Advance Yourself to the Highest Level Through Nutrition
Susan Testa is a functional medicine practitioner and academic educator who specializes in functional nutrition and integrative health. Her fundamental philosophy (whether treating a client or teaching a student) is centered-around a compassionate whole-person and personal approach to promote the best health and education outcomes and desired goals for the individual. Susan established Susan Testa Nutrition LLC to foster science-based nutrition care that is affordable and accessible to all through the development her internship program for post-nutrition graduate interns as they advance their supervised practice hours.
What is Functional Nutrition?
Defining Functional Medicine First
Nutrition is the core modality of Functional Medicine, an integrative approach to health. As defined by The Institute for Functional Medicine, “Functional Medicine is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, Functional Medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional Medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and evaluating the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, Functional Medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.”
Functional Nutrition reflects the functional medicine approach as it relates to “food as medicine.” In the view of the Functional Nutrition perspective, food offers not only the calories that fuel our body’s metabolism (engine) but sends information in our body at a molecular and cellular level which contains many diverse components that play important roles in all our bodily function, thus using food to improve “function” is the foundation of Functional Nutrition.
Functional Nutrition is a highly personalized plan of eating for health that considers areas beyond the conventional nutrition approach and emphasizes your own genetics, sleep patterns, environment factors, stress levels, symptoms resulting in certain burdened or dysfunctional biological systems such as the gastrointestinal tract, hormone imbalances or toxic load. The interaction between genes and environmental factors is a critical component in the development of chronic disease and plays a central role in the Functional Nutrition approach.
Functional nutrition can better promote health, especially for those who have received standard nutrition recommendations but are still experiencing symptoms – for example, if you’re continuing to gain weight despite eating healthier and increasing physical activity. From a standard nutrition point of view, you’re doing all the right things. From a Functional Nutrition point of view, there are other things to consider to figure out this unexplained weight gain, such as thyroid dysfunction, hormonal imbalance, a need to detox the gut, and even high stress levels.
Most nutrition professionals are not adequately trained in integrating nutrition assessments that go beyond conventional methods that address the interconnections of one’s biological systems, physiology and chemistry. Thus, using the “food as medicine” application makes perfect sense to improve the functions of the body. Looking at food and nutrients in terms of function means adopting a broader perspective than the classical one: there is far more to be understood than calories and conventionally acknowledged nutrients. These advanced practice skills are essential for preventing and managing today’s chronic disorders.
What is Integrative Health?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, "Integrative health brings conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way. Integrative health also emphasizes multimodal interventions, which are two or more interventions such as conventional health care approaches (like medication, physical rehabilitation, psychotherapy), and complementary health approaches (like acupuncture, yoga, and probiotics) in various combinations, with an emphasis on treating the whole person rather than, for example, one organ system. Integrative health aims for well-coordinated care among different providers and institutions by bringing conventional and complementary approaches together to care for the whole person."
What is Whole Person Health?
Whole person health refers to helping individuals to improve and restore their health in multiple interconnected domains—biological, behavioral, social, environmental—rather than just treating disease. Research on whole person health includes expanding the understanding of the connections between these various aspects of health, including connections between organs and body systems.
Whole Person Health
Integrative Health Approaches
Integrative health approaches can be classified by their primary therapeutic input (how the therapy is taken in or delivered), which may be:
Nutritional (e.g., therapeutic foods & food plans, dietary & herbal supplements)
Psychological (e.g., mindfulness, spiritual practices, mind-body practices )
Physical (e.g., massage, manual manipulation, hydrotherapy, exercise)
Combinations such as psychological and physical (e.g., yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, dance or art therapies) or psychological and nutritional (e.g., mindful eating)