The Role of a Functional Medicine Nutritionist

What is a Functional Medicine Dietitian

As a functional medicine dietitian, I translate scientific evidence about gut health and nutrition and put it into practice with my patients. This is a key task considering the plethora of misinformation out there regarding nutrition and gut health. As I comb through social media posts, the amount of nutrition misinformation that I see is staggering and a lot of this information is from people that have no formal education in health or nutrition. If you look deeper you will find that many of them only have an online certificate. A lot of this misinformation could be harmful to someone with a gut imbalance. The information may seem so simple that people think, ‘oh this couldn’t hurt, I’ll give it a try.’ But a simple cleanse, detox protocol or herbal remedy could put someone into a tailspin. I have seen this happen all too often.

Historically, trends in nutrition are a result of pseudoscience. Identifying good science takes a trained eye and just because a study is published in a peer-reviewed journal doesn’t make it good science. An understanding of how the study was designed and implemented is key. Another critical factor is knowing who funded the study. Industry funded studies are common in the U.S. and sometimes very difficult to identify. This is less of an issue in Europe as they have stricter rules regarding the funding of health and medicine related studies.

As a functional medicine dietician, I comb through research daily. I also stay informed on nutrition trends so when a patient asks me about them, which also happens daily, I can explain why this would or would not be good for their particular health issue. I would estimate that 80% of the time I am explaining why it would not be good for them.

There is no, ‘one diet for all’ or ’10 foods that will flatten your stomach’ or ‘one herb that will cure IBS’. Nutrition requires a very individualized approach and a methodical approach at that. I have never prescribed the exact same diet for more than two people. When nutrition is approached with this type of individuality, people heal.

In addition to diet, functional medicine nutritionists look at many aspects of a person’s lifestyle, including sleep patterns, digestion, sources of stress, medications/supplements, physical activity, energy level, source of joy, time spent in nature, environmental toxins and mood. Each one of these aspects has a profound effect on our health and have a cause and effect aspect on our bodies. Functional medicine dietitians are trained in the cause and effect of each of these and we are trained on how to address them with our patients.

Karen Graham, RDN

Functional Medicine Dietitian

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