What is functional nutrition? What is integrative nutrition? What’s the difference between functional nutrition and functional medicine? I answer these questions, and share why functional nutrition should be the only way you approach your health to prevent chronic diseases, delay aging, have energy and vitality, and live a life that you absolutely love.
What is Functional and Integrative Nutrition?
Functional medicine is a term that was developed in the early 1990’s and resulted in the creation of The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). Functional nutrition focuses on the patient, not the disease. It embraces how each person is unique and that we are all biochemically individual. Functional Nutrition focuses on preventive care, to find the root causes of problems, and not just cover up the symptoms. Functional nutrition looks at the web-like interconnection of physiological factors, including hormones, genes, diet, lifestyle, environmental toxins, digestion, detoxification, and more.
Nutrition is a major component of functional medicine. Some functional medicine doctors are even calling themselves nutritionists! I use the terms functional medicine and functional nutrition interchangeably, although as a dietitian and nutritionist, I practice functional nutrition.
What is Functional Nutrition? What is Integrative Nutrition?
Here’s the video from the Thank Gut It’s Fixed Show, Episode 10. I talk about what functional and integrative nutrition is, why it should be the only way you approach your health to prevent chronic diseases so you have a happy energized vital body and a high quality of life.
Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and others, are just manifestations of imbalances in core biological and chemical pathways in your body. Some of those pathways are affected by your genetics, but your diet, lifestyle, and environment can turn on and off certain genes. That’s why some people tolerate stress better than others, some people lose weight on certain diets but not others, some people get sick more frequently and easily than others, some people can handle toxic load more than others, and so on.
One size doesn’t fit all. You heard this over and over. If your doctor or dietitian or nutritionist are not looking at ALL the things that make up who you are physically, biologically, mentally, and spiritually, then you are not getting personalized help.
What’s the Difference Between Functional Nutrition and Integrative Nutrition?
They are very similar.
Integrative nutrition (medicine) means conventional nutrition (medicine) is integrated with non-conventional or alternative modalities (such as herbs, homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture etc.)
Functional nutrition (medicine) is an approach that involves understanding the prevention, management and root causes of complex chronic disease
- Conventional medical practices are integrated with non-conventional practices
- Ensure effectiveness & safety
- Restore proper function
- Determine the root cause of the illness
- Suppress symptoms only as a temporary goal while seeking the root cause and when needed to optimize function of the patient
Functional Nutrition and Integrative Nutrition (and medicine) Focus on Root Causes and Systems Biology
Your body is made of this network of biological systems. Both Functional nutrition and integrative nutrition focus on the biological and chemical pathways, which are affected by your diet, genetics, environment (such as toxic load), lifestyle, pathogens (such as your gut bacteria), food reactions (such as food sensitivities), and your thoughts and believes (yes, negative thoughts affect your physical health).
One condition has many causes. And one cause can lead to many conditions.
It’s important to remember that one condition, such as depression, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or arthritis, can be caused by many things or imbalances. At the same time, one cause, such as inflammation or digestion disruption, can lead to many conditions like headaches, muscle pain, brain fog, low energy, skins issues and even more serious issues like cancers and heart disease.
The only way to truly heal and have optimal health is to find those imbalances and root causes and fix them. If they can’t be fixed, due to genetic variations you may be born with, you can almost always find ways to support your body with the right food and supplement choices so your genes don’t become your destiny.
Here’s the video transcript:
Hello, hi everyone. This is Nour Zibdeh, functional dietitian and nutritionist. You are catching episode number 10 in the Thank Gut It’s Fixed Show. I can’t believe we are at number 10. If you are joining me live, sorry guys, I’m 10 minutes later than normal or than what I promised.
If you are joining me live, just say hi, tell me where you’re joining from. If you are on the recording, I would also like to hear where you are.
I’m going to get started with today’s talk because I might get carried away and have a long one. A couple of things inspired today’s topic, what is functional and integrative nutrition in medicine. A little bit, I’ll explain the difference and why this should be the only way that you look at your health.
Now, I have a business friend and colleague and we were talking and she’s like, “I don’t care about all this woo-woo stuff that you do. I don’t care. I know you love what you do, but just get me to lose weight, to have energy, and feel good about my body.”
Now, I don’t do any woo-woo stuff. All the stuff is evidence-based and there’s science to back it up. But, sometimes some of the health practitioners, we’re super duper geeky/nerdy about what this is and what we do, that it fascinates me. It fascinates a lot of people in my place as well too.
