The role nutrition plays in your health and wellness
Food is the foundation to living a healthy life
Many of the health problems we see today are the result of weakness in the body’s physiological foundations, which are a direct result of poor nutrition. Nutrient-dense, real food has the power to make a positive impact on one’s health. Where we source our food and how we prepare the foods we eat are equally as important as what we eat. Everyone has unique dietary needs and preferences. By taking a bio-individual approach to nutrition we aim to restore good health with a food-first approach.
Food-first does not mean that only food will help one achieve optimal wellness. All of these areas play critical roles in how healthy we are:
- Proper digestion
- Optimal nutrient absorption
- Proper hydration
- Proper detoxification
- Lifestyle factors such as environment, sleep, stress, and movement
While food is the core foundation, functional nutrition aims to restore balance in all of these areas.
The problem with the modern diet
Many of us do not make the connection between nutrition, lifestyle habits, and health, but the truth is, eating a nutrient dense, properly prepared, whole foods diet can be the least expensive, least invasive, most effective, and most enjoyable approach to transforming one’s health.
Unfortunately, most Americans consume the “Standard American Diet” which is high in calories, high in processed oils and sugars, extremely inflammatory, and nutritionally poor. Besides that, the food we grow is also depleted of nutrients because the soil it’s grown in is also nutrient-poor. The animals we raise to consume are not being raised humanely, they are raised on foods that are foreign to their natural diets, they are loaded with medications and antibiotics, and raised in confined spaces, rather than allowed to roam free on the land. Exposure to environmental toxins can also increase nutritional deficiencies. All of this leads to a widespread problem in America of chronic nutrient deficiencies, blood sugar imbalances, inflammation, and a very long list of other chronic diseases.
It is crucial that we make the shift to consuming a more nutrient-dense diet.
Consuming a nutrient-dense, whole-food diet provides the body with the raw materials it needs (vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals) to begin healing, to avoid chronic disease and is our best protection against nutrient deficiencies. Basic nutrition is an important first step on the road to health.
Our ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio close to 1:1. Today, with an increase in consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, the average ratio of omegas is 20:1, leading to an increase in all inflammatory diseases.1
Let’s dive a little deeper
What exactly is Functional Nutrition?
Healthcare costs are on the rise. In our current society, most people see the doctor for virtually every health need they have. Fever? Go to the doctor. Sore throat? Go to the doctor. Skin rash? Go to the doctor. Gut issues? Go to the doctor. What if there was a different approach?
The majority of health problems that people go to the doctor for could be addressed more effectively, and affordably, by other healthcare providers like functional nutrition practitioners because most chronic health issues start with poor diet, lifestyle, and behaviors.
Our health status starts with food! Food has the power to heal or harm. Functional nutrition is a client-centered practice that focuses on the body as a whole ecosystem. By addressing the root causes of health issues, by taking into consideration every aspect of one’s health, diet, and lifestyle, and by supporting the foundations of health (digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acids, minerals, and hydration) the goal is to bring balance back to the body and maintain homeostasis through diet and lifestyle modifications.
Working with a functional nutrition practitioner you will get individualized advice about the benefit of eating nutrient-dense foods, food sourcing, and preparation, meal planning, and guidance on choosing quality nutritional products that support nutritional deficiencies as well as lifestyle factors that contribute to overall health.
Functional nutrition practitioners cannot diagnose, prescribe for, or treat their clients for specific conditions. Instead, Functional nutrition practitioners will work with each individual’s unique needs to help improve diet and lifestyle for general health, and for preventative care to help prevent health problems from arising. They look at health problems holistically, help educate clients about the ways diet, lifestyle, and environment may be impeding optimal health, and offer recommendations to help clients overcome obstacles to promote optimal health.
Using functional nutrition
We can help identify nutrient deficiencies and fine-tune the diet to help replenish depleted nutrients through food and nutritional supplementation.
It is not enough to eat a nutrient-dense diet. Foods must also be properly prepared to ensure that nutrients are not lost through cooking methods.
And then, eating nutrient-dense and properly prepared foods must also be digested properly for appropriate assimilation of nutrients, so we really cannot rely on food alone. That is where taking into consideration every aspect of one’s health, diet, lifestyle and optimizing the foundations of nutritional health (digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acids, minerals, and hydration) come into play.
of calories Americans are consuming today come from processed foods2
Recognizing we all have unique nutritional needs
There are many things to take into consideration such as, gender, age, activity level, digestive health, insulin sensitivity, and client goals.
Food provides the body fuel and essential building blocks the body needs to maintain health, and since we are all unique individuals, that means there is no one-size-fits all diet that is perfect for everyone. It is essential to tailor nutrition needs to the unique bio-individual needs of each of us.
More about the role digestion plays on our health
Healthy digestion is fundamental to nutrition. Digestion is the top healing priority of the body. Eating a properly prepared, nutrient-dense and whole food diet is an essential first step, but we also need to mechanically and chemically breakdown this food to absorb and assimilate the nutrient it contains.
Proper digestion holds the key to good health, as the gastrointestinal tract is connected to every major system in the body. The digestion process is dependent on a number of cascading events from the brain to elimination. Without the integrity of the digestive system, the body cannot support the other foundations of health.
Proper digestion provides nutrients that fuel and build every cell in the body, so we are quite literally what we eat, or rather, what we absorb.
Beside digestion, the gastrointestinal tract is responsible for making neurotransmitters which are critical for a healthy mood and cognitive function. It is also an important part of the body’s immune system.
Nearly 80% of the immune system is in the digestive tract.3
Remember, being healthy isn’t just about the food you eat
Don’t forget about your lifestyle
There are aspects of health that are often overlooked by most practitioners, but we have to take them into consideration to achieve true and lasting wellbeing. Beyond the obvious, a nutrient-dense diet, proper hydration, and targeted nutritional supplements, we must also look at factors such as quality sleep, stress management, movement, work/ play balance, healthy relationships, environment, detoxification capabilities, and our inner landscape (emotional wellbeing, mindset, beliefs).
Some final takeaways about functional nutrition
Working with a functional nutrition practitioner can help identify and remove blocking factors to health, and help correct imbalances from the inside out.
There is no one-size-fits all diet, there are however some general guidelines to follow to maximize nutrients from your diet.
- Consume minimally processed, unrefined, whole foods that are close to how they appear in nature.
- Eat a wide variety of local, in season, organic fruits and vegetables.
- Focus on food quality, choosing grass-fed, grass-finished meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, wild-caught seafood, and organically grown produce.
- Properly hydrate, with clean water.
- Avoid hydrogenated oils, trans fats, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, chemical additives and preservatives, and limit caffeine and alcohol.
- Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly.
And practice a healthy lifestyle, by:
- Getting quality sleep
- Managing your stress
- Moving around throughout the day
- Having a good work/life balance
- Engaging in healthy relationships
- Working on your inner self
- https://chriskresser.com/how-too-much-omega-6-and-not-enough-omega-3-is-making-us-sick/ and https://www.westonaprice.org/podcast/90-strike-the-right-balance-of-omega-3-omega-6-fatty-acids-principle-8/
- Restorative Wellness Solutions, Mastering the Art and Science of Gastrointestinal Healing, student guide, Sept. 7, 2020