A Functional Approach to Health
Imagine the spokes on a bicycle wheel. They radiate from the centre of the wheel connecting the hub with the outer rim. Spokes allow for an even distribution of load and help transfer energy from your legs to the rim making the wheel turn. They all have to be in place, straight and securely attached to enable a smooth ride. If just one of these spokes bend or break, the distribution of energy and load changes and the wheel will begin to wobble. You may continue to ride, but sooner or later other spokes will give in to the imbalanced load and you will eventually be left to walk.
Functional nutrition is based on the concept that good health is a consequence of metabolic equilibrium (called homeostasis in biology), which can only be maintained through the interaction of all body system working together in a precise and delicate manner. Like the spokes on a bicycle wheel they all have to function well to allow for even distribution of energy and load. Dysfunction in just one system disturbs the overall homeostasis. Thus, functional nutrition is a holistic approach concerned with examining core metabolic and functional processes and pathways required to ensure homeostasis and hence the optimum function of an individual.
Processes considered include:
- Assimilation (e.g. digestion,, absorption)
- Biotransformaiton and elimination (e.g. toxicity, detoxification)
- Communication (e.g. hormones, neurotransmitters, immune messengers)
- Defence and Repair (e.g. immune function, inflammation infection, microbiota)
- Transportation (e.g. cardiovascular and lymphatic function)
- Energy (e.g. energy regulation and mitochondrial function)
- Structural integrity (from the cell membrane to the musculoskeletal system)
Functional nutrition recognises the biochemical uniqueness of each and every individual taking into account genetic as well as acquired predispositions, all aspects of life, which can influence these processes and ultimately health. This requires detailed evaluation of environmental inputs such as the diet and nutrients (including air and water), the effects of exercise and general physical activity, as well as psychological and psychosocial factors (e.g. stress and trauma).
Hence, functional nutrition deals with the whole person, rather than just specific organs or body systems, using the client’s life journey and related functional information as key tools for developing the most appropriate clinical approach for that particular individual.