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Exploring the New Era of Personalized Functional Nutrition

11/24/17 4:00 PM



What if you could send messages and instructions to help repair and heal your cells by the foods that you eat? And what if through dietary and lifestyle changes you could decrease and alleviate many of your chronic symptoms and need for medications? A personalized functional nutrition plan constitutes a foundation for good health by identifying how food can be impacting your health or contributing to the development of chronic disease.


In today’s world, nutrition-related messages received through the media, internet, and celebrity endorsements can be confusing and overwhelming.  The overall definition of health and the pillars of a healthy eating plan have been controversial.  Many health care practitioners are flooded with questions from their patients. Should I avoid gluten and grains?  Are eggs a healthy source of protein or a risk to high cholesterol and cardiovascular health?  Which protein powder is best?  Is coconut (oil) an acceptable form of saturated fat?  The truth is only 25% of medical schools require taking a nutrition course and of those schools, students only receive an average of less than 20 hours of nutrition instruction over four years of medical school.  Additionally, in a recent survey, results show that less than 25 percent of physicians feel they have adequate training to discuss nutrition and lifestyle choices with their patients apart from not having ample time to address such concerns (Bernstein, 2014).


Faced with the growing obesity and diabetes epidemic, aka “the plaque of the 21st century” the ability to confidently counsel patients on nutritional and lifestyle interventions has gained added importance!  Enter personalized functional nutrition.  Functional nutrition recognizes that each individual has unique metabolic and physiologic needs, has different body composition considerations as well as genetic and familial trends.  Functional nutrition identifies a person as a whole and does not isolate one problem or illness.


Functional Nutrition Fundamentals (Institute for Functional Medicine)

  • Fundamentally, food is a source of fuel or energy which is necessary for existence. But food can also provide a sense of connection to something else -i.e. pleasure and celebration


  • Food is information. Food has a profound impact on physiology. Food is information carrying detailed instructions for every gene and cell in your body- helping to renew and repair or to be harmed and debilitated. Food relays messages within the digestive system and metabolic processes.  Specific foods and combinations of foods can help to reduce inflammation, lower insulin and blood sugar levels, support detoxification pathways, improve body composition and improve cellular energy production.  Conversely, food choices can also, increase inflammation and blood sugar, increase fat storage, and adversely affect cellular signaling and energy, hormonal balance and detoxification


  • Food is connection. The reasons why we choose and crave or seek certain foods aren’t always driven by knowledge of healthy food choices or logic.  The smell, taste and texture of food can stir up connections and often memories of fun times spent with people and loved ones or pleasurable events. Think grandma’s homemade German potato salad,  the State Fair Pizza Fritte or movie theater popcorn.


Food is medicine.  By recognizing the way(s) in which food choices may contribute to the underlying causes of disease, health care practitioners can modify nutrition and lifestyle to educate an individual and help them towards achieving their greatest state of health and healing.


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Written by Laura Kirkpatrick, PT.

Laura Kirkpatrick, PT is contributing author to our blog. She is a Physical Therapist with a Postgraduate certificate in Nutrition.

Topics: nutrition