Integrative & Functional Nutrition For Optimal Health

Table of Contents

What is holistic nutrition?

Holistic nutrition is about eating a healthy and balanced diet. Food and drink provide the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Understanding these nutrition terms may make it easier for you to make better food choices. Food provides the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Healthy eating is not hard. The key is to

• Eat a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products

• Eat lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and low-fat dairy products

• Drink lots of water

• Limit salt, sugar, alcohol, saturated fat, and trans fat in your diet

Saturated fats are usually fats that come from animals. Look for trans fat on the labels of processed foods, margarine, and shortenings. Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your optimal health.

Nutrition impact on optimal health

Unhealthy eating habits have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States: about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese. Even for people at a healthy weight, a poor diet is associated with major health risks that can cause illness and even death. These include heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. By making smart food choices, you can help protect yourself from these health problems.

The risk factors for adult chronic diseases, like hypertension and type 2 diabetes, are increasingly seen in younger ages, often a result of unhealthy eating habits and increased weight gain. Dietary habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood, so teaching children how to eat healthy at a young age will help them stay healthy throughout their life.

The link between good nutrition and healthy weight reduced chronic disease risk, and overall health is too important to ignore. By taking steps to eat healthily, you’ll be on your way to getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, active, and strong. As with physical activity, making small changes in your diet can go a long way, and it’s easier than you think.

See: Functional Medicine For GERD

Integrative & functional nutrition

Integrative Medicine And Nutrition

This emerging field concentrates on food and nutritional supplements’ significance in healing the mind, body, and spirit to promote optimum wellness. Traditional medicine might treat depression with a range of prescription medications. What is now broadly called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) may take care of that identical individual with depression using dietary or herbal supplements. The rapidly evolving field of integrative medicine seeks to combine the best of both worlds–proper elements of conventional medicine and CAM–to help patients achieve optimum health and wellness.

Integrative and functional nutrition goes beyond essential nutritional advice per published dietary guidelines. It integrates the root causes of imbalances in digestive health. It goes even a step further and looks at genetic predisposition, ecological impact, physiological and psychological factors such as illness. Internal and external factors are considered to evaluate and prioritize suitable interventions. Recommendations are tailored for each individual’s unique personal profile.

Functional nutrition focuses on the individual rather than the disease. It’s a personalized way of optimizing your health based on your unique genetics, laboratory values, lifestyle, and more. There are no generic meal programs or handouts because every person is different.

Integrative dietitians leverage their medical nutrition therapy training with integrative and functional medicine modules, blending several philosophies into one cohesive strategy. Collaboration between the dietitian, client, and other health care providers involved in the patient’s care is crucial. The team works together to discover a whole-foods diet plan that might include supplements and herbs to pinpoint an individual’s unique needs.

You will be given a comprehensive nutrition assessment at your first hour-long visit. A review of your health history, food and supplement intake, digestive health, food allergies or intolerances, and wellness objectives are studied carefully. After the analysis, you’ll have a clear comprehension of the steps required to attain your targets. A follow-up program is developed to routinely evaluate your progress and make adjustments as needed.

Working with an integrative dietitian to improve your nutritional status and digestive health is an essential element when addressing a range of chronic conditions and health objectives. It’s quite useful, but not required, to keep a food journal for a few days before your first visit.

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Functional & integrative nutrition benefits

Benefits of Integrative Nutrition Treatment

Improved nutritional status and digestive health may help to address:

Neurodevelopmental Problems, such as autism or ADHD

Cancer prevention and encourage

Heart disease

Food allergies or intolerances

Mood imbalances

Diabetes management

Weight management

Autoimmune conditions

Gastrointestinal conditions, such as IBS, colitis, or Crohn’s disease

Celiac disease

See: Functional Medicine For Heart Disease

What is integrative or functional nutrition?

Nutrition has a significant role in integrative medicine. It has spawned a relatively new discipline that combines using supplements and food to promote optimum health and treat disease. It is called integrative, holistic, or functional nutrition. This health coach discipline is becoming more popular as it concentrates on how diet and supplementation might result in the wellness objective of healing body, mind, and soul.

Food and supplements are not intended to replace conventional medicine, and dietitians are not doctors. Still, RDs should understand this emerging area might assist their customers and consider how to integrate it into their professional lives.

There is no formal definition of the burgeoning discipline because the area can encompass a number of distinct modalities. The food and nutrition element of integrative medicine shares the philosophy of focusing on the entire person. It is not just about eating the recommended number of fruits and vegetables every day or counting calories. A more systematic approach to healing the whole person through food, vitamins, minerals, and herbal and dietary supplements is developed that works alongside traditional medicine. Dietitians must first grasp the notion of integrative medicine, which has been in existence for several years but has just recently started to get more recognition. People are looking for different ways to protect against disease and healing the body.

Nutrition has a growing role in integrative medicine. Let us look at supplements associated with migraine headaches, depression, and inflammatory diseases. RDs use these strategies to advise clients more effectively.

