What Is the Difference Between a Functional Nutritionist and a Conventional Nutritionist?

What Is the Difference Between a Functional Nutritionist and a Conventional Nutritionist?

All bodies are unique, and health and dietary needs vary greatly from one person to the next. Since we all have different genetics, living environments, and lifestyles, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet that works as a cure-all for every single individual. Your dietary plan should be just as unique as you are, which is why working with a nutritionist should be at the core of your health journey. 


If you’ve done some research already, you may have found that there are different types of nutritionists. You may be wondering, “What’s the difference between a functional, registered dietitian nutritionist and a conventional nutritionist, and how can I find a functional nutritionist near me?” 


First, let’s review the difference between each type of nutritionist, and how functional nutrition is unique compared to conventional nutrition.


What Is a Conventional Nutritionist?

A conventional nutritionist is a dietary specialist who has been trained in conventional medicine and is trained to follow the USDA’s nutritional guidelines. They help their clients create healthy, realistic, sustainable meal plans to help them work toward their health goals. Their priority is helping the client better understand food, creating individualized meal plans that are tailored to that client’s specific situation, and teaching them how to make healthier choices.


While almost all nutrition coaching will provide some benefits, conventional nutritionists sometimes miss opportunities to improve their patients’ health because they work out of a narrow framework. They are taught the standard practice of diagnosing and treating each individual health concern, all of which may come with their own individual set of rules, restrictions, and medications. After a while, this process can become muddy, leading the clients on what feels like a wild goose chase to achieve their health goals. Many clients who work with conventional nutritionists find that even if they are getting adequate nutrients and diligently following their meal plans, they may not see the results they were hoping for. Five Journeys sees a lot of benefits to conventional nutrition, but we think your health team can be doing even more when it comes to diet.


The issue with this conventional method is that they are missing major pieces of the puzzle. Many Nutritional Science programs utilize outdated information that views nutrition as a black and white, cookie-cutter treatment. No matter what a client’s goal is, whether it be weight loss, more energy, or relief from digestive discomfort, there is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a revolving door of diets that work for a while until the next symptom or health issue arises. Once a client has exhausted themselves trying every diet under the sun, they are more likely to give up and move forward under the impression that they are destined to live with their symptoms forever.


What Is a Functional Nutritionist?

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, a functional registered dietitian nutritionist approaches each client as a unique individual and takes other factors into consideration when developing their treatment plan. In fact, there are many functional nutritionists near year. You just have to know where to look. 


Stress levels, pre-existing conditions, genetics, and other lifestyle choices all play a role in helping a client achieve optimal health.


Functional nutritionists use science-based data to help them treat the whole person, rather than just an isolated set of symptoms. In doing so, they are able to help determine the origin of the client’s health condition and address the root causes of the symptoms. Some of the factors a functional nutritionist may take into consideration include:


  • Illnesses
  • Medications
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Emotional or physical stressors
  • Genetics
  • Spirituality
  • Relationships or social connections
  • Life history


Standard nutritionists prescribe a singular set of nutrition guidelines that they believe will work for everyone, regardless of other lifestyle factors. The purpose of functional nutrition is to use food as a natural medicine to heal the gut, correct nutrient deficiencies, and restore balance. In addition to failing to consider other key elements of a client’s health and lifestyle, there are a variety of reasons why a diet prescribed by a conventional nutritionist may not work. 


Depending on the stipulations of the diet plan and the client’s individual needs, a conventional diet may:


  • Slow the metabolism
  • Lead to overeating
  • Demonize certain foods
  • Lead to weight loss that is only temporary and circumstantial
  • Cause the client to ignore their hunger cues


Our bodies are very complex machines, and no two bodies are created equally. What works wonders for one client, may be completely ineffective, or even downright harmful, for another. Functional nutritionists take a holistic approach and use nutrition as one part of the whole plan of action to lead the client on a path toward wellness. 


Optimal health relies on a diet that is rich in fresh, whole, nutrient-dense foods. Functional nutritionists often focus on restoring gut health, no matter their condition, to improve a client’s overall health. Since 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, balancing the gut microbiota is crucial to managing health conditions, preventing disease, reducing inflammation, and improving cognition. 


A healthy life goes far beyond what is on your plate. A functional nutritionist will address your entire lifestyle from stress levels and sleeping patterns, to exercise routines and pre-existing conditions. If you are under high amounts of stress, aren’t sleeping well, and are not physically active, your body is unable to properly digest the nutrients from the foods you eat. This can lead to brain fog, fatigue, depression, autoimmunity, and a host of other health conditions. A meal plan is no use unless the body can actually absorb nutrients to begin with!


If you’re struggling with your health and wondering “how can I find a functional nutritionist near me?” contact the team at 5 Journeys today!