But for you, you just want the results. You’re tired, you’re fatigued, your stomach hurts, your skin is itchy, you have headaches and migraines. I know the most important thing for you is to get rid of that symptom.
But, it’s like you have to look at your health from a very holistic and integrative way. Because that’s the only way to heal and to be optimal health. And I will be talking about this.
The other thing is I am actually this weekend giving a presentation to other dietitians on functional and integrative nutrition. And so this inspired me to share with you the information I’ll be sharing with them. Of course, more detailed for other healthcare providers, but just being in a position where I can share my expertise, my knowledge, I’ve been doing this for five or six years now so it’s pretty awesome to be in this place to inspire more nutritionists and dietitians to actually do this kind of functional and integrative nutrition.
If you are just catching me, this is Nour Zibdeh, functional dietitian and nutritionist. Episode number 10 of the Thank Gut It’s Fixed Show. What is functional and integrative nutrition and why this should be the way you look at your health.
I’m going to start with a picture, because I like using pictures. This is an image of chronic conditions.
Before I keep talking, what happens is the problem is that when you have an acute problem, a heart attack, asthma attack, an anaphylactic reaction, the medical model is to get the patient stable as soon as possible, procedure or medication, and intervention. So that we can stabilize the patient, lock down whatever pathway that went wrong, and get this patient to survive.
Using this type of approach when it comes to chronic diseases doesn’t work. Because this says that there’s one problem, we got to fix it. What is the best medical procedure or medication that would help the patient survive?
But on your day to day life, you don’t just want to survive. You are surviving, it’s just about your quality of life. Are you thriving? Do you have enough energy? Does your skin look beautiful? Do you have good healthy bowel movements that you’re digesting your food?
It’s more to your health than just being stable and surviving.
When the medical model uses the acute care health approach to chronic diseases, we have problems. And in this here you see that chronic diseases, there are underlying conditions. And we don’t actually see those. Most people don’t see the dysfunction in their mitochondria. What is even that, the mitochondria?
It’s a small particle in your cells, and that can be why you can’t detox, why you can’t burn calories, why you’re aging too quickly. Inflammatory responses. Your immune responses, your hormone.
All of those things under water, you don’t actually get to see them. But only when they start coming up to the top is when your joints hurt or your blood sugar is out of whack or your immune markers show that you have an autoimmune condition. Or your cholesterol is high or you have a stroke or any of these conditions.
But what you need to do for optimal health, for you to have an amazing and vital and life, is to catch any disruptions, disturbances and disruptancies, in the beginning. Before they even come to the surface.
Your medical condition is just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath there’s so much that can be going on in an imbalance.
Even like I focus on the gut and the immune system and autoimmune hormone issues, and the gut is so important. Because, again, if you’re not absorbing the minerals, the vitamins, and all the things that are needed for the different pathways and the systems in your body, then it’s not working the way it should.
So think of this any time, if you have a health condition, what else? What are the many layers underneath the water that you can’t see that are causing the problem.
With functional and integrative nutrition, there are 25,000 genes that code for proteins, a thousand metabolites in the body. You are a combination of all of those different interactions. Your diet, your nutrition, your exercise, trauma. It can affect oxidative stress. This is the free radicals, how much you produce those and how much antioxidants you have.
And then that’s why maybe you have joint pain and cancer production. How you detox. Different people detox at different ways and speeds. If you thought that detoxification is fad or not true, I will show you in new videos that it’s not.
Your hormone, your neurotransmitters. How come some people can handle stress and other people cannot? The same type of stress. Sure, maybe things that they’ve learned when they were kids. But what else?
Sorry, I’m trying to be here.
What else is going on that some people are able to do that? Your immune system, why do some people get sick and others don’t? Your digestive health. Why can some people eat certain foods and others cannot?
And so it all interacts together. If you see the arrows are going in so many million directions, and this is sort of like a headache, really, when you’re trying to figure that out on your own. It is a headache for me sometimes when I have my patients and they’re coming with million things. Well, not million, but they have five or six different things.
And you know the funny thing? Sometimes they don’t even realize how all of those things interact. When I’m working with someone, I’m trying to see what core imbalances are happening. There are six or seven core … we call them in functional nutrition core imbalances. Such as digestion. Your oxidative stress. The cells, how healthy your cells are.
