Understand some basics of Functional Nutrition
What is Functional Nutrition?
Functional Nutrition looks at the foundational way that your past and present nutritional habits as well as your environmental and lifestyle challenges may influence your current health. It is based on Functional Medicine which approaches the body from a holistic perspective, working not only to treat the root cause of disease but to cultivate optimal health by bringing your body back to homeostasis.
Functional Nutrition aims to simplify the complexity of food and nutrition in order to empower you as an individual to influence and affect sustained and holistic change in your own life and the lives of those around you. For centuries humans have relied on food as a source of energy, health and connection. Science now understands that food literally is “information” for the body having a powerful influence on our health and wellbeing. In other words, what we eat literally becomes us! Our food is transformed into blood, bones, organs and tissues. Food nourishes every cell of our body. It is not just about taking in calories for our body’s metabolism.
The many macro and micro nutrients contained in real, whole foods contain a variety of diverse components that play very important roles in each and every one of our bodily functions. Whole, organic, local foods maximize the potential for health and reverse dysfunction or disease, whereas poor quality or processed foods can actually create disease and dysfunction.
Food is medicine!
Food affects your body at the cellular level. By using food as medicine, you can positively influence your cells, prevent and treat illness and have a huge impact on how you and your family feel.
Food actually tells your body how to function by signaling exactly when and how each different type of cell should behave in every situation. Therefore we should provide our body and the body’s of our loved ones with the very best nutritional information in order to achieve optimal functioning of body, mind and soul.
Scientists are very excited about a new organ recently discovered in our body called the micro biome. Our micro biome is located in our gut and is comprised of both good and bad bacteria, each playing their own role in our bodily functions, including the health of our brain. It has been called our gut brain. There are as many messages being sent from our gut to our brain as there are from our brain to our gut! This has been termed the “gut – brain connection”. We of course want to be feeding the good guys in our gut so that they can proliferate and keep our digestive system happy and healthy. All health begins in our gut!
There is no single “right diet” that applies to everyone. Functional Nutrition helps clients discover what works for them. It is all about bio individuality because we have different genetic backgrounds, different preferences and unique lifestyles. We all want to be healthy in order to feel our best and live life to our fullest, but most of us haven’t figured out just how to make food and dietary patterns serve that goal. Functional Nutrition offers the concepts, strategies and tools to make that happen.
We live in a time where looking at what we eat on a daily basis is of the utmost importance. We are currently exposed to hundreds of pounds of toxins per person each day from various sources such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, personal products, flame retardants, plastics and so much more. These toxins are in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the homes, buildings and vehicles we spend our time in. While we cannot control our exposure to all of these toxins, we do have control over what we put into our bodies, what we put onto our bodies and what cleaning products we use in our homes.
Choosing whole, local and organic products when possible will ensure we are eliminating a good portion of our exposure to these toxic substances and giving our body optimal nutrients for health and wellbeing.
10 things you can do today to be a healthy and happy family.
1. Include the rainbow colours in your foods.
Eat fresh, local and preferably organic fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds in every colour throughout the week. The vibrant colours in our foods contain anti oxidants and phyto nutrients which provide the anti-disease compounds your family needs for good health. These foods will also encourage the health of your good gut bacteria!
2. Eat a plant strong diet.
Make animal protein a condiment rather than the main portion of your meals. Try meatless Mondays. Let fruits and vegetables rule in your home! Keep them washed, peeled, cut and available to your family at the front of the fridge or on your kitchen counter. Limit purchasing processed foods.
3. Make sure to incorporate good fats.
Eat good fats such as avocado, olives, coconut oil, olive oil and flax oil. They are called essential fatty acids for a reason! Don’t forget nuts and seeds, these provide you with necessary fat, fibre and protein. Remove all trans fats or oils like Canola which are most often genetically modified.
4. Decrease refined grains.
More and more science is surfacing on the detriment of eating too many white processed flour products. Choose fresh or dried fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, lentils and beans.
5. Remove all sugar filled drinks and watch for sugar content on labels.
Our sugar intake is way above the recommended eight teaspoons per day. Choose healthy fruits and vegetables and drink more water. This includes eliminating fruit juices which are highly processed and contain high amounts of sugar. By eating a piece of fruit you are getting the fibre which helps to slow down the natural sugars reaching the blood stream.
6. Practice slowing down with your meals.
Learn to become a mindful eater. Relax into eating and allow your body to register what you are eating. This is actually a very important aspect of our digestive process.
7. Make meal times a time to connect.
Even if it is only at dinner time. Turn off any distractions, sit around the dining table and talk about your day.
8. Get moving!
Exercise. Find activities that can be done as a family. Take family walks, play games together, go to the park. Plan to do different activities each week.
9. Choose natural cleaning products for your home and natural products for your skin and hair.
This will help eliminate exposure to toxins in unnatural products. Our skin absorbs a large percentage of what we put on it. If you wouldn’t eat it, then don’t put it on your skin!
10. Practice gratitude.
Be grateful for your ability to choose to feed your family healthy, vibrant foods. Educate yourself and your family about what true health really means. Take an hour each week to read or listen to experts in the field of health and nutrition. Teach your children to ignore advertising from companies that do not have good health as their mission. Show your family that they have the right to make healthy choices so that they can maintain a healthy body.
Don’t make things complicated! Just make one small change at a time – they will all add up to big results!
Why do we need Functional Nutrition?
Chronic disease does not just show up one day, our wellness is a continuum. It’s our long term lifestyle imbalances that have contributed to the current health crisis. Most chronic diseases can take decades to surface in our body. Our body does its best to adapt to the non-nutritional foods we eat or to the bad lifestyle habits we may have. However, these things begin to take their toll on our body systems and eventually surface as disease. By taking the right steps now we can avoid these diseases for ourselves and our family in the future. Functional Nutrition developed out of a desire on the part of healthcare providers to change this picture as we move into the future of health care.
Can a Functional Nutritionist work together with my doctor?
Yes, Functional Nutritionists are happy to collaborate and communicate with your doctor to come up with healthy and natural ways to get you on the path towards better health. The Functional Nutritionist will take a full history from you by asking questions on all aspects of your past and present lifestyle habits. This information is then correlated onto a time line where often many important connections can be made between something that may have happened in the past that is causing the symptoms you are experiencing now.
It’s time to consider Functional Nutrition to help you and your family reach and maintain optimal wellbeing so that you can have a healthy and happy family!
Lynne Bowsher is a Certified Mind Body Nutrition Coach and Eating Psychology Coach through the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. She is in her second year of study with Functional Nutrition Alliance to become a Functional Nutrition licensed practitioner. Lynne owns and operates A Place For Yoga and Health, and Nutrition For Your Soul in Lake Country, BC. www.nutritionforyoursoul.com.