See: Functional Medicine For Migraine Healing

Evolution of Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine combines traditional medicine and CAM. Conventional medicine usually is what patients experience when they visit a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic. It encompasses high-tech procedures, operation, and pharmaceuticals to treat health conditions and ailments.

Alternative medicine can include unconventional healing methods that range from acupuncture, aromatherapy, biofeedback, and reflexology to healing touch. The mix of alternative therapies and traditional medicine is known as CAM. Quite simply, CAM is anything used alternatively to conventional medicine.

 Integrative medicine lies somewhere between alternative medicine and conventional medicine. According to the NCCAM (National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine), integrative medicine “combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which high-quality scientific evidence of safety and efficacy exists.” Andrew Weil, MD, founded the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (ACIM) and further took the philosophy. He defines it as: “Integrative medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all lifestyle aspects. It exploits all therapies, both conventional and alternative, and emphasizes the therapeutic relationship.” Integrative medicine treatments are comprised of mind, body, and community.

Integrative components of nutrition

Any RD counseling a patient now typically covers the essentials of nutrition: macronutrients, micronutrients, energy expenditure, and food labels. The concept of integrative or holistic nutrition goes deeper and explores the idea that the appropriate diet and food can help heal the body physically and emotionally. Some elements include the following:

• Diet styles: These can include all of the different fad diets which flood the market annually, like the Paleo and raw food diets. To advise clients successfully, RDs must learn about these trends, understand and explain why they might or might not work, and effectively relay this info to customers.

Food-mood link: Many studies have examined how particular foods, whole-food supplements, or both may influence behavior, depression, irritability, and emotional eating.

Food cravings and addictions: Teaching customers how to react to food cravings is a substantial part of treating the entire person’s philosophy. RDs help deconstruct the cravings by assessing the sort of food, the timing of this craving, what is happening in mind through the craving, the events surrounding the craving, the customer’s emotional status, and the release of certain chemicals linked to cravings and addictions. In actuality, food addictions have become a research focus. Current science indicates that a food addiction presents itself in the mind similarly to drug dependence, which we are “hard-wired” to keep reaching for certain foods.

Phytonutrients & Antioxidants: While antioxidants play a role in integrative nutrition, dietitians will need to dig deeper to understand the whole-body philosophy. They have to understand antioxidants and phytonutrients at the cellular level and how they relate to gene expression. For instance, which antioxidants turn genes on or turn them off and what impact it has on the body. Assessing the synergistic effect of multiple food nutrients also fits into this equation.

A dietitian’s role might include candid discussion on food sustainability, food manufacturing procedures, buying local food, organic vs. conventional farming methods, genetically modified foods, food marketing, and food labeling. A number of these areas include social and political debate that RDs might want to think about as they help guide customers’ food choices when treating the entire body.

Creating a Functional Nutrition Plan

When creating a plan for customers interested in integrative or holistic nutrition, it is essential for RDs to recall the integrative medicine philosophy of treating the entire person. Nobody plan fits all customers, and their emotional, physical, and nutritional needs must be addressed when creating a strategy. Clients may have many common problems, but the degree of RD-client discussion and the path to achieving targets may differ significantly.

RDs conduct an initial assessment with a thorough medical history and assessing the client’s medications, including those sold over the counter, in addition to supplements. They inquire about present and past food habits, lifestyle patterns between food, work, and play, client’s support systems, and family dynamics, about food or drug allergies, and much more. Moreover, dietitians should consider using vitamin and mineral supplements, anti-inflammatory diets, and herbs.

See: Functional Medicine For PCOS

Integrative evidence-based treatments

Using evidence-based treatments has become a more precise approach to diagnosing, evaluating, and treating health conditions. Many disorders may benefit from an evidence-based nourishment approach. Some common ailments that may benefit from an evidence-based nourishment approach are migraine headaches and depression. Individuals commonly seek treatment outside of traditional medicine for these chronic issues.

Migraine Headaches

Caffeine, foods containing preservatives, and processed sugars, can cause migraines. Clients can identify food triggers by maintaining a headache-food journal to ascertain which foods may be causing the migraines. They ought to record if the food has been consumed and when and if a headache follows. They should note the intensity of the headache because it may have been triggered by the amount of a specific food eaten. When the RD recognizes a pattern, the client can start to eliminate those foods to find out which item is the offender.

Other migraines causes include low blood sugar, abrupt increases in blood glucose over a brief time period, sinus congestion, and sinus infections. One technique to decrease the migraine headaches incidence is to keep the sinus cavity free of germs by irrigating the nasal passages using a neti pot. Another solution is using the herbal supplement feverfew, which was proven to decrease the frequency and severity of migraine headaches due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Since it’s available in a number of forms (e.g., dried leaves, fresh leaves, tinctures, capsules), dosing depends upon which form a customer uses.  When recommending herbal supplements, it is essential for RDs to understand the contraindications and potential drug interactions of any medicines clients are taking.

