top of page

The foundations of health

For the past two and a half decades – since sitting in biology lectures at university and even more so for the last decade as a Building Biologist - I have repeated the belief that “the environment determines an organism's ability to thrive,” and while I still believe that there is truth to that, there is also some other variables that come into play. For instance, what makes one organism or person more sensitive to their environment than another?

For the most part, this comes down to two things that I feel summarise good health - robustness and resilience. We increase our resilience and robustness when we have a good solid foundation of health. These foundations can be broken down into 6 sections, each critical to experiencing true health as a human in today’s world.

In today’s modern and complex society, we often look for advanced and complicated answers, or for some kind of magic pill, when we are feeling less than optimal. However, in reality, we (along with other ethical health providers) should be first ensuring that the basic needs and foundations of the human body are met first. This is where a functional nutritional therapy practitioner (FNTP) can help to identify which of these foundations of health needs assistance in order of priority and the most appropriate ways in which to support it.

So, what exactly are these 6 basic foundations for health?

Diet and Nutrition, Digestion, Blood Sugar Regulation, Fatty Acids, Mineral Balance, and Hydration.

When these foundations of health are balanced and optimised our bodies have an incredible power to self-heal our health concerns.

Let’s look at each of these a little closer.

Diet and Nutrition.

The human body has evolved with specific nutrient requirements. When we eat a species appropriate to our diet, respecting our own bio individual needs, we are ensuring that we have the correct number of macronutrients and micronutrients to support all functions of the body and create both balance and harmony.

Eating a nutrient dense, whole food diet that is properly prepared for the human digestive system will often involve:

a.      Consuming whole foods that are as close to how they appear in nature as possible.

b.      Eating a diverse range of local, seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables, if accessible.

c.      Soaking and sprouting nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, when appropriate, to maximize the bioavailability of nutrients (if tolerated).

d.      Choosing grass-finished meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and wild caught seafood, if accessible.

Without the right nutrition true health cannot be experienced. Deficiencies in certain nutrients can increase the likelihood of various environmental stressors. In 2020 Professor Belpomme and Professor Irigaray found that those with electrohypersensitivity “present frequently with a profound deficit in vitamins and trace elements, especially in vitamin D and Zinc”. This is just one example of where lack of proper nutrition has resulted in a lack of resilience to our environment and a perfect example of where focussing on each foundation may present better outcomes in more complex health issues.


Getting a whole food, nutrient dense, well-prepared diet can be both a significant investment in terms of our finances and time, but an investment in our health and how we experience life, is well worth it over the convenience of fast and highly processed foods. However, what if that investment was not being optimised? Our fast paced and often stressful lives have a huge impact on our ability to digest food correctly.

Digestion is a parasympathetic process (rest and digest as opposed to fight and flight). The problem is, the reality for many of us is that we do not spend the time we need to eat and digest in this state, instead we are often jumping from one task to another or experiencing emotional stressors.  

When we do not eat in a calm and relaxed state, our body struggles to absorb the nutrients from the food we are eating. In fact, it can even start to turn them against us. Undigested food or compromised gut mobility can lead to all sorts of issues, just look at how many people experiences such things as bloating, gas, intermittent food sensitivities, constipation, etc. Poor digestion can lead to issues such as gut or microbial dysbiosis, which can further lead to increased intestinal permeability.

When this occurs, large proteins, food toxins, pathogens, and bacterial components “leak” into the portal vein. The liver is then burdened with these incoming toxins and must attempt to process them before they reach systemic circulation. There is emerging research regarding the microbiome’s role in detoxification of chemicals, with many now believing it processes more environmental toxins than the liver. A healthy microbiome may increase our ability to process environmental toxins making us less susceptible to multiple chemical sensitivities.


Blood Sugar Regulation

This is often an overlooked foundation unless we have progressed to the point of a diagnosis regarding insulin resistance or type two diabetes, but blood sugar regulation affects all aspects of human physiology from energy produce and balance, to the tissue integrity of every organ and blood vessel, to our hormonal balance and critically, our brain health, mood, memory, and cognitive function. An impact to any of these areas can make life significantly more challenging. Lacking energy or mental capacity are common symptoms that I hear constantly from my clients, and it is often followed by – if only I had the energy to change my situation, or if only I wasn’t so exhausted and could remember things better, I would be able to get more done. How do we even start to create the life we want if we don’t have the energy to do so.

I have often wondered how many treating practitioners have tried to balance a client’s blood sugar when they come in for fatigue before looking to other environmental factors or stressors.

Blood sugar regulation is very closely linked to stress and the adrenals. So many of us try to make good choices around food and activity as well as mood, but poor blood sugar regulation can often take over and run the show seeing us make poor food choices, experience mood swings and erratic energy patterns that dictate what we do and like when we take a 3pm nap or reach for a sweet treat. As an FNTP one of our focuses is to improve blood sugar regulation through a well-balanced diet to manage insulin spikes, including supportive nutrients where appropriate, providing beneficial ways and strategies to reduce stress and increase movement.

