What I do is functional nutrition. So in many ways that’s very similar to what you call functional exercise which is how many personal trainers work with their clients. They would look at someone’s core stability, how they breathe, their posture, how they move, how strong they are, their flexibility, a thing called muscle balance, and what we call cardiovascular fitness.
If you put those different aspects of fitness together, you would make up a training program based on the function of the client. In a normal day people are moving, standing up and sitting down, and of course breathe but typically through the chest and shallow breaths, and so forth. So there are different emphases you would put on a training program. Then you fine tune it based on the person, you look at different amounts of sets, reps, recoveries and different weights and speeds. Two different people could walk in the front door and both want to lose weight and tone up, if one has a sore knee and is overweight and the other has bad posture, back pain and a really flat back then thinking functionally the exercises will be different. There will be different emphases on strength, different emphases on stretching, or whatever. So you vary all that based on the person.
Now if you compare that to, how would you eat, and what’s functional nutrition, you’re also looking at how that person functions. So you’ve got to be looking at sleep; when they go to bed, how quickly they fall asleep, how long they sleep for, waking up during the night, struggle to back to sleep, wake up rested, fatigue at certain points especially the middle of the afternoon, then how much water they drink, what foods they prefer, the different reactions they have with foods, food craving some under stress others hormonal.
You can bring into play food intolerances. You could look at digestive infections, and how it would relate to flatulence, or bloating or gas when consuming different foods. Whether they eat more cooked food or raw food in their diet. What supplements they currently take. But you can assess all that from a functional viewpoint to find out how does that persons hormonal system function. How does their digestive system function, how about their detoxification system, and their immune system.
So that assessment looks at the individual, and it’s all based on functions. So the digestive system’s complaining, there’s symptoms. If it’s not functioning properly, you might call that dysfunction. Now the difference between that, and maybe seeing someone who’s into alternative medicine, you could argue they would just be competing with the medical model where, “I have this problem with my gut, therefore I take that.”
You would be thinking more alternatively, the problem you have is your gut, you need to take probiotics. So you’ve got a this for that approach. In exercise terms, you have this, you are overweight so you need that, more exercise, better also eat less. Whereas, a doctor may say you have an infection. Or whatever the issue is, the medical answer may be some form of drugs. If you go natural and take alternative medicine what you’re really doing there is looking at the symptoms and treating the symptoms not the root cause and your actual function.
Whereas what I do is look at the function of that person. How does it all fit together, and what are the causes of that digestive issue? So you can track it back and find out they’re the wrong food choices, or it could be heavy metals, environmental toxins, stress, lifestyle choices, they don’t exercise, they over exercise, there’s faulty breathing.
If your stress hormones are elevated that might impact your thyroid and then you have a hormonal reason for struggling to lose weight not just that you don’t exercise. If your digestive system is complaining you may have lower levels of important vitamins that in turn explain your lack of energy and then more exercise isn’t the answer but kale and spinach might be.
There’s a whole series of things that come into play to alter how the person functions, that alters what foods they need, and then you can track that back to the symptoms. So it’s a collection of assessments, and sort of quantifying some of the symptoms, and pulling the information together to create a picture of the whole person and they work is what functional nutrition is.