Functional nutritionist services in Seattle have been getting more and more popular over the last few years, and for a good reason. You may have encountered the term “functional nutrition” but don’t have the slightest idea what it exactly means. In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into what functional nutrition is, what a functional nutritionist does, as well as significant aspects connected to the practice such as benefits, costs, and its importance to your health.
These five key characteristics can generally sum up functional nutrition:
- It focuses on the individual patient rather than the disease, with the goal of maintaining overall good health beyond the elimination and prevention of disease.
- It’s the job of the functional nutritionist to evaluate clinical imbalances within the patient’s body and identify points that reveal the root cause of a disease or dysfunction.
- The objective is to treat the root cause and promote natural healing instead of treating symptoms to provide temporary relief.
- Lifestyle changes are given great importance in the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases.
- The practitioner works together with a patient to set and achieve actionable health goals.
While standard nutrition focuses on the nutritional facts, such as the benefits and detriments of a certain food group, functional nutrition looks at these facts through the patient’s physiological makeup, lifestyle, and stress level.
What is a Functional Nutritionist?
A functional nutritionist is a medical practitioner who takes a holistic approach to health by reviewing the patient’s food choices, eating habits, physical activities, sleep, stress levels, and toxic environmental factors to diminish the risk of chronic health issues. By focusing on all of these components, functional nutritionists can use a combination of scientific data, clinical expertise, and nutrition tools to encourage lifestyle change and correct the root cause of the disease.
The practice of functional nutritionists is centered on the patient. It focuses on the seven biological systems of the Functional Medicine Matrix (FMM) that can repair the damage caused by illness:
- Assimilation – Involves the body’s digestion, absorption, and respiration, as well as the gut biome.
- Biotransformation & Elimination – Involves toxicity and detoxification.
- Defense & Repair – Refers to the immune system and its interaction with the body’s repair systems.
- Structural Integrity – Focuses on the integrity of subcellular membranes to the musculoskeletal structure.
- Communication – Involves the entire body hormone system, including neuroendocrine, neurohormonal, and neuroimmunological systems.
- Energy – Deals mainly with energy regulation and mitochondrial function.
- Transport – Involves the transport of nutrition, hormones, and enzymatic factors within the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems.
Functional nutritionists go by the phrase “Let thy food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food”, often ascribed to the great Greek physician Hippocrates. They take a functional approach and emphasize the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle to correct the patient’s imbalances.
By analyzing the patient as a whole, the practitioner can provide a deeper approach that incorporates all the seven systems of the FMM to determine the actual cause of the condition. This assessment determines the course of the treatment.
What Does A Functional Nutritionist Do?
A functional nutritionist can have an array of responsibilities, depending on his or her credentials. One can work in private practice or join a clinic with other practitioners. One can also work at a corporation or hospital, as a nutrition professor or teacher, or as a research scientist to provide field-specific expertise.
Whatever occupation is chosen, a functional nutritionist is required to become proficient in the following:
- A whole-body approach to healing
- Root cause analysis
- Therapeutic elimination diet programs
- Both conventional and diagnostic labs
- Dietary supplements
- Mind-body modalities that support behavioral change (meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, etc.)
How Functional Nutrition Works
Now that we have a basic understanding of functional nutrition, let’s take a look at how it works. Functional nutrition is all about balance, with its principal objective to figure out what is out of order in the body and apply methods that restore balance. It focuses on two main things, patient-centered care and a science-based approach.
Functional medicine emphasizes patient-centered care and understanding the person holistically. A thorough evaluation of the patient’s medical history, lifestyle, and diet is important. Using holistic analysis, practitioners can personalize the treatment to address the individual needs of the patient.
The practice also uses a science-based approach that takes a more in-depth look at the patient’s medical history, physiology, and psychology, to get to the root causes of the illness.
Advantages of Seeing a Functional Nutritionist
Functional nutritionists provide patients with more advantages compared to conventional medicine. Among these are a personalized focus, broad-based approach, natural healing protocols, and root causes.
The practice of functional medicine focuses on the individual needs of the patient. The practitioner examines the patient’s unique history, lifestyle, environment, and other underlying factors before coming up with a personalized health program to restore and maintain good health.
Another edge of this practice is that it combines traditional medicine with a wide range of alternative treatment options. While functional nutritionists recognize the strengths of conventional medicine to treat serious diseases, they also recognize its limitations. Unlike traditional physicians, functional medicine practitioners utilize different alternative healing approaches to help their patients’ recovery from chronic conditions. With the combination of various healing approaches and paying special attention to diet, nutrition, exercise, and mental health, functional medicine can provide patients with the tools needed to reach sustainable wellness.
