At the Vital Health Institute our functional medicine practitioner, Danielle Cook, MS, RD, CDE offers expert guidance and counseling in diet and nutrition. All treatment plans are tailored to meet the specific needs of patients with pelvic pain as well as other health conditions. Danielle sees women, men, and children. Having endometriosis is not a prerequisite to see Danielle.
As a Functional Medicine practitioner, Danielle looks for the underlying cause of disease versus only treating the symptoms. In the first hour and a half appointment, she spends time with a patient, listening to their history and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and lead to complex, chronic disease. She looks to support the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual. When necessary, she suggests additional labs to help determine who they are as an individual and what factors are influencing their health.Examples of labs she may recommend include stool studies, genetic testing, blood tests, heavy metal and other toxic exposure tests, organic acid testing, adrenal stress tests, hormone testing, and testing to assess nutrient status in the body. In addition to labs, each patient’s history is critical to understanding how they got to where they are now, and what may need to be done to help them change their path towards optimal health. We will ask you to fill out a comprehensive questionnaire prior to your appointment to help Danielle learn a little more about you and your health. A patient’s history can provide information on lifestyle such as stress, exercise, exposure to environmental toxins, sleep patterns, and what food they are putting into their bodies. Often, just by listening to the patient’s story, a great understanding of how to begin the path of healing can be obtained. Testing is often used to verify and clarify this information.
Improving over all health through nutritional medicine
We seek to provide customized guidance that is tailored to your specific needs and preferences and is appropriate to your unique situation. After gathering all the necessary information, the patient and Danielle discuss and devise a treatment plan, which includes diet, lifestyle (exercise, stress reduction, how to decrease toxic exposure and improve the body’s detoxification system, good sleep, hygiene, etc), treatment for any infections that are found, hormone balancing, and any supplements that may be helpful. This plan is completely decided upon by the patient. Danielle’s job is to provide suggestions and options. The patient’s role is to decide what they are willing and able to do to improve their health. This may change over time, which is why she reevaluates at each session to re-assess goals, obstacles, and how they are progressing toward achieving their optimal health. It is a good idea to write down your health goals, your obstacles to achieving those goals such as diet changes you are unwilling to make or relationships/obligations that may make it more difficult to follow your health plan.
We explore whether food is in some way contributing to system dysfunction, manifesting in symptoms such as intestinal bloating and cramping, pelvic pain, changes in weight, fatigue, and depression. Many of our patients experience sensitivities and/or intolerance to certain foods. The two most common food sensitivities are gluten and dairy; however, there are many other problematic foods. Chronic consumption of foods that one is sensitive to can result in gastrointestinal and systemic inflammation and pain. By identifying these triggers, diet can be modified to relieve symptoms. Comprehensive food allergy testing and elimination diets may be recommended to help identify problem foods. Diet can be adjusted to help minimize or ameliorate these effects, such as reducing inflammation, prostaglandin production, and compensating for deficiencies (e.g., iron deficiency due to heavy menstrual flow).
We also explore how adjustments to diet and nutrition can promote system function (rather than merely alleviating system dysfunction). For example, a deficiency in B vitamins may result in increased inflammation, impaired detoxification of toxins, neurotransmitters, and estrogen, fatigue, and impaired thyroid function. Improving system function includes the use of dietary modification in reducing risk of disease in the future. After careful examination of risk factors (such as family history, lifestyle, hormone levels, etc) and current dietary habits, a personalized diet is created with the help of the patient to optimize health outcomes.
We are developing a new area of clinical expertise in nutragenomics, the study of the effects of food on gene expression. Nutragenomics enables us to identify the molecular-level interaction between specific nutrients and dietary components with the genome (the individual’s unique genetic code). Nutragenomics provides the exciting potential to offer a more customized nutritional program for the optimization of overall health based on each patient’s unique genetic make-up.
The role of diet and nutrition in managing endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain
Nutrition is the cornerstone of good health. In women with endometriosis, good nutrition can help reduce pain, improve energy, balance blood-sugar levels, address insulin resistance, regulate and improve bowel function, balance your metabolism, and control your weight. The foods you eat have the potential to increase or decrease inflammation and the production of prostaglandins within your body, in turn potentially moderating the painful symptoms of inflammatory diseases, such as endometriosis.
While dietary changes will not cure endometriosis, they can play a remarkable role in improving overall quality of life.
Nutritionist and Integrative Medicine Practitioner, Danielle Cook, consults with patients about dietary adjustments, supplements and lifestyle changes to improve their health.