Fatty Acids

Did you know that our ancestors have been dubbed “fat hunters” by many palaeontologists and anthropologists and while we have evolved a long way from the Pleistocene Hominins, our bodies require a good amount of fat to survive and function. We have a group of fats known as essential fatty acids for that exact reason – they are essential to the functioning of the human body and need to be consumed. You may have heard of people discussing them as Omega 3 (Alpha Linolenic Acid – ALA) and Omega 6 (Linolenic Acid – LA).

Essential fats have many roles within the body from providing a great source of energy, serving to protect the lining of the organs of the body, aiding in the absorption of fat only soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K, increasing satiety, allowing for the proper use of proteins and incredibly important – making food taste great.

These fats are heavily involved in how we manage inflammation within the body. Many environmental sensitivities have an inflammatory component to them, to which balancing the bodies production of prostaglandins and therefore managing inflammation can be extremely beneficial.  Unfortunately, much of the fat consumed today is not in the right form and has been chemically altered into a state that can create inflammation within the body. An example of this are seed oils.

Supporting the body’s need for fats and the best form so that it can be easily assimilated and used, is something that we focus on and can be as easy as switching one fat out for another.

Mineral Balance

So many functions within the body require co-factors or other minerals to occur. Our poor soil quality and love of over processed foods (which are stripped of bioavailable nutrients) has seen widespread mineral deficiencies despite having access to an abundance of food. According to Chris Kesser we have seen consistent decline in the amount of minerals and trace elements in our soils, specifically since the 1950s. Studies suggest magnesium has declined around 25% in the vegetables and wheat that are being consumed.

Many doctors and other health practitioners can be very quick to provide the “missing” or deficient nutrient such as calcium or iron, often in a synthetic form, yet they rarely look at whether the body has the correlating co-factors for absorption of that mineral or if the other foundations such as nutrition and digestion are optimal. It is our role as an FNTP to first assess these foundations before we “add to the body”.


While each of us has varying hydration requirements based on our age, activity, where we live and our diet, one thing that is paramount is that we are drinking clean water, free from contaminants. With water being easily accessible for almost all westernised countries it is mind blowing that so many people are chronically dehydrated.

Did you know that water is required to help flush toxins from the body as well as transporting nutrients around the body, lubricating joints and even assisting in digestion via helping with stomach acid production? How many people experiencing achy joints, poor digestion, toxicity, and nutrient imbalances could be better off if they just carried a water bottle with them?

Our bodies can only last a few days without water and so many of us are walking around in a state of dehydration, not realising that the body is in a state of stress as a result, and why wouldn’t it be – it could just be a couple of days away from not existing!

Final thoughts ...................

I often wonder what would happen if these basic, yet critical foundations of health were preached from parents and grandparents, from schools, from our health providers, medical systems and even from our media.

I feel our epidemic of chronic health conditions would look drastically different, our supermarkets and farming practices would better support healthy and more regenerative food production as opposed to our current demand for processed foods, I believe our mental health crisis would see great benefit and we would start to see the return of robust and resilient fertile individuals who are able think clearly, have the energy to look after themselves and their loved ones. We would see a strong decline in the number of people who struggle to live in our current environment. Perhaps if we were healthier and knew what it was to experience true health, we would realise that convenience may not be all that convenient after all.

What a world we could create if more of us looked at health through the eyes of a functional nutritional therapy practitioner and normalised addressing the foundations of health.

Ben-Dor, M., Gopher, A., Hershkovitz, I., & Barkai, R. (2011). Man the Fat Hunter: The Demise of Homo erectus and the Emergence of a New Hominin Lineage in the Middle Pleistocene (ca. 400 kyr) Levant. PLoS ONE, 6(12), e28689.

Meijaard, E., Abrams, J. F., Slavin, J. L., & Sheil, D. (2022). Dietary Fats, Human Nutrition and the Environment: Balance and Sustainability. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9, 878644.

Kivrak, E., Yurt, K., Kaplan, A., Alkan, I., & Altun, G. (2017). Effects of electromagnetic fields exposure on the antioxidant defense system. Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure, 5(4), 167.

Belpomme, D., & Irigaray, P. (2020). Electrohypersensitivity as a Newly Identified and Characterized Neurologic Pathological Disorder: How to Diagnose, Treat, and Prevent It. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(6).

Nutritional Therapy Association, Inc. (2021). Blood Sugar Regulation Student Guide (pp 2 and 44-47) Retrieved from:

Nutritional Therapy Association, Inc (2022). Fat Handout: “Fatty Acids, Margarine: How It’s Really Manufactured” Retrieved from:[1]materials?module_item_id=2308


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page