Functional Holistic Healing
Functional Integrative Medicine Practice of Dr. Nadia Ali
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How to personalize nutrition to your health needs?
‘Nutrigenomics’ is the research pertaining to the interaction between the nutrients in the food that we eat and our genes. It is this interaction that affects every aspect of our health including physical, emotional and intellectual well being. ‘We are what we eat’ has been proven multiple times through scientific research that clearly indicates that nutrition is the key to prevention and treatment of disease.
One of the key questions that I receive from my patients is ‘What is the best diet for me?’. There are lots of different diets and at least some clinical research backing the different diets. There are 8 variables that need to be taken into account when developing a personalized diet plan.
Genetic Composition: Genes such as MTHFR are critically important in understanding our ability to utilize nutrients such as B vitamins.
Body Composition Analysis: This is one of the most important tools that helps us understand the degree of fat, protein as well as water content. A very important variable of body composition analysis is visceral fat which is a very important risk factor for heart disease.
Chronic conditions such as Diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease and hypertension are indicative of body imbalances and limited ability to assimilate certain nutrients.
Exposures such as exposure to metals and pesticides significantly increase nutritional needs of the body and need to be considered when developing a nutritional plan.
Risk Factors such as family history of metabolic and autoimmune diseases and presence of symptoms such as brittle nails and hair loss are indicative of underlying nutritional depletion.
Gut Health: Assessment of gut is the first step towards developing a personalized nutrition plan. Presence of inflammation, inadequate or imbalanced colon bacteria or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or inadequate digestive enzymes are all the factors that should be corrected before initiating a customized diet plan.
Nutritional assessment including the need for minerals, omega 3 and antioxidants is a valuable tool.
Degree of inflammation and oxidative stress need to be assessed and addressed since these factors increase the need for nutrients and antioxidants.
However, it is important to understand that each one of us is unique with respect to our genes, body composition, exposures, chronic conditions, risk factors (family history, food sensitivity), ability to digest and absorb nutrients from our gut, our nutritional needs, degree of inflammation as well as degree of oxidative stress in our body.
Body Composition Analysis
Each of these variables plays an important role in determining what foods you need to include or exclude from your diet. A personalized diet plan will comprise of foods that can be easily assimilated while optimizing the nutritional needs of an individual. This is not a one time plan rather it changes over the course of time as the needs of the individual changes. Our nutritional needs vary depending on age, chronic conditions, physical activity and goals, degree of physical and mental stress and hormonal changes. The first step to personalizing nutrition is keeping a detailed diet diary that outlines the foods that you eat along with the time you consume meals and snacks. In addition, it documents bowel movements as well as outcomes such as fatigue and gut symptoms.
Your functional integrative physician will assess all the above variables, analyze your body composition and your diet diary to provide you with a personalized diet plan. I do not recommend the different types of diet that restrict different types of food groups without an adequate understanding of your nutritional needs. I have witnessed that experimenting with food restrictions due to dietary changes can lead to worsening of underlying problems due to nutritional deficiencies, worsening of oxidative stress and undesirable changes to the gut flora that can lead to worsening gut problems.