waistline. 

Consult With the Functional Nutrition Experts at Personal Healthcare Providers 

If you’re interested in beginning your functional nutrition journey, let the team at Personal Healthcare Providers help. We have over a decade of experience in the functional medicine field and are passionate about providing our patients with a holistic, personalized approach. Call us today for a consultation!