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Foundational Health Support Protocol

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Foundational Health Support Protocol

Functional medicine is an individualized, root-cause approach to medicine that emphasizes the importance of lifestyle factors, environment, and genetics in maintaining health or developing diseases. Health exists on a spectrum and is influenced by diet, physical activity, stress, relationships, and the medications and supplements we take. A foundational health support protocol is an integrative, evidence-based plan that reinforces the importance of healthy lifestyle habits in creating wellness and promoting resilience to disease. This protocol is appropriate for anyone interested in enhancing function and performance and preventing physical decline, regardless of the presence or absence of disease.


What is a Foundational Health Support Protocol?

A foundational health protocol calls attention to the Therapeutic Order, which outlines the constructs that guide many functional medicine providers' decision-making. The protocol emphasizes the first three pillars to establish a solid foundation on which an individual can thrive. The hierarchy of this order is as follows:

1. Establish the foundations for optimal health and remove obstacles to cure

2. Stimulate self-healing

3. Support and restore weakened systems

4. Address physical alignment and correct structural integrity

5. Address pathology with natural symptom relief

6. Address pathology with synthetic symptom relief

7. Suppress pathology with surgical interventions

The first pillar in the therapeutic order acknowledges the foundations of health - the basic building blocks needed to sustain optimal health, function, and wellness - understanding that innate healing cannot occur when disturbances are present in these foundational determinants. The foundations of health include nutritious food, clean water, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, community, and spiritual beliefs. Working with a functional or naturopathic doctor, you will dive into these core factors and how they support optimal health. Removing disrupting factors and establishing health-promoting habits to optimize the foundations of health are primary goals in a foundational health support protocol.

A foundational health support protocol also targets digestion and detoxification, two of the body's essential functions, to stimulate the body's innate healing mechanisms and restore function to weakened body systems.

Who Would Benefit from a Foundational Health Support Protocol?

A foundational health support protocol is right for anyone motivated to make lifestyle changes that support long-term health and prevent illness. A foundational health protocol prioritizes healthy lifestyle habits to optimize general well-being and the body's innate ability to heal.

Functional Medicine Labs to Order for a Foundational Health Support Protocol

Functional medicine labs help practitioners personalize treatment options for their patients. Below are some of the most common diagnostic biomarkers and indicators of foundational health.

Comprehensive Blood Chemistry Panel

Assessing blood chemistry is an effective way to easily screen and identify imbalances in the body's metabolism - the reactions involved in the cell's production and utilization of energy. A comprehensive blood chemistry panel is an inexpensive way to assess primary bodily functions and screen for medical conditions and health risks.

A complete blood count (CBC) is a fundamental panel that includes markers for red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), and platelets. The CBC can provide clues that indicate RBC disorders, like anemia, immune activation and infection, clotting disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) measures 14 metabolites related to blood sugar, electrolytes, the body's buffering system, liver, and kidneys. The CMP is an indispensable screening and diagnostic tool.

Thyroid disorders are common and easily overlooked in the conventional healthcare model. A comprehensive thyroid panel ensures a thorough evaluation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis and thyroid autoimmunity to screen for all stages of thyroid dysfunction. This is important because thyroid hormones are essential in maintaining the physiologic and metabolic function of every tissue in the body.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of metabolic conditions that, together, raise the risk for stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Advanced lipid testing includes the basic markers of cholesterol and other biomarkers of lipid particle composition and cardiovascular inflammation, which are more accurate markers of cardiovascular risk.

Gut Health Assessment

Gut health and function are central to the optimal functioning of the body. Imbalances in digestion and the microbiome can influence metabolic function, hormonal balance, immune function, and everything in between.

A comprehensive stool test provides a broad screening of digestion and absorption, intestinal inflammation, and the microbiome. With these results, specific treatment recommendations can be personalized to stimulate self-healing and strengthen digestive function.

Nutritional Assessment

A foundational health support protocol emphasizes returning to a food-as-medicine dietary approach. However, the truth is that even with the "healthiest" of diets, given mass agricultural practices in the United States, our food is not as nutritious as it once was, and 31% of the American population is at risk of at least one vitamin deficiency. A comprehensive nutritional assessment screens for nutritional deficiencies and inadequacies to personalize a health protocol to an individual's needs.

Foundational Health Support Protocol

A foundational health support protocol brings the focus back to the first three principles of the Therapeutic Order to restore and optimize health. With an emphasis on optimizing healthy digestion and detoxification, this protocol aims to help form habits related to a healthy diet, ample physical activity, restorative sleep, and creating deep connections that foster good health.

