Functional Medicine and Nutrition

The term “functional nutrition” is actually a component of “functional medicine.” Functional medicine is a framework that some doctors use to address the root cause of disease. Before we can truly understand functional nutrition, we’ll have to take a closer look at functional medicine.

What Is Functional Medicine?

“Functional Medicine” is becoming more mainstream due to voices like Dr. Oz, Dr. Frank Lipman, and Dr. Mark Hyman lauding it as the future of health care. The field of Functional Medicine refers to something completely different than what we know as conventional medicine or the standard model of care. To fully understand what functional medicine is, it is important to contrast it with conventional medicine.

Conventional Medicine Difference

Traditionally, a conventional medicine doctor uses drugs or hormones as therapeutic tools to deal with dysfunction or disease. Your general practitioner could decide to treat you, or could elect to refer you to a specialist. A GP and specialist have access to the same basic tool: medication. The training in the standard conventional model of care is to diagnose a disease and match that disease with a corresponding drug. This model works well for acute diseases, trauma, infection, and emergencies. Sadly, it fails miserably in the care of the chronic diseases that affect over 125 million Americans.

History of Functional Medicine

The concept of functional medicine was created by a biochemist named Jeffrey Bland in 1990. Bland was familiar with integrative medicine, a kind of healthcare that focuses on the patient as a whole person (mind, spirit, body) that uses both conventional and alternative treatments. He saw the value of molecular medicine, which seeks to understand and treat disease based on the causes and mechanisms at a molecular level. So, he combined integrative medicine with molecular medicine to form a framework called “functional medicine”.

Characteristics of Functional Medicine

Functional medicine can be summed up by these characteristics:

  1. It is patient-centered rather than disease-centered, with the goal of promoting health that extends beyond the absence of disease.
  2. Clinical imbalances are evaluated within biological systems that identify points of connection revealing underlying causes of disease or dysfunction.
  3. The aim is to treat the root cause of disease to promote healing, instead of treating symptoms to provide temporary relief.
  4. Diet & lifestyle changes are heavily emphasized in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.
  5. Through a therapeutic partnership, the practitioner and the patient work together to achieve goals.

Since nutrition plays such an important and enormous role in functional medicine, doctors often refer patients to nutritionists who practice functional nutrition.

Nutrition-related Problems are a Significant Cause of Chronic Illnesses

People every day suffer from chronic diseases. They experience increased inflammation, metabolic disturbance, elevated autoimmune activity, energy deficits, and often have altered body composition as a result. Many of these issues are related to diet and nutrition: we are living in an era where over-consumption is ironically coupled with undernutrition due to diets devoid of nutrient diversity. The evidence is compelling that the root cause of most chronic disorders lies within our lifestyle choices, particularly our daily food choices.

Functional Nutrition Takes it One Step Further

While the terms ‘functional medicine’ and ‘functional nutrition’ are often used interchangeably, they aren’t technically the same. Functional medicine is a broad medical approach that treats health problems as a part of a system breakdown in your body. In contrast, functional nutrition takes this perspective one step further by highlighting the ways that food is a fundamental component of health and the cause of many problems.

What Is Functional Nutrition?

Functional Nutrition is a leading-edge, evidence-based, systems biology approach to patient care that focuses on identifying root causes and imbalances to improve health outcomes. It is known to support and compliment traditional and integrative medical approaches to assist in the body’s own healing processes. It combines the very best of modern science, clinical research and critical thinking and is being driven by increasing consumer demand, advancing technology and the changing healthcare landscape.

Functional nutrition explores diet, your relationship with food, digestion, absorption, and elimination. It takes into account food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies – what you are getting too much of and what you are not getting enough of.

“You are that which you ingest, absorb, and do not eliminate.”
~ Jeffrey Bland, PhD founder of Functional Medicine


There are many diet programs, but no single diet is right for everyone. The concept of bio-individuality is the foundation of functional nutrition. Your body is unique in its needs and abilities to metabolize the food you ingest. However, food is not the only thing that “feeds” you. Your thoughts and emotions play a part in how you assimilate all that you take in.

Julie Olson, a Functional Nutritionist, Offers This Unparalleled Experience

To practice functional nutrition, it requires in-depth knowledge and critical thinking skills, along with obtaining additional education, certifications and training as Julie has accomplished – may see here. In addition, it takes research evaluation abilities, listening skills, and experience to determine root cause(s).  Julie passionately embraces each individual client’s functional case analysis at Fortitude Functional Nutrition – see her approach here.

Are You Ready to Conquer Your Health Now?

“Whole systems thinking” is gaining traction in the medical world. Functional nutrition provides answers to some of the most significant health problems today and can make a world of difference in your quality of life, health and happiness.

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs,
but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”

– Thomas Edison