It’s been over 15 years since my husband Isamu died.
I can remember that morning like it was yesterday. An ending. A beginning. A point in time so clear and finite for each of us — unlike most triggers in our health histories.
One thing I learned, through Isamu’s illness and death, in working with my own autoimmune condition (Hashimoto’s), and through helping thousands of clients in the subsequent years, is that something critical is missing from the way we treat the chronically ill. That something is the patient.
This is where you come into the story, so be sure to read on…
All too often, treatments are based on study evidence—what worked for a small and specific group of people in a controlled setting. One dilemma with studies is that they are subject to a tremendous amount of translation that often gets overlooked in our desire to find validation of our beliefs and our wish for the cure-all.
This is where media translations of studies and evidence-based practices can really confuse our collective understanding of the “good” and the “bad”—particularly when it comes to diet and lifestyle modification—creating mass confusion.
The interpretation of studies is subject to several factors:
And yet the biggest issue I have with implementing treatment protocols based on studies alone is that they completely disregard what I call personal evidence.
Now don’t get me wrong…it’s highly inappropriate to apply personal evidence, otherwise known as N1 (N representing the population size and 1 the sample size), to medical and pharmaceutical studies and trials as the risks are too high. However, when using an N1 for individualized and self-care, the risk is low and the rewards are immense!
Those rewards not only include the possibilities of finally feeling better, but also the benefit of a patient being more tuned-in to their own body—their personal body of evidence, if you will.
Let’s consider an example: a study might conclude that eggs are good for brain health and development because of their high concentration of the nutrient choline. Yet for someone who’s taken several rounds of antibiotics in their childhood (like many of us did), and developed an immune response to eggs as a result (as is true for me), eating eggs will not help, but instead harm my brain health—possibly contributing to systemic inflammation.
What’s protective can become destructive, in the wrong hands…or body.
No matter what the studies (or books) say, you have to do what works for your own or your client’s body. Some of those action steps will fall into the collective ‘how to’ and others will be vastly different. Personal. Unique. Prescriptive only for the needs of the individual.
Personal evidence is the information you gather directly from your client or patient. Personal evidence brings bioindividuality out of the realm of theory and puts it into practice. Personal evidence is collected with tracking tools and then put into functional systems and frameworks that enable you to see the bigger picture.
And this brings me back to my husband, Isamu. You see, I advocated for the man I loved and the work I do is still in response to that memory—a memory of the person I knew so well being treated like a diagnosis alone. Isamu was not a brain tumor, he was not a Glioblastoma Multiforme—he was Isamu. Seeing him put in the box and seen through the narrow lens of the pathology was not OK for me. It’s not OK for the patients we see in our clinic. And it’s not OK for the clients and patients seeking your help either.
If you want to practice functionally, it’s time to honor personal evidence.
Maybe not in the realm of evidence-based practices, but in a functional nutrition practice that honors history and experience as real, and telling—as evidence.
Functional nutritionist and educator Andrea Nakayama (FNLP, MSN, CNC, CNE, CHHC) is leading patients and practitioners around the world in a revolution to reclaim ownership over our own health. Her passion for food as personalized medicine was born from the loss of her young husband to a brain tumor in 2002. She’s now regularly consulted as the nutrition expert for the toughest clinical cases in the practices of many world-renowned doctors, and trains a thousand practitioners online each year in her methodologies at Functional Nutrition Lab. Learn more about Andrea here.