What Is Bioindividuality & How Does it Impact Your Health?
Despite the seemingly helpful article titles and advice, “The best way to lose weight,” “The 5 superfoods you should be eating,” etc., there’s really no one-size-fits-all approach to wellness. Optimum nutrition, fitness and lifestyle needs can vary widely from person to person.
Two common examples of this are food and sleep:
One person’s food may be another’s poison. Pasture-raised eggs are a superfood to many—but an allergen to others. And for another person, their naturally occurring estrogen might be contributing to adult acne.
We also have differing sleep needs: while one person may be perfectly well rested on 7 hours of sleep, another may need 9 to feel the same.
With many nuances to our health needs, it’s important to understand which wellness advice is applicable in a “good for everyone” kind of way, and which is more specific to each individual.
Bioindividuality is the concept that an individual’s nutrition, physical activity and general health needs vary based on many factors, including:
Our ancestry and ancestral food history influences our health needs and outcomes. For example, people of northern European heritage (whose ancestors raised milk-producing domesticated animals for millennia) have typically maintained the enzyme to digest lactose in adulthood, whereas most other populations lose this enzyme after about age five, resulting in lactose intolerance.
Our well-being needs (nutrition, physical activity, sleep, etc.) vary significantly across our lifetime. Your needs at age two were quite different from your needs at age 14, which are likely different from your needs now.
Innate biological differences between males and females influence our health needs as well. One example is greater iron needs in menstruating females.
We’re also affected by where we live. For example, people living at higher latitudes tend to need more nutritional supplementation of vitamin D, since it’s not as easily obtained from sunlight year-round as it is closer to the equator.
Situational context certainly influences our overall health needs. For example, a professional athlete has different caloric and nutrient needs than a sedentary office worker—promoting the same diet for each would result in one being grossly over- or underfed.
Our bodies are impacted by our life experiences in many ways. For example, people who had multiple rounds of antibiotics as children have different gut flora and digestion than those who grew up in the same area, ate the same diet, but did not take antibiotics.
A person’s existing health conditions play a huge role in overall health needs (of course!). For example, our probiotic and prebiotic recommendations need to be adjusted for people with FODMAPS intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome because their bodies have a harder time digesting the fiber in prebiotic foods.
Health coaching for the bioindividual
Integrative nutrition is centered around the concept of bioindividuality: that there is no “right” or “best” nutritional or wellness plan that applies to everyone. As bio-unique individuals, our nutrition, fitness and lifestyle plans must be personalized to suit our particular needs.
While there are some general starting points that apply to most people (for example, the tips we promote via our blog), the practice of health coaching is built around helping individuals develop personalized wellness plans that meet specific nutrition and lifestyle needs—in other words, helping you discover the nutrition, fitness and lifestyle that works best for you.
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