"It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." – Charles Darwin
An exceptional collaboration is based on unique contributions from all parties involved. Why do many professional sports teams have a group of coaches and special teams? Because it takes each persons unique contribution to create the whole package.
In functional medicine (FM) the triad of provider, dietitian and health coach is the trifecta. Critical components from each of these disciplines come together to provide comprehensive results for clients . The FM provider or practitioner is creating the timeline, looking at the core clinical imbalances as they relate to the patients lifestyle, doing lab work and developing recommendations to address the root cause. They spend a significant amount of time with the patient, usually an hour or slightly more gathering all of the information needed to create the best plan forward. The provider does not have the time to review and adjust the diet and walk the patient through that extensive process.
In walks the dietitian and the collaboration begins. Dietitians spend an amazing amount of time learning the intricacies of phytonutrients, macronutrients, balanced meals, how to connect symptoms with food intake and generally improve diet to support health in any number of ways. They are experts in helping patients achieve a workable nutrition plan that serves the patients health needs and also supports the social aspects of food and connection.
Often, in my clinical work, the dietitian will come back from meeting with a patient and say “I referred this patient to you, she really needs some coaching”. The dietitian is excellent at creating a plan for whole body nutrition but not equipped to help a patient through managing stress with hands on tools that will prevent, for example, the next SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) event. It’s all tied together!! Stress can be the factor that throws everything off track so that it almost doesn’t matter what you are eating unless the stress is managed.
In walks the health coach. The provider and dietitian have critical roles, they have set the stage but they are not the ones to spend the time really delving into the patients daily life to see where behavior changes can be made and support patients through the changes that they are willing to address. If the patient is not quite ready to make the full changes, the health coach can expertly lead them into stages of change so they are ready and they made the decision, not someone else. At times a health coach can see a patient every week to establish new behaviors, mindset shifts and problem solve through all the areas of the providers recommendations and support. Stress management, relationships, exercise, mindset shift, sleep, personal and professional development, detox protocols, supplement regimens... All of these areas weave into a dynamic health journey for the functional medicine patient that ultimately provides an experience that both heals and allows the patient to be empowered to take care of their own health. When I have patients who are just seeing me as a health coach, we have the conversation within the first few visits about connecting with a functional medicine provider and dietitian. As a Functional Medicine Health Coach I can’t do blood work to determine nutrient deficiencies, potential heavy metal poisoning, high levels of environmental toxins or even mold or lyme infections. Yet, these may be some of the reasons a patient has energy deficits or any number of symptoms. Working with a patient for several weeks and getting them ready for the FM provider visit is a key component to getting the most out that visit and the recommendations, and then the journey progresses.
The collaborative process between these three disciplines, the provider, dietitian and health coach is a powerful and effective way to achieve the patient outcomes that move our collective society ahead toward health and prosperity.
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. —Helen Keller