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Functional Nutrition: A Holistic Approach to Health and Wellness Everything You Need to Know

What Is Functional Nutrition?

Functional nutrition is a philosophy that focuses on treating the whole patient rather than just one specific disease. Here’s what nutrition professionals need to know about this practice and how to get a certification.

Understanding Functional Nutrition

Functional nutrition practitioners take a holistic approach to diet and wellness by assessing the entire body, including environmental exposures, stress levels, digestive problems, and activity levels. This comprehensive evaluation allows healthcare professionals to create individualized plans that promote overall health and wellness.

While functional nutrition may sound similar to holistic nutrition, there is a subtle difference. Holistic nutrition focuses on treating the patient as a whole, whereas functional medicine seeks the underlying causes of health issues rather than just treating the symptoms.

How to Get Certified in Functional Nutrition

There are several pathways to obtaining a certification in functional nutrition:

  1. Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy (IFNA):

  • Continuing Education Courses: Various courses for continuing education.

  • Five-Part Course with Certification: An in-depth program culminating in certification.

  • Five-Part Course and Credentialing Exam: This option includes a comprehensive exam for credentialing.

  1. Dietitians in Functional Medicine (DIFM):

  • Five-Part Course: Offered through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this program helps Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) integrate functional health principles into their practice.

  1. Higher Education: Some universities offer courses or certifications in functional nutrition, providing advanced knowledge and credentials.

Who Can Benefit from Functional Nutrition?

Functional nutrition is beneficial for anyone looking to improve their overall health. It is especially helpful for those experiencing digestive issues, chronic diseases, or those looking to prevent illness.

Components of a Functional Nutritional Assessment

A functional nutritional assessment typically includes three components:

  1. Diet History: Gathering information about eating patterns and food preferences to identify potential nutrient deficiencies or eating disorder tendencies.

  2. Physical Exam: Measuring vital signs such as blood pressure, breathing rate, pulse, temperature, height, and weight.

  3. Subjective Symptoms: Testing for food sensitivities to determine if any foods are causing negative symptoms.

Research indicates that the gut microbiome, type 2 diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and stress are interconnected. Given the significant role nutrition and lifestyle changes play in managing these conditions, functional medicine is increasingly sought after for improving overall health.

Benefits of Functional Nutrition Over Standard Nutrition

Functional nutrition moves away from standardized recommendations and creates personalized plans to promote health. Standard nutrition often relies on specific diets to address particular health conditions, but these diets may not be suitable for everyone. Functional dietitians tailor each plan to meet the specific needs, nutritional status, and lifestyle preferences of each client.


Integrative and functional medicine has gained popularity in recent years for its holistic approach to health. Functional nutrition offers significant benefits by providing personalized care that addresses the unique needs of each individual. For those interested in this field, certifications are available through the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy, the Dietitians in Functional Medicine practice group, and various universities. As people continue to seek optimal health, functional nutrition stands out as a valuable and effective approach.


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