Depression: The complexity of depression warrants using treatments beyond the domain of nutrition. These include psychotherapy, medication, and regular physical activity. However, nutrition plays a significant role in regulating a person’s emotions.

Vital nutrients for optimal health

Nutrients have a positive influence on the brain neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Based on the nutrients a person consumes, they could influence the number of neurotransmitters produced. RDs should inquire from clients experiencing depression if they undergo emotional eating episodes since depression can cause it. Dietitians should continue this conversation during the treatment procedure. One method to help alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression is to take vitamin and mineral supplements. Research has proven that omega-3 fatty acids, S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe), folic acid, and B vitamins may play a role in regulating mood.

Omega-3 fatty acids: a growing number of studies support the concept that omega-3 fatty acids may alleviate symptoms of depression. A positive correlation exists between an inadequate (or deficient) ingestion of omega-3s or an unbalanced proportion of omega-3s to omega-6s within the human body and an increased depression rate. Research to ascertain the right dose of omega-3 fatty acid intake to alleviate symptoms is underway. Flaxseed or flaxseed oil supplements may be useful for vegetarian and vegetarian clients.

• B vitamins: due to the connection between B vitamins and also the synthesis of SAMe, B vitamins (especially folic acid and B12) are important to take in adequate quantities. The elderly, vegans, or people with inadequate nutrient intake often have insufficient B12 levels. Since vitamin B6 plays a role in manufacturing serotonin, it is vital to take the suggested amounts. A reduced intake of the B vitamins has been associated with depression, so one B-complex supplement may be beneficial daily.

Folic acid: Studies reveal deficiencies in folic acid are linked to depression. Decreased levels of folic acid contribute to decreased serotonin levels, the brain neurotransmitter that leads to a sense of well-being and happiness.

SAMe: Many caregivers believe SAMe to be a powerful, natural antidepressant. Since its positive effects can be apparent early on, SAMe is advocated in the nutrition therapy program. SAMe is the crucial methyl donor in the body and is involved in the metabolism of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Its synthesis is impaired in depression. Supplementation could result in improved brain monoamine levels, improved binding of neurotransmitters to receptors, and increased brain cell membrane fluidity. Dosage should be tailored to the patient based upon the effects.

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Herbal supplements in integrative nutrition

Herbal supplements may serve well in integrative or holistic nutrition. The following lists a few of the most commonly used herbal and spice supplements used:

Turmeric: Turmeric is called Indian saffron and is the principal element in curry powder and mustard. Its components are diarylheptanoids (yellow pigments) or curcumin. It has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A normal supplement includes curcumin extract and might be used to relieve generalized pain and, significantly, stomach pain.

Boswellia: Also called Indian frankincense, Boswellia can help slow inflammation by lowering leukotriene production. It can be utilized as an anti-inflammatory for osteoarthritis, tendonitis, and bursitis or alleviate ulcerative colitis symptoms. Boswellia is commonly sold in capsule form as a standardized extract.

Licorice: Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) can be quite effective in treating gastroesophageal reflux (DGL). It can help soothes irritated mucous membranes and has been proven to be as effective as some prescription drugs for treating migraines and preventing recurrences.

Aloe vera: It is known chiefly because of its medicinal use. Aloe vera juice is mixed with fruit juice and is used to decrease inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and help soothe gastrointestinal disorders.

Whether advocating herbal or vitamin and mineral supplements, RDs need to understand how they consume them and affect the body. They should talk to their clients’ doctors before recommending them or include another integrative plan element.  Dietitians will need to be aware of the contraindications and drug interactions associated with every supplement and be mindful of how they may affect clients with various other medical problems. Additionally, it is crucial to monitor clients for any side effects or adverse events.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Many foods can lead to inflammation that could manifest as chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis pain (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis), atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis. Therefore, RDs should encourage clients to reduce or eliminate foods with inflammatory properties and increase their consumption of foods with anti-inflammatory properties.

Foods that may cause inflammation contain saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, refined sugar, additives, and animal proteins. Whole foods include those made from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or intact grains, those low in saturated fat which contain omega-3s, plant proteins (e.g., nuts, seeds, lentils, legumes), and unprocessed foods.

The anti-inflammatory diet balances the proportion of omega-6 into omega-3 fats, which should be closer to 1:1. (Present sources indicate the Western diet has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio nearer to 15:1.) 11 Increasing omega-3 fats while decreasing the amount of omega-6 fats in the diet can help balance that ratio and reduce the inflammatory reaction.

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Using integrative methods in pediatric nutrition is a place that’s particularly growing. Researchers are analyzing integrative therapies in children with autism, ADHD, and obesity. Research in these areas is becoming even more significant as more nutrition professionals embrace the integrative principles into daily practice. Nutrition in integrative or holistic or functional medicine is part of a fascinating field where research is progressing. RDs interested in this field are invited to discover integrative medicine as a starting point and integrate its philosophies in their specialty.


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