Therapeutic Diet and Nutrition Considerations for a Foundational Health Support Protocol

There is undoubtedly no one-diet-fits-all approach for everyone. However, dietary guidance during a foundational health support protocol emphasizes incorporating foods that support metabolic function while avoiding foods that deplete the immune system and contribute to inflammation.

Health-supporting diets should stray away from Western diet patterns, which include a high intake of refined grains, sugars, red and processed meat, eggs, high-fat dairy, artificially sweetened drinks, and salt, and a low intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and legumes.

Anti-inflammatory diets focus on consuming whole fruits and vegetables, which contain phytochemicals with strong anti-inflammatory properties. Other foods to eat include fermented foods, lean protein, nuts and seeds, and legumes.

Many providers may also recommend a 4-6 week elimination of the most common food allergens, which can contribute to leaky gut and low-grade systemic inflammation. These include dairy, gluten-containing grains, eggs, and soy. After the elimination, foods can be rechallenged back into the diet one at a time to test tolerance.

When in doubt, a Mediterranean diet, which closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, is a great place to start.

Hydration is another essential component of a healthy diet. The human body is made up of 55-65% water. Adequate water status is necessary for the healthy functioning of every body system, and dehydration will negatively impact cognition, emotions, digestion, blood pressure, and more. The National Academy of Medicine suggests a daily intake of 13 cups and 9 cups of water for men and women, respectively.

Other Considerations for a Foundational Health Support Protocol

Healthy exercise and sleep routines are critical to health and vitality.

The current Physical Activity Guidelines recommend working up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly, including at least two days of strength training.

Adults require at least seven hours of sleep per night. Making small changes can improve sleep hygiene to maximize sleep quality and quantity. Start by creating a sleep-inducing environment in the bedroom: make the room as dark and cool as possible and reduce clutter in the bedroom. Create a 30-minute wind-down routine before bedtime, including dimming the lights, engaging in mindful meditation, and disconnecting from electronics.

The sense of belonging and subscription to spiritual or religious beliefs are often underestimated but equally important aspects of the determinants of health. Participating in community events, joining a neighborhood association, and attending religious/spiritual meetings are ways to develop a social network and boost a sense of self-value.

Supplements for a Foundational Health Support Protocol

It is important to note that supplements are used to supplement a healthy diet and should not be relied upon for health. In other words, health cannot be achieved by practicing poor lifestyle habits and taking every supplement on the market. Supplements are utilized during a health support protocol to boost bodily functions and correct imbalances, but many of these supplements may not be required for long-term use. Common supplements recommended to support nutrition, digestion, and liver function are discussed below. However, health protocols should be individualized based on personal lab results, so your doctor may modify these recommendations.


A multivitamin ensures that nutritional needs are met while the diet is optimized and corrects for commonly depleted nutrients. It is an efficient way to supplement the diet without taking an overwhelming amount of pills.

Vitamin D

40% of American adults are frankly deficient in vitamin D, and many more have vitamin D insufficiency. Vitamin D dosage should be customized based on lab values, but standard doses range from 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily.

Digestive Enzymes

A digestive enzyme is taken with food and supports the normal digestive processes to ensure proper digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. There are different types of digestive enzymes, and your doctor may recommend a specific type based on stool testing results. Most people should take a mixed formula containing hydrochloric acid, bile, and pancreatic enzymes. One dose should be taken at the beginning of main meals; taking enzymes with smaller snacks or on an empty stomach can cause uncomfortable effects, like heartburn.


Unless stool testing indicates a general bacterial overgrowth within the large intestine, a probiotic supplement consisting of a blend of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains can introduce healthy, beneficial bacteria to the gut and prevent dysbiotic patterns. 10 billion CFU is a routine daily maintenance dose, but daily doses up to 100 billion CFU may be recommended for individuals with severe dysbiosis or bacterial undergrowth.

Liver Support

B vitamins are a critical nutrient for phase 1 and phase 2 liver detoxification pathways to eliminate toxins from the body; these will be included in the multivitamin formula.

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant precursor to glutathione that should be taken at 600 mg twice daily.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used for centuries in treating liver diseases at doses of 240-360 mg daily.

When to Retest Labs

Foundational health support protocols typically last four weeks to three months, depending on patient goals, preferences, and health outcomes. After an individual begins to make foundational changes to their routine and habits, changes in labs can be detected as soon as 4-6 weeks.



A foundational health support protocol brings attention to the first three pillars of the naturopathic Therapeutic Order of Health. Strengthening the determinants of health, stimulating the body's natural self-healing processes, and enhancing digestive and detoxification pathways can be achieved through lifestyle modifications and minimal supplemental support.

To kick-start your health and prevent illness, work with a functional medicine doctor to get health screening labs and discuss personalized lifestyle modifications and nutraceuticals to support your health goals.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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