Contrary to conventional medicine, functional and integrative forms of medicine, including functional/integrative nutrition, aim to discover the root cause of patients’ ailments. Instead of placing a band-aid on the symptoms, we dig deep into health history, symptoms analysis, blood work, additional laboratory work, physical manifestations, among other aspects of your physiology to really get down to the bottom of why you aren’t feeling well. Imagine it like this. The human body, in its optimal state of health, is like a tree. The roots of the tree are made up of things like our sleep, relaxation, exercise, dietary intake, stress, environmental toxin exposure, and our relationships. The base of the tree, moving up from the roots, is our mental and emotional state, spiritual influences, our genetic predispositions, and our experiences, attitudes, and beliefs (in other words, our perspective). Building on top of that are events throughout our lives such as traumas, accidents, major life changes, marriages, child birth, divorce, etc. that are major triggers or mediators of our state of health.
As you start getting toward the branches of the trees, you begin to see the signs and symptoms appear, growing out of the roots and the trunk of the tree. You can see these symptoms categorized to each major branch of the tree (or organ system off of the body). The nervous system, endocrine system (chemical messenger system, more commonly known as hormones), digestive system, circulatory system, renal (kidneys), pulmonary system (lungs), etc. Symptoms manifesting within these branches all stem from some sort of an environmental input, interacting with our genes, further down toward the foundation of the tree. This is the tree of functional medicine.
What we put into our bodies, whether it be food, the water we drink, or the air we breathe, has a major impact on our health. Think about it. Food is information to our cells. If we are consuming information that our body’s don’t know how to process, such as hydrogenated fats, synthetic food coloring, or artificial sweeteners, it will begin to cause a malfunctioning within our cells that can lead to whichever disease we are genetically predisposed to. Functional nutrition aims to restore cellular integrity and communication with the proper inputs by identifying what the body is lacking in the form of micronutrients or phytonutrients, and by identifying what sort of inputs our unique individual physiology does and does not benefit from. Did you know that a large percentage of American’s are deficient in Vitamin C, Magnesium, Vitamin D, among other nutrients? And did you know that long-term deficiencies of any of these nutrients can cause symptoms? This is a highly individualized process, one that oftentimes requires a little bit of laboratory work, and most importantly time. Through targeted supplementation with micronutrients, phytonutrients, herbs, and other nutraceuticals, along with a whole foods based customized dietary plan, functional nutrition is born.