These terms usually refer to the practice of Integrative and Functional Medicine, which, at the most basic level, means shifting our approach to health from treating the disease to treating the whole person. It takes into account the interplay of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors on long-term health. Or more specifically, understanding the influence of these factors on 7 core systems:
If we can understand which systems are out of balance, we can better treat whatever is causing the symptoms.
The next important aspect of functional medicine, is identifying the root causes of these system imbalances. For example, WHY might someone’s hormones out of whack? Is it poor diet? Stress? Gut imbalance? Environmental toxin exposure?
The role of a good functional practitioner is to help identify…
Functional practitioners come in all shapes and sizes. They can be medical doctors, naturopaths, registered dietitians, nutritionists, health coaches, etc. What is most important is that they are actually trained in functional medicine or nutrition. Look for credentials after their name and ask them about their training AND experience.
Holistic: looking at the whole person (including lifestyle, relationships, stress, exercise, sleep, trauma, spirituality, etc.).
Integrative: looking at the whole person and applying individualized therapies to multiple areas of the person’s life.
Functional: looking at the optimal functioning of the body and body systems and developing/applying individualized therapies based on root causes of symptoms.
Complimentary: using a blend of both conventional and integrative/functional approaches to health.
Nutritionist: anyone who advises others on the area of nutrition (no credential or training required).
Health Coach: an individual who guides and supports others through a health journey (no credential or training required).
Dietitian: an individual who has studied and passed a board certified exam in the area of nutrition (extensive training required). All dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are dietitians. Also referred to as a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
Naturopath: an individual who uses natural remedies to treat health conditions or help the body heal.
Functional/Integrative Medicine: the use of functional or integrative applications in the practice of medicine (think doctors who take a functional approach). For example, look for doctors who have gone through the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) Training.
Functional/Integrative Nutrition: the use of functional or integrative tools in the practice of nutrition counseling and/or nutrition therapy (think dietitians who take a functional approach). Some great training programs for dietitians include the IFM training, Institute for Functional Nutrition Academy (IFNA), and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine (DIFM) training.
Morgan Goodstadt, MS, RD, CDN, LDN, IFNCP
Registered Dietitian, Master’s in Clinical Nutrition, Certified Integrative and Functional Nutritionist and Health Coach. Morgan combines her expertise in nutrition with evidenced-based functional medicine and experience in human behavior to help her clients improve their health, relationship with food, and overall wellbeing. Her philosophy aims to achieve balance in both the diet and other areas of life.
The term “detox” has been exploited as a way to sell diet programs. But is there some truth to it? Do we need to “detox”? The answer, as I typically say with nutrition, is that it depends.