“Holistic.” “Wholistic.” “Homeopathic.” “Functional.” “Integrative.”
These terms get tossed around, and while they’re all interrelated, they’re not synonymous. In my practice I focus on “holistic” and “functional,” so want to take the time to clarify what this means!
What is Holistic Wellness?
Holistic wellness encompasses the intersection of mind, body, and spirit, and how these impact overall health.
What is Holistic Nutrition Counseling?
Holistic nutrition counseling uses the concepts of holistic wellness as a framework, and recognizes the importance of these components as critical in achieving optimal health. However, it provides detailed focus in using foods and nutrients to nourish the body and help it thrive. Just as poor nutrition can contribute to physical and emotional issues, balanced nutrition can nourish the body and support it in operating at its full potential.
Nutrition counseling clients select their own personal wellness goals, which will always include modifying the diet. Work will also encompass addressing some combination of lifestyle habits as well (including exercise and movement, mindfulness, relaxation and stress management, sunshine and nature, mealtime hygiene, sleep hygiene, and reduction/elimination of toxins from the home and personal care routine) to improve personal health and wellbeing while pursuing chosen goals.
Nutrition counselors do not diagnose, treat, or cure disease, and instead focus on overall wellness strategies.
Holistic Nutrition vs. Functional Nutrition
Holistic clinical nutrition and functional nutrition incorporate the above aspects of wellness into work with clients, but the main difference is that in clinical or functional nutrition, the client already has a defined health concern that has probably already been diagnosed by a licensed care provider. A functional nutrition framework seeks to find the root cause of the symptoms (dietary choices, toxicity, lifestyle choices, stress, genetics, etc.), and then implements diet and lifestyle changes to help decrease symptoms. The functional nutritionist does not treat the diagnosed condition, but rather works to support the body to rebalance itself and the underlying mechanism that caused the symptoms in the first place.
A functional nutritionist will also have a very different view of lab work compared to a conventionally trained practitioner. While a conventional practitioner will look at lab work to determine overt disease states, a functional nutritionist will seek to get these lab values into an optimal range – one in which the client can thrive! This range may be a subset or even different from a reference range value, but has been clinically studied and verified to be optimal.
How is Holistic Nutrition different than Dietetics?
Dietetics is practiced by a registered dietician, who is licensed by the state. Dietitians often follow the USDA MyPlate dietary guidelines as well as guidelines from the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association. Dietitians focus on food, and may not explore the roles that factors such as exercise, stress, and environmental toxins may play in achieving optimal health. Approaches are not often customized due to a client’s bioindividuality, and unfortunately, some of the dietary guidance from these organizations is contributing to the health crises that many Americans are facing.
Regardless of the provider that you choose, it is important to ask them about their educational background and additional training.
What is Homeopathy, and how is it used in Nutrition?
“Homeopathy” often gets confused with “holistic” – must be the H’s! Homeopathy is a completely different field from holistic nutrition. While homeopaths do recognize a sound diet, stress management, exercise, and all other lifestyle components as necessary for good health, homeopathy uses specially-prepared FDA-approved medicines called remedies to treat symptoms the body is exhibiting.
Homeopathic remedies may be incorporated into your personalized functional nutrition protocol.