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  • Customized Functional Foods for Optimal Health as told by Donna Marsh

  • A fundamental aspect of wellness is adopting healthy habits that involve functional whole food nutrition. As a wellness coach I am often asked “What should I take?” rather than “What should I eat?” I am not an advocate of supplementing nutrients for the sake of it. I would prefer to see my clients improving their nutrition by eating healthier whole foods and mostly plant-based diets. That isn’t always an easy transition. And it can take some time. Supplements can be an effective way to help them through that transition. Like the folks at understand, every body is different and every person’s circumstances are unique. Mental, emotional, and physical responses differ. Solutions should be as personalized as the symptoms they are designed to correct. It's also not only about the food we eat. Identifying the core challenges an individual struggles with is the first step. The second step is discovering why those challenges are present. Then the body, mind, and heart can begin to heal and re-balance.

    Key factors I address with clients are habits, beliefs, and nutrition. I aim to answer questions about what their days look like, why they make the choices they do, and whether they are getting the nutrition they require. Depending on the symptoms and situation, I may suggest that they have lab work done to identify specific nutritional deficiencies.

    Understanding precisely what your body is telling you is vital to good health. It would be negligent to ignore a potentially serious or urgent medical issue, of course. But it is equally as negligent to assume there is a medical issue without first investigating the quality of your daily nutrition and activities. People can be far too quick to jump on the pharmaceutical bandwagon. Although medicine certainly has its place, it is often gratuitously used. Our mental and emotional health can also significantly impact our physical health (and vice versa). While we look at specific areas of wellness, it is essential to maintain a view of the bigger holistic picture.

    In the nutrition and wellness markets, advertisers will have us believe that we require medicine, quick-fix nutrition and energy-in-a-bottle. We don’t have time to eat right or get enough sleep or exercise or relax, right? We are commonly lead to believe that symptoms are the result of
    a disorder. We are told that we require the latest pill to overcome the challenges of our newly discovered label. This way of thinking has ironically lead to the unhealthy, lethargic, stressed-out states in which so many people find themselves. So, what can we do about it? How do we fix this worn out, run down, overweight, foggy brained life?

    1- Drink more water

    Yep, good ol’ H2O works wonders! Drink at least half your body’s weight in pounds in ounces of water every day. If you’re not currently drinking this much water you’ll likely experience an improvement in a matter of a few short days. You’ll find brain fog lifting and bloating reduced. You’ll have healthier, regular poops. You’ll feel less hungry and have more energy. Your mood will begin to even out, breath will be fresher, and your skin tone will improve. These are just some of the benefits! It’s like magic!

    2- Ensure your body gets the nutrition it needs

    Work with a professional to get yourself started and moving in a healthy direction. A good coach will strive to educate and empower you so you need them less and less. Establish a baseline of your personal nutritional requirements with blood work. You can do this with the support and guidance of your coach in conjunction with your GP or a functional medicine doctor. Direct testing is also available in 46 states within the U.S. Direct testing may require a visit to a lab to have the blood drawn. In some cases you can simply send in a urine sample. You get to skip the doctor visit and the bill that goes along with it. A more economical option that doesn’t involve needles is to visit This growing company has created a convenient way to personalize supplements. It’s relatively quick and easy and the products are delivered to your door. Just answer a brief questionnaire about your lifestyle on their website. The programmed algorithms generate a personalized nutritional supplement based on your input. The product is formulated and delivered to you monthly in the form of a yummy, fruity, drinkable “shot”. This is an awesome way to target specific problem areas while you work with a professional to make sustainable dietary changes. As your body adjusts, so can your supplements!

    3- Get plenty of rest

    Getting a good night’s sleep is a luxury for some. The quantity and quality of your sleep has a huge impact on your health. It affects us immediately and in the long term if we go extended periods of time without enough. Lack of quality sleep is a contributing culprit in the development of numerous chronic diseases. It benefits us more to focus on getting the rest we need than on which energy drink will help get us through another day. Sleep provides our cells time to recover from all that they endure every day. Aside from sleeping, taking time out throughout the day to simply relax and breathe is essential. Rest is not just for your body. Its food for the soul and the mind. Meditation is a fundamental part of my work with clients and my own personal wellness. Learning to be present can eliminate anxiety, depression, and reduce our stress in ways nothing else can. Sometimes supplements can be helpful to promote a restful mind and provide focus and energy. Especially while you transition into a healthier lifestyle. It is important to discuss this with a nutrition professional who can advise you appropriately.

    A holistic approach is necessary to achieve optimal health and wellness. Humans are biodiverse animals. That means we are all physically unique despite our many similarities. A plan to make lifestyle changes to improve health and wellness must include customized functional food for physical nutrition and a plan to incorporate rest and self-care into the mix. The body- mind-heart connection is strong and balance is key to maintain a healthy, happy life!

    Donna Marsh is a Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Integrative Nutrition Counselor, andSelf Mastery Coach. She has over 20 years of experience in personal training, nutrition, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. You can learn more about her practice and up-coming book at