FINDING THE RIGHT DIET
for you and your goals is tough territory to navigate, and everyone has an opinion about which one is best (which they then promote as loudly as possible on social media). Truth is, there is no one-diet-fits-all plan, since every single person has a different metabolism, genetic makeup, health history and goals. Enter functional nutrition.
NUTRITION JUNCTION, WHAT’S YOUR FUNCTION?
Functional nutrition is similar to functional medicine in that it involves more than just the treatment of apparent symptoms. “A functional medicine doctor looks at the big picture and evaluates the body as a whole to determine the root cause of [an issue],” says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, board-certified nutrition specialist in Los Angeles, creator of the Metabolic Factor program, and author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth (Fair Winds Press, 2017), adding that functional medicine focuses on issue prevention as well as treatment.
Functional nutritionists work much in the same way, and specialists evaluate an individual with a different perspective than the norm. “In conventional nutrition, you talk about the food pyramid and counting calories and low-fat versus high-fat — topics that are now considered old school,” says Kylene Bogden, MS, RDN, CSSD, NBA performance dietitian and functional-sports nutrition expert in Cleveland. “Instead, functional nutritionists individualize nutrition for each person to help his or her own body function optimally.”
EXAMINING THE WHOLE ENCHILADA
Let’s say you have a health woe. No matter how big or small it is, your body communicates its dissatisfaction by creating a symptom. For instance, a nutritional deficiency could show up as fatigue or poor recovery from workouts. “That symptom is how the body speaks, letting us know something is wrong,” says Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, integrative medicine dietitian in New York City and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Rather than just trying to shut off or block the expression of that symptom, functional nutritionist examine why the symptom exists, evaluate where the underlying imbalance occurs and determine how the body can be restored naturally in order to allow symptoms to resolve themselves. For example, a client who complains of extreme bloating: Conventional nutrition would likely advise her to eat fewer cruciferous vegetables and beans. Functional nutrition, however, takes a different tack. “I’d find out if she had a food sensitivity, if she’s making enough stomach acid, how balanced the microbes in her gut are and whether she could have a parasite or a small intestine bowel overgrowth,” Foroutan says.
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September - October 2019