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“Back it up” is like my mantra.
It’s a mantra I used to help myself solve cases with my own clients, to support my nutrition team at the Functional Nutrition Alliance Clinic when complex cases stump them, and to guide the practitioners I teach to work with their own clients and patients.
It’s also a phrase we use to enable clients to better understand what we do and what sets our work apart from other clinicians.
Let me take a moment to explain what it really means to “back it up”, and how using this mantra can help you too.
When a patient comes to us with a complaint, we want to help them feel better as quickly as possible. It’s tempting to look at her diagnosis, or her most pressing symptom, and try to head it off at the pass with some miracle nutrient or protocol. (Hair loss…must be a B vitamin deficiency—what’s the best brand? Bloating… must be SIBO—where do I find the best SIBO protocol? New Lupus diagnosis… who has the best information on this condition that I can implement for my client?)
Yet I can tell you from years of experience (and save you time, money and lots of stress), that this approach rarely works.
People are very complex, and the roots of their suffering are unique. What led us each to the same sign, symptom or diagnosis—whether it be weight gain, fatigue, Hashimoto’s, PCOS or breast cancer—will be different. We each have a different set of histories and life circumstances that culminate in something that has a similar name. This is the principle of bioindividuality, and there are myriad factors that apply here.
Think of it this way: How many recipes can you find for chocolate cake?
Patients and their complex of symptoms are as varied as those recipes. Each is different and unique.
Everyone has a different set of “ingredients” that led to a result with the same name.
And when we go for the sexy solution—the quick fix or the super specific and targeted nutrient (whether they be methylated B vitamins, the right form of magnesium or glutathione), we aren’t truly serving our clients. Even when those agents may be a helpful part of the resolution!
What serves them, and you, is to start from the beginning. To “back it up”.
In order to “back it up”, you have to ask the right questions, know how the body works, and have a trusted and Functional framework for systematically uncovering more data. It’s the process—the journey—and the information you discover during that process, that informs your next steps of care.
I liken it to building a house.
Although you might know what color you want to paint your bedroom, you don’t paint before you build the bedroom itself. You don’t decorate with an organic wool rug before the floors are installed. You don’t put the second story on before the first.
And you don’t do anything before you lay the foundation.
The foundation isn’t the most fun, or the prettiest. It’s not what gets your house featured in Dwell Magazine, but without it, your house cannot stand.
Health is the same.
And so is healthcare.
If the patient is to truly thrive, there are things you must do first, before any of the fun, complicated, cutting edge work can be done.
You have to look at things like nutrition and hydration, sleep and relaxation, exercise and movement. And all these modifications are not based on a protocol in a book or an idealized set of standards, but instead on the needs and resources of the individual.
And if you’re a practitioner who cares at all about the importance of nutrition, you can’t ignore the role of digestion in optimizing the key nutrients you’re looking to incorporate!
You “back it up” to the patient’s skillset that’s required to help them succeed. You “back it up” to their digestive capacities. And you “back it up” to basic physiological functions—like blood sugar balance and functional elimination.
That’s how you get to those roots, differentiate your care, and enable those that you serve to step into their healing potential.
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.