Bio-individuality is the unique IIN nutrition and lifestyle concept that describes the idea that everyone has their own path to health and happiness. This concept is eloquently radical, and I mean that in its original Latin usage, which is radix or “root.” Our global IIN community has been teaching, learning, living, and thriving by seeking out the root – the root cause of health issues and the root of who we are as individuals.
You are the best determinate of what foods, physical activity, sleep habits, and stress management methods are best for you! Because you are your first client as a Health Coach, asking yourself those questions and holding yourself accountable is bio-individuality in action – and helps prepare you to become a successful Health Coach to others.
This concept of bio-individuality and radically forming your own way to health stands in contrast (but not against) the decades of research and policy that attempt to promote official diet and exercise recommendations for entire populations. These dietary guidelines and recommendations, which are often influenced by the prevailing food industry, recommend pyramids and plates filled with more food-like items than real whole foods.
Although these guidelines have been recommended for “everyone,” it was recently noted in an analysis on racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in clinical research that only 3% of participants in published studies on population health were of African, Hispanic, or Latin American ancestries.
As I said, promoting this concept of bio-individuality doesn’t go against these recommendations. Instead, it’s an integration of all the knowledge an individual has that allows them to make an informed decision around the nutrition and lifestyle practices that are best for them. The research and policy making have been critical for the health of the greater public – but what’s lacking in these official recommendations is twofold:
1) Emphasis on a whole foods–focused way of eating as opposed to following one type of diet
2) Encouragement to learn what foods work best for you, with the understanding that age, environment, physical activity, stress, gut health, and much more will impact how the food you eat affects your health
But, here’s some interesting news:
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is moving away from population-based nutrition advice in order to provide personalized nutrition guidance based on a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between an individual’s diet, genes, proteins, microbiome, metabolism, environment, and lifestyle. According to NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, it’s “high time to bring nutrition science into the twenty-first century.”
The NIH is dedicating $156 million to examine how tens of thousands of Americans digest food by collecting tons of data, such as continuously monitoring blood glucose levels and studying the microbes in the gut, over five years. Examining how food affects people is challenging, and most studies have relied on self-reported data from participants – but how reliable is that? We all eat our veggies all the time, right? We never grab chips after midnight, right?
This new effort by the NIH is big and much different from previous nutrition studies. Called the Nutrition for Precision Health research program, it focuses on three main study groups:
1) Approximately 10,000 volunteers will wear various monitors for 14 days to track their usual routines, including diet, physical activity, and blood sugar levels, to create a baseline.
2) Of these volunteers, 1,500 will eat prepared foods of specific diet types, such as a DASH (low sodium) or Mediterranean diet, provided by the NIH. After each intervention diet, physiological responses to test meals will be assessed.
3) Another subset of volunteers, about 1,000, will stay at a clinic for three two-week periods. Here, their meals will be strictly controlled, and outside food will not be allowed. While seemingly harsh, going from free range to controlled is the gold standard for nutrition science, as it weeds out other variables, such as a human’s desire to snack!
For the first time ever, a study this size is utilizing brand-new technology to make sure the sample population is diverse. If successful, we may soon have a scientifically proven way of optimizing our diet and overall health based on our genes and gut microbes.
Health Coaches should feel empowered by this news! It’s essentially a study into what IIN has identified as vital for health and happiness, and it confirms the value of our training and coaching philosophy. The outcomes of this study, expected in about five years – though initial research will be discussed well before that, will empower Health Coaches and their practices now and well into the future.
We’re at a real inflection point, and it’s because of the hard work of IIN, our advocates in Washington, D.C., and our coaches all over the world who are impacting lives every day.