Functional Nutrition Blog

Focusing on gut health and Functional nutrition

What the Heck is Functional Nutrition Anyway

Jan 31, 2020 | Nutrition


There are so many “buzz words” getting thrown around today that make things seem more important or impressive than they actually are.

  • Free Range
  • All Natural
  • Integrative
  • Holistic
  • Paleo/Keto/Fat Free/Sugar Free (don’t get me started here…)
  • Cage Free

And listen! It’s not like these things aren’t real. They are. They can also just be abused or thrown around in such a casual manner that their meaning starts to get lost in translation. “Integrative and Functional” nutrition or medicine is one of these things. When I tell folks this is the field of nutrition I practice in it’s always followed up with, “what does that even mean” (or total disinterest altogether…which is sometimes preferable…)

So are doctors and dietitians just throwing in extra adjectives to make themselves sound more important or is there a reason for the clarification and differentiation? I have tossed around the idea of omitting this distinction when I explain what I do because I worry sometimes that it can sound pretentious – but I realized that it IS an important distinction and the difference means something to me…and it should to you too!

The Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy (IFNA) defines it this way:

“Integrative and Functional Nutrition (IFN) therapy is a leading-edge, evidence-based, systems biology approach to patient care that focuses on identifying root causes and imbalances to significantly improve patient health outcomes.”

Okay. Cool. I have earned my credential though this incredible program and I agree with this definition. But again, what does that mean?

I have best heard Integrative and Functional Nutrition (IFN) described as working to put the body in a place where it knows how to heal itself. One more time…

Working with a patient to figure out what needs to come out, what needs to be added in, and what lifestyle changes need to be altered in order to give the body space to heal itself.

Did you know that your body can do that?


So when I say “I am an Integrative and Functional Registered Dietitian” what I mean is that I am going to try to sort out the WHY behind what you are feeling or experiencing. Rather than just treating something on a surface level, or giving a more general guideline, I want to try to figure out WHY those things are surfacing in the first place.

So instead of putting a bandaid on a cut, I want to find that annoying sharp thing under the table that keeps cutting everyone in the family (and their guests) but everyone always ignores (does anyone else have a table or chair like that in their house…) and get rid of THAT so the bandaid doesn’t become necessary.

So, you sit down with a dietitian who practices IFN. What does that look like?

Obviously (and maybe the most important point here) is that it depends on what YOU walk in the door with. It is likely that some different types of tests will be run to help gain some clarity on where to start digging. For me, this usually means micronutrient testing, food inflammation testing, and/or stool sample testing. These are not conventional tests that we typically have access to at our regular doctor appointments.

As you might assume, when you are working with a dietitian of any variety you should expect to have your food altered in some way (otherwise you probably wouldn’t seek out a nutrition specialist). So yea, this might end up being some type of “diet”. Elimination and reintroduction protocols can be critical, especially when we are talking about gut health and immunity. The important and often missing link here is that these “diets” are not meant to be a forever thing. They are meant to heal. And then a transition into healthy eating should be initiated.

Any other testing that might be suggested will be in an effort to identify missing links that are playing a role in the body’s inability to maintain health. This could be heavy metal testing, micronutrient testing, stool samples, thyroid panels, testing for toxins, or genetic testing. The interesting thing is that most of these tests are not going to lead to any type of diagnosis. Which is the difference isn’t it. Functional nutrition (and medicine) is not about finding a diagnosis – it’s just about identifying where the holes are, how they became holes in the first place, and figuring out what needs to be changed to patch the hole and prevent it from occurring in the future.

If you are reading this and realizing that these are the words that your mind has been trying to match up with the feelings you’ve been having about your current health care – then you really need to consider reaching out in this direction. If you want to be heard, understood, not made to feel like you’re going crazy or making things up, and truly want to heal – then you want functional nutrition in your life.

Here is a link to dietitians all over the country who are certified in Integrative and Functional Nutrition – find one who works near you or does virtual work like I do.

OF course – I am more than happy to chat and see if what you are looking for and what I offer is a good match and you can access the ability to schedule a free time to talk about this with the button below.

Either way, it is important to know that you deserve to be in charge of your own health. Above all else, working with someone who will empower to you to be able to do that is absolutely necessary.

Cheers to your health!

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