Natural Healing Protocols
Unlike the disease-focused model of conventional medicine, the functional approach provides better and more natural healing protocols. Practitioners utilize various factors, such as lifestyle, diet, exercise, nutrition, supplements, and stress reduction, to improve organ function, prevent illness, and maintain vibrancy and overall well-being.
Focused on Root Causes
In conventional medicine, practitioners make a diagnosis and apply medicine to treat that specific diagnosis. In functional medicine, practitioners are more concerned about the root cause of the imbalance or dysfunction. The root causes are the mechanisms of an illness, which are often overlooked in conventional treatments. Functional medicine practitioners aim to address these root causes to provide patients with sustainable and long-lasting solutions.
Just to be balanced, let’s take a look at the “cons” of functional nutrition, which are not disadvantages, but just some minor changes and inconveniences.
If you are conditioned to quick prescriptions and “first aid” solutions, functional medicine might be something novel to you. Functional practitioners aim to have a strong patient-physician relationship to analyze and identify your source of dysfunction. This will require changes in lifestyle, which include giving up certain foods and developing an exercise routine, which can be a tad inconvenient in the beginning.
The cost of seeing a functional medicine practitioner can appear higher than your average physician. The main disadvantage is that functional medicine generally isn’t covered by regular insurance. However, that’s not the entire story. Most patients have high deductible insurance, and insurance providers won’t cover anything until spending a certain amount. It is always best to contact your insurance provider to confirm.
It’s natural to have doubts if functional medicine is “real” medicine or if this approach effectively treats your condition. While there’s always a risk in anything new, functional medicine practitioners are actual doctors with advanced training to back their expertise. Their recommendations are based on years of study and practice in treating patients.
Typically, one-hour initial consultation with a registered functional nutritionist can cost about $100 to $200 on average. Costs can increase if the practitioner comes to your home. A follow-up appointment could cost $50 to $100, depending on the nutritionist. Most functional medicine providers offer monthly coaching packages.
Several factors determine how much a nutritionist charges. For example, their degree of education or certification can affect their pricing. The price also depends on whether it would be a one-time session or an ongoing session. Recurring sessions typically cost less than the first session.
Another significant factor that can affect the cost is the nutritionist’s reputation and location. If the nutritionist is experienced and well-known, they may charge higher than newer practitioners. Those who have more advanced training can also charge more. Geographically speaking, practitioners located in a larger city or somewhere with a higher cost of living often charge higher rates.
Functional medicine is a particular approach to treating illnesses and preventing disease by discovering the main source of health issues. However, instead of settling with a diagnosis and merely treating the symptoms, a functional medicine consultant gets to the root causes. An in-depth assessment is required to analyze all of the body systems and evaluate the body’s condition.
Functional nutrition is an integral part of functional medicine. It uses food as a natural medicine to help complete nutrient deficiencies, restore balance, heal the body, and protect it from diseases.
One advantage of seeing a functional nutrition practitioner is they can recognize nutrient deficiencies and help you correct them since that’s their field of expertise. Consulting a certified functional nutritionist or dietician can help you spot what you may be lacking in your daily food intake, even if you think you’re following a healthy diet. If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, a functional medicine practitioner may help you develop a personalized health regimen.
A good functional nutritionist will not only help you change to a healthier diet, but they will also help you to maintain a good relationship with food. They encourage healthy eating behaviors and sustainable lifestyles. They give maintenance strategies such as mindful eating, journaling, assisted grocery shopping, and accountability. Aside from educating you on food and nutrition, practitioners can also help you boost your self-confidence, improve your body image, and maintain a sound mind.
At its essence, functional nutrition is a philosophy that encourages food as medicine to prevent and diminish illnesses caused by unhealthy diets and lifestyles. By focusing on the root cause of dysfunction, functional nutritionists can promote healing instead of simply providing “first aid” remedies.
Have you struggled with diet-related symptoms such as constant fatigue, brain fog, burnout, abnormal weight gain or weight loss, depression, or anxiety, but your conventional physician says everything is normal?
- Do you suspect thyroid issues but have been told everything is ok?
- Do you feel something isn’t right, but all your blood work from your doctors comes back “normal”?
- Do you experience chronic constipation, bloating, or belly discomfort but are unsure of the causes?
- Do you feel like your healthcare practitioners do not hear you?
- Do you wonder how food, diet, and exercise can make you feel better?
Then it’s time for you to take action and try functional nutrition.