Functional Nutrition: What Is It, and How Can It Change Your Life?

Functional Nutrition: What Is It, and How Can It Change Your Life?

It’s no secret that what we put into our bodies directly impacts how we feel and how well our body operates.

Good nutrition is essential to good health, but new information seems to hit the news every day. What once was good for you is now bad, and vice versa.

Because of all the conflicting information, we often look to health professionals to guide us.

In addition to their primary doctors, many people seek out help from a nutritionist to better understand how certain foods can impact their health goals.

Now there’s a new professional flooding the market: the Functional Nutritionist.

What is functional nutrition, and how can it change your life? We’re diving into all the aspects of this exciting field so you can continue taking your health into your hands.

What Is Functional Nutrition?

Functional Nutrition is part of a growing specialty called Lifestyle Medicine, which is gaining recognition in the medical community. This approach to nutrition goes beyond standard protocols by looking at your health through the lens of the whole.

Standard nutrition looks at food groups and presents nutritional facts on vitamin content, fiber, protein, fats, etc.

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While this isn’t bad, functional nutrition takes this a step further by also acknowledging the influence of lifestyle factors (4,5) such as:



Stress levels


Other environmental factors

Because of its whole-body approach, functional nutrition focuses on what works for you, as opposed to basic knowledge of foods and how they affect your body.

Functional nutrition also emphasizes the importance of “functional foods” which are real, whole foods that support your gut microbiome and a healthy metabolism. Examples of functional foods (2,3) that may be promoted are:

  • Fatty acids/fish oil
  • Probiotics/Prebiotics
  • Oat bran fiber
  • Plant steroids
  • Soy proteins
  • Tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Walnuts

Do functional foods promote better health? In theory yes, because the components in these foods address your cell’s core needs. The “food is medicine” approach supports healthier patients as a whole, instead of only looking at the presence or absence of a disease or condition.

What’s the Difference Between a Nutritionist and a Functional Nutritionist?

Both nutritionists and dieticians are professionals who educate people on the best ways to promote their health and wellness using food and aspects of nutrition (1).

Taking on the roles of teacher, counselor, and accountability partner, these experts work with those who may need additional support making good food choices.

Clinical dieticians and nutritionists work in various professional settings (6), such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Private practice
  • Holistic clinics
  • Large corporations
  • Wellness centers
  • Food manufacturers
  • Sports facilities
  • Health food stores/shops

Functional nutritionists work in similar settings and may also work remotely.

Both use scientifically supported information to address their client’s nutritional needs. But instead of a general approach to “eat this, not that”, functional nutritionists develop a personalized nutrition program based on your background, culture, resources, and health goals.

How to Become a Functional Nutritionist

Functional and integrative medicine is a fast-growing industry, projected to see an increase of roughly 17% by the year 2026 (7). It’s an exciting time to be in the wellness field, and if you’re in the medical profession and interested in expanding your career by going deeper into the root cause of disease, functional nutrition is a great path to pursue.

But how do you get there?

Ideally, you’ll want to begin by completing your undergraduate in standard nutrition education from an accredited college. Once you have the basics covered, you will go on to become board certified in Functional Nutrition.

Why? Because in addition to the “food is medicine” view, functional nutrition equips you in areas of both nutrigenomics and biochemical individuality. These innovative topics are leading the future of nutrition education. The Institute of Functional Medicine (7) offers established, accredited courses that certify you to practice functional nutrition in your current clinic or practice. This is an invaluable skill to have and will help set you apart as you continue to improve the lives of your clients.

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In Summary

Learning about proper nutrition is foundational to living a healthy and happy life. Different foods offer different nutrients, all of which your body needs to thrive.

Functional nutrition takes a whole-body approach, keeping lifestyle factors and genetics in mind regarding food and how your body processes it.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health, which is what makes functional nutrition unique.

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This approach keeps your lifestyle, diet, environment, and bio-individuality in mind when creating programs and plans that help you reach your health goals.

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✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author