Functional integrative nutrition is a type of nutrition therapy which incorporates many aspects of biology and wellness into holistic healing.
By assessing the many interrelationships that exist between diet, lifestyle, environment, and biological systems, a nutritionist or dietician is able to target specific disorders and promote optimal whole-body function through diet and lifestyle influences.
What is Being Integrated?
Functional integrative nutrition incorporates aspects of mind, body, and spirit into its practice. This means that a nutritionist or dietician is looking at more than diet. Integrated aspects include- lifestyle, stress levels, inflammation levels, medical history, and even meaningful relationships amongst many others. This allows for a deeper understanding of the needs of the individual as opposed to simply following recommended dietary guidelines.
Additionally, a dietician or nutritionist trained in functional integrative nutrition incorporates knowledge of systems biology into their thinking and practice (1). Systems biology is a branch of science specializing in the interrelationships between many body systems. Systems studied include digestive, cardiovascular, nervous, respiratory, immune, and genetic predispositions. Deep understanding of biological systems and of the role that nutrient availability has on optimal function then allows for more targeted nutrition therapies.
Principles of systems biology also provide a foundation for other branches of science including integrative and functional medicine. Nutrition is the driving force for targeted therapies in both integrative and functional medicine. This therefore makes functional integrative nutrition an advanced clinical specialty.
Why is it better?
The current focus of conventional medical practices deals with the treatment of acute disorders and conditions, that is, life-threatening. But how do we get to that point?
Functional integrative nutrition represents a form of preventative medicine developed to combat the alarming levels of chronic diseases and to prevent individuals from “getting to that point.” The incidences of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer are growing with each passing year. Yet, the current medical model focuses on treating those conditions once they have reached a breaking point (heart attacks, organ failure, metastasis), but not in preventing it. What all these chronic conditions have in common is how they get to “that point,” through unhealthy diets, lifestyles, and alarming levels of stress.
This is where functional integrative nutrition really takes the gold. The focus of this practice incorporates knowledge of the chronic disease epidemic including their pathophysiology and nutritional influences.
How is it different from conventional Nutrition?
Conventional dietary guidelines released by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) are stained by the influences of big corporations whose main interest is to sell for more. Examples of these “stained guidelines” includes MyPyramid which was a dietary guideline heavily used by food companies to disguise their products as “healthy,” and “part of your daily nutrition.” Joshua Rosenthal, author of the book “Integrative Nutrition: A Whole-Life Approach to Health and Happiness”, points out in his book the great influence that the food industry has over the USDA and the dietary guidelines they support (2). The current system supports the development of chronic diseases; however, it does not help prevent it.
This broken system highlights the need for trained nutritionist and dieticians whose best interest is in their patient/client and not making sales. These individuals have an understanding of the biochemical processes and metabolic functions of the body, including specific organs and tissues and their nutrient dependency. In this practice, the state of wellness of the individual, not the reduction of symptoms, measures achievement (1).
Visit CORE to speak to our Functional Integrative Nutritionist or our other Nutritionists! Whether you are struggling with a disorder, weight, or just want to try something new, our nutritionists are here to help you.
- Noland, Diana. Dietetics and Integrative Medicine: Curriculum Development Model. University of Kansas Medical Center, 2016.
- Rosenthal, Joshua. Integrative Nutrition: a Whole-Life Approach to Health and Happiness. Institute for Integrative Nutrition, 2018.