I've recently completed my training in Functional Medicine Wellness Coaching and the part I loved the most was learning about all the Functional Medicine Food Plans. I think this because when it comes to making better health choices; nutrition and food are the hardest 'circle' for me!
The way the Institue for Functional Medicine (IFM) approach diet and food helped me to unpack my long, bad and complicated relationship with food. As a child, I was a very picky eater. I remember going through a phase where I'd only eat Pro-Nutro (caked in a sugary crust) for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I clearly remember having 'puppy fat' as a pre-teen which is not surprising considering my sugary, processed and so-called 'yummy' food choices.
As I entered puberty (and started to notice boys), I became very conscious of my weight and figure. Obsessed is probably a better description. I started dieting - weighing my food, planning my daily menu, weighing myself religiously every morning and the 'puppy fat' melted away. At 15 years old I weighed about 47kg (I am 1.63m tall), lost my period and yet, I felt completely in 'control'. The truth is that I had, like many young women, developed an eating disorder and my relationship with food had morphed into something really dangerous that would take me years to undo.
During my varsity days and working life, my diet consisted of coke, coffee, cookies, pizza and at one point I limited myself to one meal a day only. My weight 'yo-yoed' and at times I would binge eat and then throw-up. Looking back I had no idea 'what' food was and saw it only as the enemy or as an amazing comfort. I lacked the knowledge and insights that I have today. The damage that I did to my metabolism was permanent as well as the pressure that I placed (unknowingly) on my already 'wonky' genes. So, as I am writing this, I think that it's no wonder I was diagnosed with estrogen-positive ovarian cancer at 36.
In many ways, being diagnosed with cancer was a whole new start for me and I was lucky to discover Functional Medicine and DNA testing. I didn't want to be sick and I needed to respect my body better. However, even today I have to be super-mindful of my choices, avoid snacking and eating too much chocolate! Today, I use the knowledge of my genes to guide my daily diet choices and this helps me choose that green juice instead of that rusk or cookie!
Functional Medicine sees food as medicine. This means that each and every food choice is a chemical (just like a drug or pharmaceutical medicine) that instructs your DNA and biochemistry. When you start to look at your diet choices like this; you start to become mindful of 'what' you are putting at the end of your fork!
Food is not just the calories you take in; it is also a source of information for the body. With every bite taken, food has the ability to turn on or off genes that control disease risk, lifespan, and metabolism. Certain foods can impact blood sugar, or even trigger allergic reactions, inflammation, or autoimmune responses. Food has the potential to provide the body with what it needs to function at its best level. If the body isn’t given the right information, it won’t work well, and an individual’s health may decline. If too much food is taken in—or if the food gives the body the wrong instructions—a person can become simultaneously overweight and undernourished and can increase their risk of developing many different diseases.
Based on the information that you provide, together with your lab results and or personal timeline history, a food plan can be introduced to start providing optimal nutrition to your body. If you have many food allergies, the Elimination Diet (a 21-day programme) may be the best choice. If you have been eating a highly processed, sugary diet, then their Core Food Plan would be the perfect place to start. If you have symptoms of cardiometabolic syndrome, then the modified Mediterranean Food Plan; the Cardiometabolic Food Plan would be recommended for you. If you have symptoms of inflammation, oxidative stress, neurodegenerative diseases and toxicity, then the Mito-Food Plan would be your best bet!
At JOINCIRCLES we've merged the wonderful science of Functional Medicine together with DNA in order to offer YOU a personalised solution for the type of diet and foods you should be eating daily. We believe that based on your DNA results, you can modify the above healthy food plans based on what YOUR body needs. Your DNA results will guide you as to how much fat you should consume daily, or whether you should eat a low-carb or Mediterranean diet.
Having information about your unique DNA and biochemistry means that you will know what specific foods or nutrients to 'add in' so that your body can function optimally. You may even need to supplement some of these nutrients if you have a medium to a high genetic variation on one or more of the genes tested.
To get started on your journey, visit our integrated DIET SHOP or book a consultation with Dr Heidi or myself, or simply dive straight in and order our DNA DIET + HEALTH test.