As a nutritionist, most of my conversations throughout the day go something like this:
"I want to lose 15 pounds, what should I be eating?"
"I'm an athlete looking to eat the appropriate macros, what's best for me?"
"I'm struggling with a thyroid condition, what foods should I avoid?"
And while many conversations start this way, what I end up telling my clients is that every body is beautifully unique. This is what fascinates me most and motivated me to study the field of functional nutrition. Functional nutrition takes into consideration that each person is an individual, with their own underlying imbalances. In my practice, we use a series of laboratory testing to identify what's truly going on in the body and causing symptoms like weight gain, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, skin manifestations, or chronic fatigue (to name a few).
What is empowering yet frustrating about our internet-search-driven world is that the internet provides a glorious amount of information whenever we're in trouble. We Google "best foods for weight loss" and get a million hits. And while this is helpful for many people, there are some people who try all of the recommendations to no avail. Something has got to give, right?
This is the struggle today with generalized nutritional information. We read that kale is the next best superfood, so we eat it every single day, neglecting other important veggies. But here's the thing. Every body is going to metabolize and utilize nutrients differently. Yes, you heard that right… You may be taking in what seems to be the *proper* amount of B12, for example, but you still may be falling short. There are several reasons that this may happen:
A newer field of genetics, called Nutrigenomics, is looking at how genetic abnormalities may cause an increased need for specific nutrients. For example, a single nucleotide polymorphism or an "SNP" (a fancy word for a genetic mutation) called MTHFR can slow down your body's ability to process folate and B12, which can lead to symptoms like depression, anxiety, heart conditions, birth defects, and more. Understanding your genetics can help you understand why you're still experiencing undesirable symptoms, even if you're eating a healthy diet.
2. Underlying gut Imbalances
Your gastrointestinal system is an extremely smart and diverse colony of cells and bacteria. Our 21st-century world that contains pesticides, toxins, and highly processed foods can do a number on the health of your digestive system. All the way from the stomach to the large intestine, bacteria, yeast, parasites, and even low stomach acid can cause a disruption in your nutrient absorption. If bacteria and yeast block the barrier of your small intestine, you may be excreting nutrients that you're taking in from your diet.
3. Underlying infections
Feeling fatigued? Chronic joint or muscle pain? Been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition? All of these symptoms lead me to believe that there are foreign "bugs" in the system that may be snatching up your nutrients and leaving you feeling lousy. Functional testing to determine any underlying infections can provide specific herbs and supplementation to eliminate the bad guys so that you can restore proper balance in your body.
The moral of the story is that sometimes eating *healthy* just isn't enough. Every person needs their nutrition a little bit different from the next guy or gal. If you've changed your diet and still don't feel your best, or if you've hit a plateau with your progress, you may be a great fit for working with a functional medicine practitioner or functional nutritionist to understand more about your unique needs.