Have you ever wondered why, despite major advances in medical science, has the incidence of chronic diseases been increasing so rapidly?
The clue lies in the name by which they’re often referred to: “chronic lifestyle disease”. Our modern urban lifestyle is the biggest reason behind the increase in chronic diseases the world over. A lifestyle highly sedentary, locked indoors, away from the Sun- the food environment consisting of highly processed foods. Toxins in the air, water, and household products. Nutrient-depleted soil. Just to name a few.
But rather than changing our diet and lifestyles and working to replenish nutrients and eliminate toxins, we turn to pharmaceutical drugs for solutions. The conventional medical system today is, to a large extent, corrupted by the pharmaceutical lobby (estimated to be the biggest in the world among industries)- thus prioritizing symptom suppression through the sale of drugs instead of addressing the root causes through diet and lifestyle therapy.
The latter is what Functional Nutrition does.
What is Functional Nutrition?
Functional Nutrition is a novel form of holistic treatment that uses advanced testing and root cause analysis to reverse diseases and eliminate the risk of the disease. Root cause analysis is the process of identifying the underlying reason behind the emergence of diseases. A functional nutritionist uses more sophisticated assessment protocols for assessing test results which are based on rigorous research. We use what are known as optimal ranges for assessing results. These ranges are based on research to formulate what are the most optimal values for health. As opposed to the conventional practice, which is to use reference ranges most often just based on a plain statistical average of a population that is already very unhealthy as a whole- additionally, it is most often people who are sick who get tested at labs, making the problem worse.
Identifying the root causes helps the functional nutritionist to reverse the disease through diet, lifestyle changes, removal of underlying infections and detoxification, nutritional supplementation, functional movement, and other holistic practices.
Top renowned functional medicine practitioners like Chris Kresser, Mark Hyman, Amy Myers, and Terry Wahls have helped hundreds of thousands of people recover from difficult chronic conditions and are sought after globally for their knowledge and expertise.
“Functional Medicine is a hidden movement sweeping across the globe.”
-Mark Hyman, World renowned functional medicine practitioner and founder, The Ultrawellness Center
Cleveland Clinic, which is constantly ranked as America’s top hospital, recently opened a center for functional medicine.
Functional nutrition and functional medicine are forms of holistic medicine, and there is no regulatory body that is the authority on these terms. Functional Nutrition follows the same principles as functional medicine except with a focus on nutrition. The Institute of Functional Medicine in the US is the most well-known organization for functional medicine. It is accredited by ACCME, the US government body responsible for regulating specialized medical courses.
Another well-renowned functional nutrition institute situated in the USA is The Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy. Their course is available to individuals with some prior medical qualification or healthcare background. You can complete the course within 9 months but have a maximum of 24 months to finish it.
Another popular course in Australia is The Nutrition Academy which offers 4 courses including postgraduate courses and is accredited by the International Accreditation and Recognition Council. (IARC) and the International Institute for Complementary Therapsists(IICT). There are quite a few other good ones across the globe as well, especially in the USA, Europe, and Australia.
In India, iThrive Academy is the only organization offering a functional nutrition or functional medicine course. It is a 4-month certification course on functional nutrition.
Functional nutrition is a specialization of nutrition, so ideally, one should do a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in nutrition or a related field beforehand. However, the iThrive Academy course, being a certification course, anyone is eligible to enroll for. As long as they have a basic foundational knowledge of health and nutrition, there should not be an issue.
There are a number of different paths you can pursue once you’ve completed your functional nutrition training. You can work as a consulting nutritionist or health coach, either independently by yourself or under an organization. You can work in nutrition research, where you would be delving into the medical, and scientific literature and likely publishing papers yourself. You can also teach nutrition.
iThrive offers roles in nutrition consulting, R&D, and teaching as well through iThrive Academy.
Additional Skill Sets
To become a competent functional nutritionist one needs a thorough understanding of human physiology and nutrition. This serves as a foundation before proceeding to acquire additional specialized knowledge. A degree course in medicine or nutrition can help with this but is not mandatory. A personal interest in health and nutrition goes a long way in helping you succeed in the field, especially if pursuing an R&D role. Study of the blood and analysis of blood parameters is a key part of functional nutrition.
While skill requirements vary depending on the exact role, the following are some of the most commonly required skills to succeed in this field.
1. Patient communication skills. The ability to explain why something is significant and persuade someone to take a difficult action (eat properly, exercise, meditate).
2. Competence in program design or the capacity to design a program with clinical impact that a patient can follow.
4. Lifestyle coaching, the ability to serve as a mentor figure to your client and inspire them to make changes.
5. Setting an example. You need to be in good health yourself if you wish to work in this field, especially if you are working as a practitioner. This means having a healthy diet and lifestyle and having your health parameters at optimal levels.
6. You need to be able to read and interpret lab test results for all kinds of tests. If pursuing an R&D role, you need to be able to read and analyze medical research papers.