Functional nutrition 101: everything you need to know
Functional nutrition is a philosophy that focuses on treating the whole patient rather than one specific disease. Here’s what nutrition professionals need to know about this practice and how to get a certification.
Alternative medicine has been practiced for centuries, but it’s becoming more mainstream as people seek to improve all aspects of their health, including physical, mental, and environmental.
As such, nutrition practices are shifting towards a more whole body approach to health. While this is not the case for all dietitians, those who practice functional nutrition emphasize whole and high quality foods, tailored supplements, and mental health to improve their client’s overall health and wellbeing.
But what is it, how can you get certified, and what do you need to know about this holistic approach? Let’s take a further look into this form of integrative medicine.
What is functional nutrition?
Functional nutrition practitioners take a holistic approach to diet and wellness, as they assess the entire body and evaluate environmental exposures, stress level, digestive problems, and activity levels. This allows healthcare professionals to create an individualized plan that promotes whole body health and wellness.
While functional nutrition may sound similar to holistic nutrition, they are slightly different. The latter focuses on treating each patient as a whole, whereas functional medicine and integrative healthcare seeks the underlying causes rather than treating the symptoms.
How to get a functional nutrition certification?
There are several routes for those interested in obtaining certification. The Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy offers three different options depending on your desired level of certification. These options include a selection of continuing education courses, a five part course with certification, or a five-part course and credentialing exam.
The Dietitians in Functional Medicine practice group through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also offers a five-part course. This program allows Registered Dietitian Nutritionists to learn more about functional health and how to implement their principles into their current practice.
For those interested in higher education, there are several universities that take a functional nutrition approach or offer certification in it.
TIP: Learning is a great way to become a nutrition expert. Find out 7 ways to help you be seen as a nutrition expert.
Who is functional nutrition beneficial for?
It is beneficial for anyone who is looking to improve their overall health. It can be particularly helpful for those who are experiencing digestive issues, chronic diseases, or are simply looking to prevent disease.
Research has shown that the gut microbiome, type 2 diabetes, obesity, general inflammation, and stress are directly correlated. Since nutrition and lifestyle changes plays a key role in improving and managing these conditions, it’s no wonder that people are turning towards functional medicine to improve their health.
Tip: Learn more about how to help your clients manage their gut microbiome in this article.
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What does a functional nutritional assessment include?
This assessment consists of three components: diet history, physical exam, and subjective symptoms.
- Diet history: This includes gathering information about your client’s eating patterns, and food preferences. This will be useful in identifying any potential nutrient deficiencies, or possible eating disorder tendencies.
- Physical exam: This includes vital signs like blood pressure, breathing rate, pulse rate, temperature, height, and weight.
- Subjective symptoms: Food sensitivity testing can be useful to determine if your client has any negative symptoms.
TIP: Conducting a quality nutrition assessment is the first step to assisting your client with their health goals. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating an organized and efficient nutrition assessment.
The benefits of functional nutrition over standard nutrition
Functional nutrition steps away from standardized recommendations to create a personal plan that will promote health.
In standard nutrition, specific diets are typically used to address a certain health condition. While these diets may work for many, they are not necessarily right for everyone. Functional dietitians recognize this and work to tailor each plan for the specific needs, nutritional status, and lifestyle preferences of each client.
Integrative and functional medicine has gained popularity over recent years, and for good reason. As people continue to seek optimal health, a more holistic approach to nutrition can have significant benefits. You can obtain a functional nutrition certification with the Dietitians in Functional Medicine practice group through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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