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What is Functional Wellness?

Updated: May 10

The Wellness with AO Philosophy

Written by Ashley Osborne FNP, Wellness Coach, Sept 8, 2023

Have you ever heard the terms functional, integrative, holistic, or root cause and wondered what they meant? They are often used interchangeably and describe the approach a practitioner/wellness coach may take when considering solutions to illnesses or unwanted symptoms.

The functional wellness coach believes that unwanted symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that something is out of balance: your gut/diet, hormones, stress load, sleep, toxic load, not living in alignment with your values/calling, a lack of essential movement, and more.

The belief is that the resolution of unwanted symptoms is possible by understanding the underlying causes of these imbalances and restoring them. According to Michael Gregor, author of the book How Not To Die, “the best kept secret in medicine, is that given the right conditions, the body will heal itself.”

Many Americans are searching for a different approach to our current medical and pharmaceutical systems. The United States spends more on health care than any other developed nation but still ranks below 30 countries for many public health indicators, including preventable death and overall life expectancy. Prescription medications often target symptoms, failing to address the root cause of the problem.

My Holistic Wellness Journey

Only a few years back, I was a patient on my own gut, neurologic, and mental health journey. I was offered surgery and medication respectively, but my instinct told me that I had not always been this way. I was a Division I runner a decade before with a different diet and lifestyle, a supportive community, a sense of purpose, and regular spiritual practices. I didn’t have any of the unwanted symptoms I was currently experiencing, rather, I felt like the best version of myself. I thought, there had to be a way to get back to that state naturally, without invasive procedures and bandaid solutions.

Integrative Wellness, Functional Wellness, Root Cause Medicine, Gut Health

Over the next couple of years, I discovered the science that backed my intuition and immersed myself in it (Holistic Nutrition & Wellness and Functional Medicine). With the help of knowledge, lab testing, lifestyle and diet changes and a coach, I was able to restore balance organically. Now, I trust my body to tell me when something is off and know what I need to do to rebalance it. I believe this is possible for anyone willing, with a little knowledge and guidance.

A Body Out of Balance

What are some ways the body lets us know it is out of balance: Brain fog, fatigue, ADHD, headaches, mood swings, anxiety/depression, panic attacks, acne, eczema, hair loss, weight gain, autoimmune dysfunction, IBS/IBD, bloating, and hormonal imbalance, to name a few.

Areas of imbalance which a Functional Wellness Coach or Practitioner may help you discover are:

1. Diet/Nutrition- the Blue Zones shed light on diet commonalities of populations living to 100. These "centennials" predominantly consume whole foods and plant-based diets, unlike the standard American diet many of us have consumed since childhood. Processed foods, an abundance of sugar, saturated fats, and other typical "American foods" have wreaked inflammatory havoc on our bodies.

2. Gut imbalances such as:

a. Overgrowth of bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic pathogens.

b. Digestive organs (gallbladder, pancreas, stomach, intestines) in need of additional support.

c. Good gut bacteria in need of a boost.

d. Inflammation of the gut lining and its need for repair.

3. Sleep patterns

4. Movement patterns

5. Internal/external toxin load and elimination

6. Cortisol and hormone imbalances

7. Nutrient Deficiencies

Working with a Wellness Coach

Working with a wellness coach may help you:

1. Identify areas of imbalance through a thorough intake, specialty lab testing, and one-on-one coaching.

2. Create action plans to restore balance using lifestyle, supplement, and nutrition recommendations.

3. Help you to create rhythms of flow and balance in each of the categories of wellness so that you can fit them into your life without being overwhelmed with information.

4. Create sustainable change and lifelong wellness.


Are you are frustrated with the current healthcare system and/or innately believe that health should be approached with a mind, body, spirit approach? Maybe you're like me and want to start with the least invasive and most intuitive approach when addressing your health woes. Working with a functional practitioner or coach may be the guide you need to get your body back into balance and on the path to lifelong holistic wellness. It was definitely life-changing for me.


CEO, FNP, Functional Wellness Coach

Wellness with AO

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