Functional Nutrition: An Emerging Health Field

May 17, 2020

Food has always been the cornerstone of any regimen that one undergoes to improve his or her health. Yet, we tend to often overlook it as a cure for all the root causes of health problems that we face. That is where functional nutrition comes into the picture.

What is Functional Nutrition?

Functional Nutrition (FN) is defined as the analysis of the molecular way in which food affects the human body. Functional nutrition aims at addressing the imbalances in the body by restoring function through food, lifestyle and supplement interventions.

FN transforms dysfunctioning bodily systems into optimal, functional health. While Functional Nutrition uses food as medicine, it is not just about food, but overall lifestyle change. Instead of prescription of drugs, functional nutrition addresses the root cause of the problem.

FN does this by asking vital questions such as, “Why do you have the problem in the first place?” and “Why has this function been lost?”

It views the individual as a different set of functional cells. FN provides a diet according to that. It supports the normal recovery mechanisms of the body rather than attacking the symptoms or the effect directly. FN stresses that health isn’t only the absence of any illness but the state of immense vitality.

What does Functional Nutrition Address?

Firstly, let us look at what nutrition means. Nutrition is the intake of food, in consideration of the body’s dietary needs. Good nutrition – adequate, balanced diet, enough intake of water, protection from toxins and toxic thoughts and a proper exercise regimen – all contribute to a healthy body.

When it comes to caring for our body, we focus on masking the symptoms rather than treating the root cause. For example, if a person is overweight, he or she will usually go join a gym for an external weight loss regimen rather than treating the root cause, which is dietary glycemic overload, food sensitivities, inflamed intestine, intestinal permeability or a chronic hormonal disorder like metabolic syndrome, thyroid or diabetes most of the times. Functional Nutrition addresses the root cause of the problem rather than trying to artificially mask the symptoms.

Think of a leaking boat, conventional efforts are like taking a bucket and bailing out the water as it fills up. That’s like working out to lose weight. It's physically and emotionally exhausting and when you stop the water fills up again. That’s why people who reduce or stop their workout become overweight again. The same goes for other efforts like reducing calories and going on ketosis etc. The moment you stop the effort you become overweight again.

Functional nutrition says a normal boat should not fill up with water, so we find the leak and fix it. The boat is then normal again. The boat can have multiple leaks in multiple locations, different boats can have different kinds and sizes of leaks. No matter what the problem is, we can find and fix it. We presented weight gain only as an example, because it's very visible. Even if you aren’t overweight, if you aren’t filled with vitality, motivation and joy your boat is leaking in some way. And we would be honoured to fix it. Because we believe a human life is precious, beautiful and divine.

Functional Nutrition and its Benefits

We stress on the optimal food and way of eating for each person to regulate the normal function of his/her body. The most important thing that it does is realign our relationship with food. With the increased intake of fresh, uncontaminated, unadulterated, organic food our body begins to regain an ability to heal from an injury or illness. It improves our energy drastically and also our satiety.

We emphasise the importance of subjective nutrition choices for you according to your body. For example, by lab testing, we can find out the particular foods that you are allergic to that are causing inflammatory responses within your body. This test would detect if you have an inflammatory condition due to food. You can cure many inflammatory diseases just by eating the right kind of food meant for you and your health.

A case in point

Consider this example of a 40 year old male patient who came to us with diabetes. His fasting blood sugar would often cross 110 mg/dl and after his meals (postprandial) it was often 140 mg/dl, this was due to his habit of having a small bowl of yogurt (curd) and some ghee after every meal. His IgE antibodies food allergy test showed he was allergic to yeast present in the yogurt and his IgG antibodies food intolerance test showed he was intolerant of milk and milk products and yeast. So his lifelong habit of having a bowl of yogurt and some ghee had created a chronic inflammation in the gut, triggering intestinal permeability.

This in turn caused the immune IgE and IgG antibodies to trigger a systemic inflammation which led to elevated cortisol levels, which led to elevated blood sugar, which led to diabetes and was going to lead towards cancer had we not done the blood work.

If you recall the leaky boat example, having yogurt and ghee was the leak. Which he easily fixed by giving up the habit, we taught him how to make a satisfying low saturated fat and low glycemic load alternative to the yogurt and the ghee. Next was to take out all the water that had come into the boat, chronic inflammation, leaky gut and diabetes. We managed to reverse this completely in 3 months, with key support molecules taken as supplements, just in time for his 41st birthday. And he reported 15 kgs of weight loss and better sleep, vitality, clarity and positive mood. He also managed to double his turnover in his monthly business in just 3 months of clear mindful time.

In conclusion

Functional Nutrition is the future of healthcare, not because it’s new or fancy, but because it brings us back to the foundation of what healthcare should be about — the needs of the person.

Mugdha Pradhan
Functional Nutritionist

With a Master’s degree in nutrition and two decades’ experience in health and wellness, Mugdha has successfully healed many people at iThrive (Previously ThriveFNC) since 2017. Mugdha herself was struggling with finding solutions when her health took a nosedive. With modern principles of functional medicine and ancient wisdom about food, paired with spirituality, she beat several chronic illnesses.

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