Functional Nutrition Info From A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

You may have heard about Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition being helpful in healing your thyroid, adrenal and gut issues but you’re not quite sure what they are and who you should be getting this info from. Don’t worry. I’ve got you. Read on to get a better understanding.

First it’s important to understand the difference between the functional versus traditional approach to your healing and how the functional aproach can be the key you need to unlock the health you’re after.

What is Functional Medicine?

Summed up, it’s a systems biology approach dependent on a collaborative partnership between practitioner and patient working together to identify and address the root cause of disease. 

The main characteristics are:

  • It’s patient focused and centered
  • Looks at treating the root causes of disease versus just treating the symptoms
  • Healthcare provider and patient are collaborators in the choice of treatment course
  • Evaluates clinical imbalances within biological systems to determine disease cause

When I was working on healing my thyroid, adrenals and gut I sought out functional medicine practitioners because I knew that they looked at the root causes versus the symptoms of disease. I’ve worked with several over the years and have learned something from each one.

What is Functional Nutrition?

Functional nutrition is a form of functional medicine. It focuses on food as medicine. The main characteristics are:

  • Focus on eating high quality, whole, foods to provide a diverse range of nutrients
  • Nutrition is individualized to the person to address underlying root cause of imbalance
  • The whole person is considered including mind, body and spirit which all have an impact on health. These include:
    • Movement
    • Spiritual practice
    • Relationships

This approach differs from traditional nutrition interventions which are prescribed based on the disease or symptom versus the individuals reason for having that disease or symptom.

An example is a person who has constipation and was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-C). In a traditional approach the person would be instructed to eat a low FODMAP diet and told to drink a lot of water and to avoid foods that worsen constipation like dairy. Not much goes into the why the person has constipation if it didn’t show up on traditional tests like a colonoscopy.

In a functional nutrition approach we look for WHY that person is having IBS-C and work on fixing that root cause. This includes analyzing the person’s food intake, lifestyle, and health history as well as pertinent medical testing. Testing could include food sensitivity tests, stool testing to look for parasites, bacteria and viruses, blood tests and others. The treatment would be guided by the findings of these evaluations. 

So Who Provides Functional Nutrition Counseling?

There are lots of people who say they provide functional nutrition counseling but in my opinion the best option is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who has advanced training in Functional Nutrition is the best option (yes I’m biased). 

Besides my bias, here are some reasons working with a Functional RDN can improve your health. 

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist assesses a person’s nutritional needs in order to develop a nutrition program to help a person optimize their health and alleviate symptoms of their disease. They are credentialed to provide medical nutrition therapy which is defined as nutrition-based treatment provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists training includes a minimum of:

  • Completing a bachelor’s degree at a college accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE)
  • Completing 6-12 months work during a dietetic internship within a program that’s accredited by CADE. Work includes settings in patient care, research and food service
  • Passing an extensive national certification exam
  • Maintaining certification through 75 continuing education credits every 5 years

My training to become an RDN took 5 years not including my Master’s degree and training in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. That added an extra 5 years.

A functional nutrition RDN takes advanced training/certification in Integrative and functional Nutrition. The training I took through Next Level Functional Nutrition included: 

  • Lab assessments through functional medicine lens
  • Nutrigenomics including MTHFR
  • IFMNT aspects of thyroid health
  • Women’s hormone balance through nutritional support
  • How to use vitamin, herbal and other dietary supplements responsibly
  • Advanced GI health support
  • And much, much more.

My certificate took a total of 2 years to complete. It was well worth the time and money.

There are other folks who provide functional nutrition counseling including functional  nutritionists, holistic nutritionists and just plain nutritionists. Remember that the term “nutritionist” isn’t regulated and anyone can call themselves a nutritionist without punishment. This means that they may have little to no training so make sure to check on their credentials.

I’m not knocking anyone who has the right training and experience to give advice but want to make you aware of the difference between an RDN with training in Functional nutrition and somebody calling themselves a “nutritionist”.

Functional Nutrition is not a regulated term and anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Did you know that? Terms that are regulated are Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and medical nutrition therapy (MNT). Only folks with the training I described above can call themselves RDN’s.

Benefits Of Working With And Getting Information From A Functional RDN

As a consumer you want to make sure you’re getting the best information for your unique situation to optimize your health. Nobody can guarantee results but by working with and getting information from a functional RDN you know that that person has:

  • A science backed education in nutrition, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physiology, anatomy, counseling, etc. which will help them formulate a realistic, helpful nutrition plan for you to meet your goals
  • Extensive training and commitment to education so they have lots of tools to get you the results you want
  • An understanding of how to work with and support you to overcome any obstacles

So the next time you hear nutrition info from somebody make sure you understand their qualifications before trying that new diet or buying more supplements.

Want more information and support for healing? Reach out to me by email or on Instagram and let me know how I can help. Also join my private Facebook group Thyroid, Adrenal and Gut Healing for Women

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