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Published: June 8, 2024

Integrative Nutrition: A Way of Life

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Integrative nutrition combines the principles of traditional nutrition guidelines and functional nutrition to provide a more individualized approach to eating and living. It goes beyond basic dietary guidelines to empower people to get more curious about how their food choices impact their unique body, which often supports them in discovering root causes for various illnesses and maladies.

Integrative Nutrition vs Holistic Nutrition

The ideals and concepts of holistic nutrition and integrative nutrition aren’t all that different. They each focus on aspects of incorporating nutrition into the broader view of health.

Holistic nutrition may look like simply thinking outside of traditional dietary guidelines in order to incorporate what works best for them. This is what IIN calls bio-individuality – that idea we are all unique, and recognizing and honoring our uniqueness is the key to health and happiness. Simply put, what works for one individual might not work for another. Holistic nutrition doesn’t look like avoiding gluten just because your friends do; it’s about doing what works for you. It may also concentrate on food and diet as a first step to combating illness and improving health. To complement their traditional treatments, someone who follows holistic nutrition beliefs may turn to plant-based remedies.

Integrative nutrition is slightly more expansive, as it considers everything not found on your plate. We call this primary food, and it encompasses the many areas of our lives that impact our health and well-being, not just our nutrition. These include things like our environment, career, relationships, spirituality, social life, finances, education, and physical health. Integrative nutrition takes all of these non-nutritional components into account when determining what’s best for your health and diet.

So, while similar, holistic nutrition is just one aspect of integrative nutrition in practice. And integrative nutrition is the full realization of looking at all aspects of your health, not just nutrition.

How to Practice Integrative Nutrition

Many holistic health practitioners incorporate integrative nutrition alongside other health professionals to provide robust, diverse, and effective care. For example, a Health Coach works with clients to set up and reach health goals, but they do not prescribe diet plans nor diagnose or treat medical conditions.

Practicing integrative nutrition may look like incorporating integrative nutrition concepts into your daily dietary choices or encouraging others to follow the concepts through work as a Health Coach or holistic dietitian. How you choose to practice integrative nutrition will differ from day to day, person to person, and need to need.

Take care of your gut microbiome

Over 70% of your immune system lives in your gut, and it’s important that you support your gut environment through proper diet and lifestyle changes. Processed foods can negatively affect the lining of your gut, leading to a range of health issues, like leaky gut, bloating, gas, indigestion, chronic inflammation, and brain fog. Research recommends eating plenty of fiber, staying hydrated, and being physically active.

Focus on whole foods

Getting the essential nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality proteins, and healthy fats is a key tenet of integrative nutrition. Eating a diet high in whole foods can help you to crowd out parts of your diet that may be negatively impacting your overall health.

Indulge in primary foods

Things like your stress levels, sleep routine, quality of relationships all impact your body. By looking at the primary foods in your life, integrative nutrition can support areas that may be lacking and help you make more nutritious choices. For example: Poor sleep habits can contribute to higher stress levels, which in turn may disrupt the endocrine system. This disruption can lead to reaching for quick hits of sugar and processed foods, which can then raise stress levels even higher.

Benefits of Practicing Integrative Nutrition

Integrative nutrition emphasizes the idea that “food is medicine,” which mirrors the stance that functional medicine takes on using diet to treat illnesses. Practicing integrative nutrition allows you to tailor your food choices to your unique physical needs. For practitioners such as functional medicine doctors and dietitians, integrative nutrition is the natural approach to take because they can customize recommendations based on their patient’s full history and lifestyle.

Many common medical complaints have shown to react well to changes in diet, either alone or alongside traditional medicines. According to research, integrative nutrition has shown to be effective in treating the cause of or improving the symptoms of:

How to Get Serious About Integrative Nutrition

Integrative nutrition connects the dots between physical, mental, and emotional wellness and how we think about ourselves and the foods we eat. Nutrition is a key aspect of health, but it’s just one part of the health equation. By focusing on nourishing each of these dimensions of health and wellness, you can show up in your life as the best version of yourself.

If you’re interested in changing your life – and the lives of those around you – the tenets of integrative nutrition is just one part of The Health Coach Training Program. The renowned online program will teach you how to approach health from a holistic perspective and find the diet and lifestyle that works for you – a core IIN concept called bio-individuality. This core concept helps our students and graduates transform their own lives and the lives of others through their work as Health Coaches! Check out our free Curriculum Guide for more information.


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