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Course Wrap Up: Empowering Health Through Functional Nutrition

At the heart of functional nutrition lies the recognition that every individual is unique. Our genetic makeup, environment, lifestyle, and even our microbiome dictate that what works for one may not work for another. This innovative field goes beyond traditional dietary guidelines and delves into the specifics of how foods can support or hinder your personal health objectives.

We’re thrilled to share the highlights from our recent webinar, which capped off a four-week Health Explorers course on functional nutrition. Throughout the course, we delved into how to balance nutritional needs, harness food as medicine, navigate dietary challenges, and understand the importance of testing.

Here’s a brief overview of our weekly themes:

  • Week 1: Balancing Nutritional Needs – We kicked off with the basics of functional nutrition, emphasizing the importance of both macronutrients and micronutrients and dispelling myths surrounding fats and carbohydrates.
  • Week 2: Food as Medicine – Our focus shifted to the healing power of food, discussing ways to reduce inflammation naturally and how food choices impact hormonal balance, mental clarity, and sleep quality.
  • Week 3: Navigating Challenges and Misconceptions – We addressed common dietary challenges, examined the health implications of various sweeteners and tap water, and explored the inflammatory properties of certain oils.
  • Week 4: Testing – The final week was dedicated to understanding how blood work and insulin testing are pivotal in shaping our nutritional choices, along with the significance of the gut microbiome and dietary supplements.

There is no other activity you do every day that has more power to change our biology than what
you eat.

A Q&A With Maryke Gallagher

We hosted a webinar titled “Empowering Health Through Functional Nutrition,” where we had the pleasure of speaking with Maryke Gallagher, a Cape Town-based dietitian nutritionist with over 20 years of experience in nutrition. The webinar provided valuable insights into the world of nutrition, debunking myths and offering practical strategies for enhancing our health.

For those who couldn’t attend, we’ve compiled a summary of the Q&A session from the webinar. Let’s dive in!

Q: What exactly does a dietitian nutritionist do, and how do you make a difference in people’s lives through your work?

A: Dietitian nutritionists are registered healthcare professionals who provide evidence-based nutrition counseling and guidance to individuals and groups. We work in various settings, including hospitals, public health, research, and private practice. In my practice, I focus on helping individuals optimize their health and manage disease conditions through personalized nutrition plans. I believe in looking at a person as a whole, considering their cultural and social background, lifestyle, and clinical parameters to tailor a nutrition plan that suits their needs. By addressing the root causes of health issues and making sustainable dietary changes, I help clients improve their overall well-being and quality of life.

Q: What are some common nutritional challenges you see in your practice?

A: I see a individuals with a wide range of needs, including oncology patients, patients with metabolic syndrome, digestive problems, and more. Many people struggle with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, and heartburn. Environmental factors, stress, and diet play significant roles in these conditions. Poor dietary habits, lack of physical activity, and stress can exacerbate these issues. I work with clients to identify triggers, improve gut health, and create a balanced diet that supports their specific needs.

Q: How does our understanding of genetics help in personalizing nutritional therapy?

A: Nutrigenomics allows us to understand how our genetic makeup affects how our bodies interact with food and the environment. By learning about gene variants, we can tailor nutrition plans to improve body function, reduce disease risk, and optimize nutrient utilization. It’s fascinating how lifestyle changes can influence gene expression and overall health. For example, certain genetic variations may affect how well someone metabolizes certain nutrients, which can inform dietary recommendations to prevent nutrient deficiencies or reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Q: What is your view on intermittent fasting? Is it good for both male and female bodies?

A: Intermittent fasting can be beneficial, but it’s not for everyone. It’s important to fast in alignment with our circadian (or day night rhythm), ideally eating most calories during the day and fasting at night. Certain individuals, such as those with diabetes, a history of eating disorders, or pregnant women, should avoid fasting. Females need to consider their hormonal cycles and individual needs when considering fasting. It’s crucial to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any fasting regimen.

Q: How does transitioning to a plant-based diet impact long-term health outcomes?

A: A well-planned plant-based diet can have positive impacts on chronic disease prevention, heart health, weight management, and digestion. However, it’s important to ensure adequate intake of nutrients like protein, B12, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fats. Consulting with a dietitian can help ensure a balanced and healthy plant-based diet. Transitioning to a plant-based diet can lead to improved cardiovascular health, reduced inflammation, and better gut health, but it’s essential to do so mindfully to avoid nutrient deficiencies.

Q: Can nutrition and lifestyle changes reverse high cholesterol or hyperthyroidism?

A: In many cases, yes. I’ve seen cholesterol levels improve significantly with dietary changes in my practice. However, it’s important to tailor the approach to the individual’s genetics and specific health condition. For familial hypercholesterolemia, diet can help manage the condition, but it almost always require medication to bring levels down to normal. Working with a healthcare professional who believes in the power of nutrition is crucial. For hyperthyroidism, dietary changes can support thyroid health, but it’s essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to manage the condition effectively.

Q: Are there any supplements you believe are essential for optimal health, and how do I know if I need them?

A: Supplements are very personal, and we should aim to get most of our nutrition from food. However, due to various dietary, lifestyle, and genetic factors, some people might need different supplements. If I had to highlight a few, they would be probiotics, due to the many environmental factors that can affect your gut microbiome. Omega-3 fatty acids are another supplement to consider, as most people struggle to get enough from their diet. Magnesium is also often lacking in our diets and has many health benefits.

Our webinar and course have underscored the dynamic relationship between diet and health. While there are general principles to follow, the journey to optimal health is highly personal and individualized. Understanding that each individual’s path to wellness is unique, Maryke Gallagher offers personalized nutrition guidance tailored to your specific needs.

If you’re inspired to take control of your health journey and would like to work with Maryke, she is available for both in-person and virtual consultations, making her expertise accessible no matter where you are. To schedule a session or to learn more about how Marika can help you achieve your health goals, please reach out to her at:

We believe that with the right guidance and a personalized approach, everyone can achieve their best health.

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