Monday, November 3, 2014

What The Integrative Dietitian Nutritionist Can Do For You

By Lisa Fischer, MS, RDN, CDN

Greetings my fellow health enthusiasts (or enthusiasts-to-be)! I’m excited to share what I’ve learned over the past few years both personally and professionally. I have been living with gastrointestinal and immune issues for the better part of my life. Beginning at age 10, I experienced bouts of debilitating stomach pain which eventually, at the ripe old age of 11, brought me to a GI specialist who performed both an endoscopy and colonoscopy. After this mildly traumatic event, my parents were told that I had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but the doctor had no treatment to offer. Over the next 10 years I would develop Lyme disease (requiring serious antibiotics) and mononucleosis (requiring steroids) which left me depleted and a perfect target for illness. During my long recovery from mono, my dad handed me a nutrition book and unknowingly planted a seed. I began changing my diet and saw that it actually made me feel better, even better than the dozens of bottles of Pepto-Bismol that I downed (my insides might still have a fluorescent-pink glow!). As soon as I learned that I could help others improve their health with food for a living, there was nothing that could have stopped me from becoming a dietitian. I went to a great school and got into one of the top internships in the country, but a year into my first job, I knew something was amiss.

I remember one afternoon meeting with a gentleman in his early-40’s who was recovering from a heart attack. He reviewed his diet with me, which consisted of Spam, Dorito’s, French fries and soda (no joke!), and his family was following suit. What did I do? Because of my packed schedule, I sat with him for 15 minutes and told him the importance of eating less meat and more fruits and vegetables. Who was I kidding? I knew my script was falling on deaf ears and I wasn’t addressing the underlying issues. Something had to change. I began a search for a new way of approaching nutrition. After some encouragement and support from family, friends, and my employer, I began to pursue a path less traveled.

Goal 1: Attend the Food As Medicine conference. Check.

Goal 2: Get my master’s degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health. After 54 flights from New York to Maryland... Check.

Goal 3: Become a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner. Okay, so I can only do so much at once. This one is in progress, but thanks to steps 1 and 2, I fell back in love with nutrition.

The tides are turning in U.S. healthcare. More people are realizing that the “pill for every ill” approach is too simplistic and is failing us. We spend more money on healthcare than any other developed country and we are among the sickest and most confused about how to foster lasting health.  Groups of forward-thinking practitioners/institutions in integrative and functional medicine are shifting to a more proactive, rather than reactive, style of care. So what do “integrative” and “functional” actually mean?

  •          Integrative medicine focuses on the whole person (body, mind and spirit), is informed by evidence, takes into consideration all aspects of lifestyle, makes use of the best conventional and alternative therapies, healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing. "Treatment originates from outside, whereas healing comes from within." – Dr. Andrew Weil
  •          Functional medicine addresses the root causes of disease and engages both patient and practitioner in the therapeutic process. It is a science-based, patient-centered systems approach that considers the complex interactions of a person’s history, genetics, environment and lifestyle factors that can lead to illness. Functional medicine treats the person who has the disease, not the disease that the person has!” –Dr. Mark Hyman

I’m a visual learner, so the above picture may help clear up some of your questions. This is the Functional Medicine Tree. It beautifully illustrates the functional approach. When a plant is diseased, you don’t just clean off the leaves. If you want a plant to grow, you don’t water the branches. To support growth and health of the whole plant, you focus your attention on the soil. In much the same way, rather than treating isolated symptoms or organs, these practitioners focus on the health of the “soil”- sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress levels, relationships, and genetics- the factors that have the greatest impact on disease and disease prevention.  See a larger picture here.

Integrative and functional approaches have their differences, but the most important similarity is that food is medicine. The most potent medicine of all is what, as well as how, you eat. So stay tuned for a series of unique, informative, and entertaining posts that can help you start, or support, your journey to health and well-being.  

This post was written by Lisa Fischer, MS, RDN, CDN. If you are interested in a personal, in-depth integrative nutrition consultation with Lisa, you can contact On Nutrition at (585) 770-1045 to make an appointment.
Visit (About Us) to see Lisa's bio. 

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