And then what specific information we have about that person. What are your labs? Your doctor may have done some labs, but most primary and most general conventional doctors, they’re not really doing the extensive labs to get the full picture.
They’re not checking for a lot of the genetics behind why some people detox better than others. Or why some people can handle stress than others.
You have to take a look at the whole big picture. And we are very different, but when we just say you’ve got to eat more vegetables, well sure you’re got to eat more vegetables. But are there vegetables that work for other people, for some people but not others?
Do you have a food sensitivity that this may be the case? Or maybe you have a digestion issue. Or maybe you need certain vitamins that you can’t get from food because your body cannot activate these foods.
There’s so much that goes on into this picture.
And there’s always that genetic interaction. I may have brought that up before. Your genes are going to affect and interact with your immune system, with specifically autoimmune.
You have your genes that are going to–not the jeans you wear, the genes you get from your parents and grandparents–are going to interact the environment. The toxic load around you, where you live, how the stress around you. And your diet and how your lifestyle, like your exercise, you smoke, alcohol, and all of the different things that go into the lifestyle. How well you sleep as well too.
That’s why you can find families, one person may be overweight and the other person is not. Or one person has an autoimmune condition and another person is not. When they do twin studies, it’s pretty cool when they take twins who were separated or they lived different lives.
It’s not just your genes. Your story doesn’t end there. But it’s all of the different interactions. And that’s called systems biology. What that really means is that there’s so many different systems in your body and how all of the different ways interact can show a disease in one person but not in another.
That’s another thing that brings me to talk about. Sometimes I’ll give the example of depression, and this is something from a video that I watched, Dr. Mark Hyman, do. He’s one of the physicians in the Institute for Functional Medicine.
He gives the example of depression. If you are feeling down, you have no appetite, you have low energy, and the classic symptoms of depression, you might go to your doctor and you tell them how you feel. And they’re like, great, we figured it out, you have depression.
We’ve given you a label. And they’re going to give you a medication.
Well, depression is not a deficiency in Prozac or a medication. Depression’s not a disease. Well, it has a disease. It’s not the disease itself. It’s a manifestation of certain imbalances in your body.
Same thing with chronic pain or fibromyalgia, which is muscle pain. Irritable bowel syndrome. These things are a manifestation, a group, a cluster of symptoms that we give a disease name. But that’s not the actual disease.
For depression, it could be that you have vitamin D deficiency. Or maybe that you don’t eat enough fish and you have fish oil deficiency. Maybe you eat too much fish and you have overload of mercury.
Maybe your body doesn’t detox well. Maybe you have an overgrowth of bacteria, because you took an acid suppressing medication.
Depression is just the surface. But what’s underneath, there’s so many different layers. So it’s one condition that has many causes. Without figuring it out, you’re always going to be stuck with this condition and the medical conventional way is to give you a treatment for it which is a pill or multiple pills. Or maybe try different pills or try adjusting the dose for the pill.
Same thing for IBS, irritable bowel syndrome. If you have diarrhea, your doctor might give you a medication, an anti-diarrheal medication, but that doesn’t solve the root cause. Why do you have IBS or stomach pain?
Is it an imbalance, too much of the wrong bacteria, not enough digestive enzymes? Is it stress related? Is it eating the wrong foods? Is it that you took too many antibiotics and we’ve got to balance your gut flora?
Do you have a parasite infection? Do you have a central nervous system problem where the brain and the gut are not talking properly? Maybe it’s even so many different things.
This is where one condition can have many causes. And at the same time, one cause our gut imbalance, or dysbiosis, let’s just say, can cause. One cause can lead to many conditions.
That’s when people are surprised to know that if you have skin issues it may be your gut. If you have eczema or psoriasis, if you have an autoimmune condition, migraines and headaches. If you have stomach pain. If you even have post-nasal drip. If you have joint pain.
Brain fog, depression, anxiety. All of those are related to the gut and it’s one thing. And if we don’t look at the root, then you’re always going to be suffering with this condition.
The consequences of not paying attention to this, to not addressing the root cause, is that one thing will lead to another will lead to another. Sometimes people ever wonder will I ever get my energy back, will I ever have a normal bowel movement. So many things.
And sometimes we just blame it on aging. We just say oh, it’s old age. Or it’s just pregnancy, or this just happens when you’re a mom. You have a memory loss or you’re foggy or you’re too distracted. Or that your body should feel in a certain way because you’re too old.
