Functional Nutrition Therapy Helps Find All the Parts of the Chronic Health Condition Puzzle
Medicines save lives. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors lower blood pressure by relaxing arteries and veins. Monoclonal antibodies help control symptoms of Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, and ulcerative colitis. Prescription stimulants can help people manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
None of these chronic diseases can currently be cured. Medications, diet, and lifestyle changes can help people manage them. But none of these interventions hit the root of the problem, which could lead to long-term suffering. You may also want to consider functional nutritional therapy.
This is a functional option
To understand functional nutritional therapy, you need to first understand functional medicine. The discipline was named in the early 1990s by biochemist Jeffrey Bland, who took a systems biology-based approach to identifying and addressing the root causes of disease.
Traditional medicine deals with examining symptoms, diagnosing chronic diseases, and treating symptoms, while functional medicine aims to find the root cause so the problem can be addressed. It relies on scientific research in nutrition, genomics and epigenetics. In other words, it’s at the intersection of what you eat, your genetic makeup, and the environmental and behavioral issues that affect how your genes work.
Functional medicine is known as a type of alternative medicine. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t rely on science. It draws on evidence from studies of issues such as the influence of genetic differences on how people absorb and metabolize nutrients, and how individual genes affect protein production.
In fact, functional medicine is becoming more mainstream as people seek ways to reduce their reliance on medication and focus more on a holistic approach to managing chronic conditions. Many physicians in Colombia recommend that their patients explore functional nutrition therapy. The famed Cleveland Clinic launched the Center for Functional Medicine in 2014, bringing the discipline out of the shadows by offering patients an alternative way to manage chronic conditions:
A functional medicine provider takes the time to listen to you and gather your medical history. We use this information to determine the root cause of disease, including triggers such as poor nutrition, stress, toxins, allergens, genetics, and your microbiome (the bacteria that live in and on your body).
Once we identify triggers, we can customize a healthy living plan for you. Your plan will address many areas of your life, from your physical needs (including nutrition, exercise, and sleep) to the mental and emotional stresses associated with social, work, and community life.
Functional medicine is premised on the belief in the body’s ability to heal and regulate itself. This approach is becoming increasingly popular as a means of managing and even preventing chronic diseases. When used in conjunction with traditional medicine, the results can be amazing.
everyone is a mystery
Medical nutritional therapy is often used to treat chronic diseases. Take diabetes, for example. There is a nutritional diagnosis for patients, which is used by dieticians to educate patients on the diet they should follow to help manage the disease. Dietitians do the same when formulating diets designed for weight loss and heart-healthy eating, as well as recommending foods that people with gastrointestinal conditions should avoid.
However, functional nutritional therapy delves into how nutrients, toxins, and genetic predispositions affect the function of an individual’s systems.
“From a nutritional standpoint, I’m very concerned with how the person is functioning and what those root causes are,” says Karri Ball, a certified functional nutrition therapist.
“I’ve been there. In terms of treating the symptoms, the medication works really fast,” Karri said. “The hard part is, when you’re no longer symptomatic, we tend to think we’ve recovered. The problem is it’s brewing because we’re not treating the root cause.”
Karri said many medications deplete certain nutrients, especially when they are taken long-term. For example, women who take or use oral contraceptives for a long time can experience nutrient depletion. Functional nutritional therapy aims to identify depleted substances and find ways to restore them.
“I work with a lot of people who want to eventually get off their medications. Many of my clients know that these are symptoms and not the cause, and some of my clients never think about it that way,” says Cary. “For example, they think their blood pressure is fine because their medication is controlling it, but they don’t think about why they need the medication and what might be causing their blood pressure to be high in the first place.”
Karri pointed out that there are many things in the food we eat that can hinder the healthy functioning of the body. Take digestive health, for example. Karri’s career from CPA to functional nutritional therapist began with her own “gut issues,” as she puts it.
“When we’re only using drugs to treat symptoms, but we’re eating the same type of diet all the time, things in our food can be very, very harmful,” Karri said. “I can tell clients good things, like something that soothes the GI tract, can help start repairing and rebuilding what’s inflamed and broken. But if we keep adding foods that are actually part of individual client problems — even if It’s clearly recommended for GI issues — we’re just going to keep tailgating. We’ve got to figure out what to remove that’s causing the problem.”
Nutritional imbalances are common, especially given the way most people eat, with lots of saturated fat, sugar, salt, and processed foods. Also, the healthy foods you eat or the water you drink may contain heavy metals. These factors, along with how your body processes nutrients, sugars and minerals, lifestyle choices, stress and mental health issues, are pieces of the puzzle that functional nutritional therapy aims to address.
More than just a blood test
Blood analysis is a common way doctors diagnose disease. Once you have been diagnosed, blood tests will be used to monitor your condition. But “normal” ranges for things like liver function, blood sugar, and thyroid function can vary widely, and even vary by the lab that analyzes the results. Blood tests are useful in functional nutrition therapy, but the therapist goes a little deeper, starting with taking the time to understand the client’s complete health, family, work, and lifestyle history.
“In the field of functional blood chemistry, we use tighter ranges,” Karri said. “We then look for correlations to understand the root causes. For example, I work with many people who have cholesterol imbalances and one of the root causes is either a blood sugar imbalance or a phase of insulin resistance.”
Functional medicine also analyzes a patient’s microbiome, the microbes that live inside and outside of the body that influence health and disease. Additionally, hair tissue mineral analysis can identify nutrients and heavy metals in the body.
Karri pored over all the numbers, scope and information she gleaned from these tests to understand what was happening inside her clients. She and her client end up with a roadmap that shows the path to the root cause of the client’s problem. With the map in hand, they can work together to make changes that improve health.
“I’ve had clients who are breastfeeding moms and their babies have reflux. We figure out what the mom has to pass on to the baby to fix the problem,” says Cary. “I’ve had clients with infertility issues who’ve tried everything but watch their body’s nutrition, clients with chronic fatigue, kids with behavioral issues, and clients who are undergoing cancer treatment. When the body gets How miraculous it would be when it was truly nourishing!”
solution to any problem
In addition to individually tailored programs, Karri offers educational programs for employers in some areas and programs for women with fatigue. She also offers a live, virtual five-week functional nutrition education program twice a year. The next one will start in late January 2023.
Functional medicine has been successful in addressing a variety of chronic conditions including adrenal disease, dementia, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and pre-diabetes, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, food allergies, polycystic Ovarian syndrome, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause, and thyroid disease. It’s even been used to prevent cancer.
Functional nutritional therapy may not cure your chronic disease. But it may provide the missing piece to your health management puzzle. This makes it a worthwhile discussion with your doctor.
Cali Ball Nutritional Therapy
Cleveland Functional Medicine Clinic Center