Functional Nutrition Fundamentals

Functional Nutrition is complimentary to and is based on the same principles as Functional Medicine. Both strive for root-cause resolution of health issues. In Functional Nutrition we look at a client’s health history and significant life events. Unlike a Functional Medicine doctor, the role of the Functional Nutritionist is never to diagnose, treat, or prescribe.


Adapted from practitioner guide from The Institute for Functional Medicine

Food is energy. At the most basic level, food is a fuel source necessary for the body to function. Every cell in the body requires energy to function, and the source of that energy is food.

Food is information. Food has a profound impact on physiology. By-products of food convey messages within the digestive system, assist with metabolic processes, and aid in cell signaling. Certain foods can help to reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, support detoxification pathways, improve cellular energy production, and improve body composition. Conversely, other foods can increase inflammation, raise blood sugar and insulin levels, increase body fat storage, fail to prevent muscle loss, and adversely affect cellular energy, detoxification, elimination, and hormone balance.

Phytonutrients—components of plant foods that give them their color—are particularly important for a wide range of bodily processes, including cell signaling, toxin elimination, hormone metabolism, immune system functioning, to name a few. For this reason, IFM developed the Phytonutrient Spectrum Suite for Functional Medicine practitioners and patients. The suite includes the

n Phytonutrient Spectrum - Comprehensive Guide

n Phytonutrient Spectrum Foods, a general food list

n Phytonutrient Spectrum Foods - Elimination Diet, a food list

designed specifically for use with IFM’s Elimination Diet

n Phytonutrient Spectrum - Checklist for Kids

n Phytonutrient Spectrum - Bibliography

n Rainbow Recipes: A Day of Color

These documents can be used as stand-alone resources, or as a supplement to any of the IFM food plans described in this document.

Food is connection. People often choose to consume certain foods, snacks, or beverages because they can provide a state of connection to something else—like the sense of pleasure. For centuries food has brought people together, often serving as the central focus of social gatherings and celebratory events. The smell, taste, or texture of food can help an individual connect to memories of pleasurable events and places or time spent with people. The reasons why we choose and crave certain foods aren’t always driven by logic and knowledge of healthy food choices.


Food is medicine. The Western diet has large nutritional gaps because of the abundance of food with poor nutritional value. As a result, chronic diseases are rampant. Healthy whole foods can be just the medicine the body needs to reverse many of these diseases. Nutrigenomics, a new science that studies the impact of food choices on gene expression, is proving that we truly are what we eat! The key is making an effort to choose nutrient-rich foods that send the right healthy signals to the body for positive gene expression and optimal health. Eating high quality foods can have a positive influence on the body and may even help to reverse disease. By identifying the ways in which food choices contribute to the underlying causes of disease, practitioners can adjust diet, nutrition, and lifestyle to move an individual towards their greatest state of health and healing.