But that’s not necessarily true. Aging is part of the cell integrity, how healthy and well your cells are. How good your oxidative stress, how well your body can detox and recycle free radicals. And how well your body can use certain vitamins and nutrients.
And we can do something about this, if we look at it from this perspective. I want to show you how we’re all different and how we metabolize things in our nutrition and why certain people lose weight eating one way, or some people gain weight. And why not all diets work on everyone.
This picture. You don’t have to understand all of it, and it’s super complicated. But this is just to show you all the different, all these little pink and orange and blue and purple, these are all different genes. Genes that are coding for certain enzymes and pathways in the body.
We’re not all the same. We’re very different. Maybe we have typical like the same place in our chromosomes, but we’re each how person metabolizes things are going to be different.
And that’s why maybe one person will do a ketogenic diet and they feel great. And another person will do it and they feel horrible and their cholesterol will go up. And I’ve seen that in my patients who’ve done ketogenic diets and their cholesterol numbers were completely off chart.
That’s why some people can manage different ways of eating and lifestyle and their body will function in a different way.
The reason I want to share this is that your health is a combination of the stress, the toxic load, the nutrition, how you do well with that, immune or adverse food reactions. Any infections in your gut or other parts of your body.
The last thing you want is to cut yourself in pieces and only let one healthcare provider address one issue. Because the typical model is that your gastro will check your gut and your neurologist will check for your headache and your dermatologist will check for your skin issues. And your endocrinologist will check for your hormone imbalances.
But you are not just made of broken or individual pieces. You are one whole person. And all of these things are interacting.
It’s important to see the specialist to screen and rule out medical issues that may be important to check. If you have Crohn’s disease, or if you have … without going into all the details. But if you want optimal health, if you really want to thrive, you really want to be able to talk to all of the different … to have a way that all of the systems are talking together and an approach to your eating and to your lifestyle that will support all of those.
If you have any questions, I have been talking. If you are still listening, just say hi or a thumb’s up, to show that you’re here.
Some people ask me what’s the difference between functional medicine and functional nutrition. Well, functional nutrition is a very big component of functional medicine. Because the whole point of functional medicine is that we want to catch the disease before the snowball effect, before it gets worse.
That we want to see how we can support the body with the right nutrition, the right supplements, the right lifestyle support. And so even doctors now are calling themselves nutritionists when they are trying to practice functional nutrition.
Now, as a dietitian, as a nutritionist, I don’t have medications under my tool belt because I can’t prescribe those. But that’s okay, because that’s what most people want. Most people want to come to work with me, or even in general with their health I hear this over and over again. I don’t want to get on a medication, I have side effects from medications.
We know that some medications cause nutrient deficiencies. Your liver will have to detox more. If you go through all the different antibiotics and medications and hormones that the liver has to detox, that’s overloading your system.
And so people want a lifestyle approach diet and the right supplements. And so that’s what functional nutrition and functional medicine is offering people, and that’s really the way to go. Because that’s how you can have a life that you love, that you enjoy, that your body is supporting you to do all the things that you want to do.
To spend time with your kids and not have to stick them in front of the TV because you’re just too tired to play with them. Or you’re able to do whatever you want. Travel, run your errands, grow a business, have healthy relationship with your spouse or with your family. Connect spiritually, whatever you want to do.
With a healthy body, you can actually get to do that.
Let me make sure that there isn’t anything I forgot to mention. Talked a little bit about genes and genetics and all of those things, how they interact. Your gut, your microbes in the gut are going to be really affecting your health and you really want to be able to connect the dots.
Thyroid autoimmune issue is not an endocrine issue. It’s not that your thyroid is not working. It’s that your immune system is not working. And your immune system is attacking you, and the immune system is in the gut.
And why is the gut not working properly? Is that because you took certain medications and the stress level? It’s just looking at all of the big picture.
That was it for what I have prepared for you guys. If you have any questions, whether it’s now or if you’re watching the recording, ask me in the comments section.
If you are local in the northern Virginia area and you watch this before Sunday, I do have a talk this Sunday coming up in Tyson’s Corner area. I will be talking, I will put the link in the information for that, on my Facebook page.
But other than that, I would love to … I’ll see you next time, on the next episode of the Thank Gut It’s Fixed. Ask me any questions, thank you for joining me live, thank you for watching the recording.
Have a great day. I’ll see you next time. Bye.