There’s a new buzzword in the health and wellness arena. Have you heard it?
I’m talking about the word functional.
Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition are popping up on keyword searches across the country, both online and offline, as patients become more educated (and curious) about their own health. But the functional approach is not a fleeting fad. It’s an approach that’s revolutionizing patient care and client compliance.
What does it mean to be functional? Let’s take a deeper look.
Functional Medicine is a term that refers to addressing the root cause of health conditions rather than simply treating symptoms. In order to work this way, a functional medicine doctor will take into account a person’s lifelong health history as well as their life story. In other words, a functional practitioner isn’t just looking at what the diagnosis is, but also who this person is, and how the diagnosis is showing up. When you think about how the same diagnosis can manifest differently for different people, you see the benefit of the functional approach to medicine.
Functional Nutrition is complimentary to and relies on some of the same principles as Functional Medicine. Both strive for root-cause resolution of health issues. We use some of the same frameworks for understanding root causes of symptoms. In Functional Nutrition we also look at a client’s health history and significant life events so that we have a complete picture of who this person is.
Unlike a functional doctor, the role of the functional nutrition practitioner is never to diagnose, treat, or prescribe. That’s outside our scope of practice.
According to my mentor, functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama, the role of the functional nutrition professional is to…
understand the whole person
address the terrain within which those signs, symptoms or diagnosis manifested
educate the patient on why their health challenges arose and on how to take back control of their own health
and to use a specific skill set to fill the GAP that exists between the physician and the patient
As a certified Functional Nutrition and Lifestyle Practitioner I aim to fill the gap between what happens at the doctor’s office and what happens at home. For example, a patient may get diagnosed with an autoimmune condition by their doctor, but may not be offered any support or education for understanding the implications of autoimmunity for their health or lifestyle. As an FNLP, I can step into the role of educating the patient about how their food affects their physiology (hello inflammation!), how to manage symptoms, and how to create new health-supportive habits in the context of their unique lifestyle.
In other words, I’ve been trained to speak the language of both doctor and patient in order to bridge the gap, creating a therapeutic partnership, so that both doctor and patient can feel heard and experience the best results possible.