What are Functional Medicine and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition?

What are Functional Medicine and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition? I know, while this sounds like a Jeopardy question, it’s important to understand why this may be critical to your own health.

Functional Medicine and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition are both integrative holistic practices. This means that the focus is on the whole person. Here is the definition of Functional Medicine according to Patrick Hanaway, “Functional Medicine is a systems-biology-based model that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to achieve the highest expression of health by addressing the underlying causes of disease. Functional Medicine uses a unique operating system and personalized therapeutic interventions to support individuals in achieving optimal wellness.”[i]

Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioners (FDN’s) are trained health coaches who come from both medical or non-medical backgrounds and are trained to be health detectives as part of their health coach training. According to Reed Davis, who developed this program, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® provides a step-by-step system to investigate the underlying causes of disease and identify healing opportunities.[ii] He further coined the phrase Metabolic Chaos™ for the cascade of metabolic imbalances that can occur in different body systems and based on an individual’s weak links may create disease and symptoms. These symptoms or cluster of symptoms may be similar in many people, even if the original metabolic process that malfunctioned was different.

FDN practitioners (FDNs) use functional lab work to do the detective work to identify HIDDEN stressors and dysfunctions that contribute to symptoms and Metabolic Chaos™. They test, don’t guess. Then, they look for correlation to the individual’s assessments and symptoms to see where healing opportunities exist. To help clients heal, FDN’s then use the D.R.E.S.S.® protocol which includes diet, rest, exercise, stress management, and supplementation to help individuals rebalance their systems to resolve their metabolic chaos and heal. When indicated, FDNs will work with clients to refer or consult with other functional medicine practitioners or traditional medical providers.

Functional approaches share the following principles:

  • Most health issues are a result of diet and lifestyle.
  • Health is a continuum and reflects how the individual reacts to their environment over time.
  • Our current healthcare model is a disease-based model and not a preventative model.
  • Medication and procedures are a mainstay of this model.
  • Medication, while it may be necessary, does not cure disease.
  • Understanding an individual’s underlying triggers and mitigating lifestyle factors for symptoms and disease are important to solving health problems.
  • Many people go through cycles of trial and error in trying to resolve their health issues.
  • People are individuals and therefore it is important to identify and understand their individual body’s needs.
  • Genetics account for 10% of disease at most; through modifying diet and lifestyle, most disease is preventable.
  • Diet is a central tenet of functional practice, meaning that eating right for your individual body’s needs is critical to health and wellness.
  • The health of the gut is of primary importance; all disease begins in the gut.
  • Our body’s systems are all inter-connected, which means a holistic approach for each individual is essential.
  • The health gut microbiome, where the gut lining contains millions of microbes to support digestion, communication, and support of body functions, and its ongoing body of research holds promise to being a key to disease.
  • A therapeutic relationship is essential to supporting individuals through a healing process.
  • Functional lab tests, which are not the same tests performed by traditional practitioners or covered by insurance providers help identify healing opportunities for the functional practitioner and health coach to prioritize diet, lifestyle, and supplement approaches and serve to help individuals visually see where they have imbalances and what progress is made through re-testing.
  • Individuals can control their health. It takes commitment to the process and working in manageable steps.

So, exactly what does all this mean? In a nutshell, the functional approach is a whole systems approach, meaning it doesn’t look just at one organ or one symptom. Why is this important? Because many times people may experience the same symptoms or disease, and the root cause may be different. It is important to understand where an individual’s systems are imbalanced and correct the root issue(s) whether it is food sensitivity, toxin exposure, hormonal imbalances, microbial imbalances/infection, or nutrient deficiencies/imbalances.

The functional approach is a whole-person approach that recognizes our organ systems don’t operate in a vacuum but in important interrelationships. I am a firm believer in this approach and that is why as a nurse for 40 years, I felt compelled to study functional medicine and become a FDN Practitioner to help coach clients through functional lab detective work and holistic healing protocols to help them heal their bodies. Learn more about how I can help you heal your own body so that it works the way it’s supposed to through completing this form to get your free discovery call here.

[i] Hanaway P. Form Follows Function: A Functional Medicine Overview. Perm J. 2016;20(4):16-109. doi:10.7812/TPP/16-109.

[ii] D.R.E.S.S. for Health Success® Guide Copyright 2016 AFDNP Inc. www.functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com

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