Functional and Integrative Nutrition

“Wellness” is intentionally part of our name and reflects our value of helping our clients achieve a state of complete physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.

Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of, and making fulfilling choices, towards a healthy lifestyle— a goal we aim to achieve in collaboration with other healthcare providers, including integrative nutritionists.  We recognize that diet and mental health are inextricably linked.  Healthy diet choices lead to an increase in mental health and mental health issues can lead to poor eating habits.  When our mental health is affected, the root of the problem is not solely in the brain, but a signal that one or more of the body’s connections with the brain have become askew.

The mind-body connection:  Illnesses of the body frequently manifest as instability of the mind.  Our gut is often referred to as “the second brain” due to the complex nervous system that lies in your gut.  The vagus nerve originates in the brain stem and travels all the way to the gut, connecting our gut and the central nervous system.  Signals between the gut and brain travel in both directions, making the brain and gut partners and what each does and how each functions directly impact the other.  Thus, chemicals produced by the gut reach your brain and chemicals produced by your brain can reach your gut.  When chemical over- or underproduction disrupts this connection, the gut-brain balance becomes chaotic.  Moods are upset.  Concentration is disrupted.  Immunity drops.  Therefore, if diet, stress, or other mental or physical problems cause changes in our gut, this causes a ripple effect that lead to many negative impacts on the health of our brain and body.


Why should one see both a nutritionist and a mental health professional?  What you eat can have just as profound an effect on your brain as the drugs you take.  All it takes is 2 hours’ worth of psychological stress to completely change your gut bacteria; the stuff responsible for making many of the brain chemicals that promote healthy mood, focus and emotional regulation.  An unhealthy gut leads to an unhealthy brain, and vice versa.  Some foods promote the growth of helpful bacteria, while others inhibit this.  Certain food groups and eating patterns can have a negative effect on your gut and your mental health.  Learning how to use healthy food to ensure your brain is working efficiently and effectively will greatly supplement your mental health treatment, and the inverse is true as well.  Learning cognitive and behavioral strategies to manage moods, increase focus and calm your anxiety will supplement your physical health.  By examining the whole person and their lifestyle choices we are better able to treat and promote more effective, and longer lasting treatment outcomes.

Through reaching out for mental health support, you’ve taken the first steps to begin improving your health.  We encourage you to balance your treatment plan with a focus on both the mental and physical well-being.  Connect the professionals on your treatment team to collaborate and develop a comprehensive plan for the health of both your brain and your body, thereby ensuring the most chances for a successful outcome so that you can live your life in the healthiest way possible.


Deficiencies in certain types of foods can worsen symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. The good news: An ADHD diet that boasts adequate levels of the right foods actually optimizes brain function. A nutrition plan rich in protein and vitamins can help control symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But only if you avoid sugar, artificial flavors, and common allergens as well.

Nutrition is a major player in the high prevalence and incidence of eating disorders, with evidence that diet and nutrition are critical to recovery. A host of eating disorder complications, which affect multiple organ systems and compromise health, are related to nutrition. The fact that eating disorders are biologically based underscores the key role nutrition plays in vulnerability, onset, severity, and duration. With all eating disorders, there are nutrient deficiencies, chronic fatigue, reduced immune function, loss of lean body mass, and altered brain function. Working with a licensed nutritionist/dietician will be a requirement of your treatment plan if you have an eating disorder.

Eating Disorders


The literature suggests a link between dietary habits and the risk of depression. Studies have implicated a relatively low intake of fish, omega 3 fatty acids, and fruits and vegetables as well as deficiencies in micronutrients (folic acid, thiamine, magnesium) as risk factors for depression. In addition, relatively high amounts of refined sugar and processed foods have shown to increase the risk of depression. Correcting nutrient deficiencies or minimizing the excessive intake of certain micronutrients or foods can reduce the risk and/or the symptoms of depression. Proper nutrition has proven to be an affordable investment for people diagnosed with depression to mitigate their symptoms and improve overall health. 

The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion, and anxiety can trigger symptoms in the gut. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. Nutrition can help decrease anxiety in several ways. It can boost levels of serotonin, a calming and feel-good brain chemical and can decrease levels of cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones that can wreak havoc on our body over time. A healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress by strengthening the immune system and lowering blood pressure.


PTSD/Oppositionality/Emotional Dysregulation

Our bodies respond to emotions with a “fight or flight system,” related to our cortisol levels. When something upsetting or ‘threatening’ happens, you have a physical reaction. Prolonged states of emotional distress are known to overwork adrenal glands and results in chronic inflammation which is at the root of many diseases. The reduced function of the adrenal glands affects many of the body’s functions including metabolism, blood sugar balance and our cardiovascular system. Just as stress affects nutrition, good nutrition and dietary practices have also been found to improve the poor state of individuals suffering from stress and its resultant illnesses. Certain foods have physiological characteristics referred to as functional or brain foods which are known to modify the genetic and psychological aspects of our brain and gut and helps to combat a substantial amount of stress-induced mental disorders.

Who is the right nutritionist for me?

Why Integrative/Functional Nutrition?  Illuminate Therapy and Wellness focuses on partnering with integrative and functional nutritionist and dieticians.  They are a specialty practice group whose core philosophy centers around a holistic, personalized approach to health and healing. They integrate a variety of nutrition therapies including whole foods, tailored supplements and mind body modalities in clinical practice. 

Integrative nutrition endorses the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing. 

Functional nutrition addresses the underlying causes of disease and involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of complex, chronic disease through nutrition.

Who we partner with and why?

Your therapist will determine the best referral source for your specific dietary and mental health needs.  We partner with licensed and/or certified nutritionists and dieticians that have specialties and expertise in working with mental health and nutrition.

Nutrition Hive – They explore your nutritional “blueprint”, create a personalized health plan and help you make lasting, lifelong changes.

Decide2Thrive – An integrative nutrition health coach that helps parents navigate the complex world of health and nutrition.  She supports you and your family in creating a nutritional and lifestyle plan for your unique situation.

Accessing Nutrition Services:

Click Here for Healthy Recipes to Improve Mood and Overall Mental Health

Nutrition Hive:  Packages for Illuminate Therapy & Wellness

Our licensed nutritionists can support your body in feeling better, fast.  We can work with your therapist at IT&W to specifically target mental or physical health symptoms using nutrition.  Packages do not include the initial assessment.

Decide2Thrive:  Contact Jill May at 224-801-1908 to schedule an assessment and learn about nutritional health packages she can create for you Here

Discuss recommendations for the appropriate referral for your specific needs with your therapist.

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