Leveraging Functional Health Systems for Optimal Wellbeing: An Interview with Andrea Nicholson
Updated: Nov 15
Andrea Nicholson is a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist and founder of Healthy Life with Andrea, where she helps clients optimize their health through functional nutrition and lifestyle changes. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea about her unique approach to health, which focuses on three key systems in the body.
The Gut-Brain Connection
We started our conversation discussing the profound influence of gut health on both physical and mental wellbeing. As Andrea explained:
"There really isn't a down there and up here as far as we're learning now - it's just all connected. Research has shown a lot of that for a long time. They've called the gut the second brain for that reason."
The phrase "gut feeling" exists for a reason - our digestive system and brain are intimately linked. Studies reveal that many mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and even conditions like schizophrenia are tied to gut dysbiosis and inflammation.
Andrea emphasized that "no matter what you're dealing with there's probably going to be a gut health component." Even with communicable illnesses, optimizing gut health bolsters immunity. She firmly believes that supporting digestive health provides the foundation for overall wellness.
The Three Functional Health Systems
Andrea uses a phased approach with new clients, beginning with gut restoration and moving through metabolic optimization before addressing functional fitness and lifestyle habits. Here's an overview of her three functional health systems:
1. Digestive Health
Gut healing forms the basis of Andrea's programs. She stressed that:
"If you truly don't have an adequate healthy gut system then you're not absorbing nutrients, you're not eliminating toxins, you're not being able to bring in those good building blocks that you need for hormones and enzymes and muscle and tissue and cells and brain function and just all the things that your body needs to work."
Even those without overt digestive issues like constipation or reflux may have underlying gut dysbiosis negatively impacting health. Optimizing digestion and elimination establishes the "foundation to all the other things."
2. Metabolic Health
Once absorption and assimilation of nutrients is improved, Andrea moves to metabolic optimization. She explained the distinction between digestive and metabolic health:
"Metabolic health has a lot to do with now that you've absorbed those nutrients can you use them, how do they get used...the body has all these chemical reactions that have to occur and if you can't adequately absorb those nutrients because you have gut health issues you can't use those nutrients for anything."
Providing cells the proper building blocks is useless if receptor sites are blocked by high blood sugar, inflammation, or an accumulation of toxins. Both bringing in nutrients and clearing metabolic waste are required for optimal cellular energy production.
3. Functional Health
After establishing a healthy gut and efficient metabolism, Andrea progresses to improving physical strength and capability. As she explained:
"We know from decades of research and much like you know in the world of fitness that if you're physically strong and capable you're far less likely to decline in health."
She focuses on strength training, nutrition that supports lean muscle mass, and lifestyle habits that maintain results long-term. The goal is lifelong vitality and an enhanced quality of life.
The Three Steps for Each System
Andrea employs three steps when working through each of the three functional systems:
Investigate - Extensive testing, questionnaires, and conversation uncover the root causes behind current symptoms and imbalances. Andrea emphasized that many issues like high blood sugar and liver dysfunction often have no obvious symptoms. Thorough investigation identifies problems early when they're most easily corrected.
Solve - With all the data gathered, Andrea develops a personalized plan to correct deficiencies, remove infections and toxins, and restore balance.
Live It - Finally, sustainable lifestyle habits are implemented to support the new level of health and prevent backsliding. This ensures her clients fully own their results long-term.
Key Insights from Andrea
Here are some of the top takeaways from my insightful conversation with Andrea Nicholson:
Gut health forms the foundation for overall wellness and strongly influences mental health.
Blood sugar imbalances and poor liver function often have no overt symptoms but seriously impact health.
Absorbing nutrients is useless without metabolic cellular utilization of those nutrients for energy production.
Physical strength and fitness helps maintain results from gut healing and metabolic optimization long-term.
Thorough investigation identifies the root causes of imbalances early when they are most correctable.
personalized protocols solve deficiencies and restore optimal functioning of the gut, metabolism, and fitness.
Establishing lifestyle habits based on each individual's needs cements long-term health and vitality.
Andrea's unique functional health approach addresses root causes of disease early on and empowers clients with the knowledge to support lifelong wellness. I'm grateful for the chance to learn from her extensive experience and expertise in holistic nutrition and functional health.