Customized Nutrition: Meeting Individual NeedsNov 30, 2023 09:31AM ● By Alora Frederick, RDN, LDN
There is an epidemic of confusion about nutrition-related advice which makes the pursuit of wellness a daunting experience for many. The general public receives conflicting, ever-changing nutrition advice while also being marketed with myriad supplemental remedies. It’s no wonder then that many individuals stay get stuck in a vicious cycle of feeling unwell and not getting clear answers to what their body is craving.
This is where the concept of precision nutrition may prove to be helpful. The philosophy behind it is that each body and each person will have a unique and different response to specific foods and nutrients. What is optimal and nourishing for one person is not a guarantee for another.
The concept of precision nutrition has been better understood through studies such as the PREDICT 1 trial, which focused on the individual response to food between genetically identical people—twins. There was found to be substantial variations in how each person responded to the same food including variations in blood sugar response, triglyceride levels in the blood and alterations to the bacterial profile of the microbiome. Precision nutrition recommendations stem from the evaluation of an individual’s DNA, microbiome, glucose responses to foods, stress levels, lifestyle and more. The method is about going beyond general health recommendations or beyond trending and flashy diets to find a personalized and more precise approach to acquiring wellness in the body.
The body is a delicate mosaic of thousands of unique biological reactions. What will nourish and assist one body’s unique biological process may be neutral or even harmful in another body. Some examples of this include the ketogenic diet is able to ameliorate seizures in someone with epilepsy, but long term can lower levels of beneficial microbes in another individual. Magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium that can be wonderfully helpful in aiding chronic constipation, but for some it may contribute to diarrhea.
Fortunately, there are practical steps to discover the personalized needs of each individual body, the first being getting to know one’s body better. Principles from Intuitive Eating may prove to be helpful for this endeavor. It’s an approach to eating that fosters a positive relationship with food and the body. A few principles include rejecting the diet mentality, honoring hunger and fullness cues, and honoring our health. This includes eating foods that we know will make us feel good, as well as foods that we simply enjoy. Borrowing a few elements from Intuitive Eating is a great starting place when looking to foster a deeper understanding and connection with our bodies.
The use of a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) is an excellent resource for understanding how blood sugar levels in the body respond to specific foods. Typically, CGMs are only prescribed for individuals with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, they can be ordered through some functional practitioners, so anyone can examine their blood sugar patterns. Comprehensive stool samples are also a helpful data point for getting a snapshot of someone’s microbiome. The strong influence the microbiome has on the metabolism of food as well as overall wellness makes it worth exploring.
Lastly, having the ongoing support of a registered dietitian is critical. Dietitians help clarify nutrition-related research, debunk trends that may be more harmful than helpful, help us work around food intolerances and sensitivities, and most importantly, they create personalized, precise nutrition plans for each individual.
Precision nutrition hopes to discourage the random adherence to the latest diet trend and to give respite from the rigid dogma of many dietary interventions. The approach instead aims to support an individual’s unique physiological blueprint.