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Food as Medicine – How Functional Nutrition Can Help Combat Chronic Fatigue and Boost Energy

Learn the practical application of how to use food therapeutically to encourage greater health and healing.

Your nutritional needs vary from day to day and can also change during different phases of your life. But did you know that food is more than energy in the body? Food as medicine is a functional nutrition approach to eating that utilizes the nutrients in food to cultivate health and healing in your body.  


Viewing food as medicine through a holistic lens takes into consideration your unique bio-individuality — the qualities that make you, you. This means, of course, what foods you eat, but also your lifestyle, activities levels, genetics, environment and any imbalances in your body. Also, learning to listen to what your body needs and wants, by how it responds to certain foods, you’ll be able to hone into food as medicine in ways that work for you, and you can mold them as you grow.  


Our providers are educated in Food as Medicine principles and have seen first-hand the difference it can make in your health journey. Roanne Dunaway, MS, PA-C at Forum Health Bloomingdale shares research and how increasing nutrient intake can be a way to improve health for many people. 

Why Does Food as Medicine Matter?

FAM is an opportunity to change the conversation from “eliminate all the things” to “how many new foods can you include.” Instead of viewing food as a chore or only an indulgence, which it can be but it’s also MUCH more, try to see it as a pathway to health. 


According to a CDC study in 2019, just 12.3% and 10.0% of surveyed adults met fruit and vegetable intake recommendations, respectively. Fruits and vegetables, especially when purchased seasonally and opting for organic, are a vital source of nutrients, minerals and vitamins. All critical components to maintaining and optimizing health.  

What is Food as Medicine?

Food as Medicine is:  


  • Is a non-reductive approach to nutrition 
  • Focuses on the therapeutic additions 
  • Focuses on the HOW 


For example, instead of “eliminate X to be healthy” try “how many new foods can I include” — diversity is an important steppingstone on the path of intuitive eating AND eating for health. 


The research shows that how you eat, truly makes a difference as a complementary approach to healing. 


[There] is growing research on the role [of] nutrition for the treatment of disease. Providing medically-tailored meals significantly increases dietary adherence above 90% and allows patients to realize significantly better chronic disease control.* 

How to Implement Functional Nutrition: Food as Medicine to Improve Chronic Fatigue and Boost Energy

A Food as Medicine Diet can Improve Chronic Fatigue and Boost Energy. Here are some tips: 

Promote whole foods and low-processed foods:

Whole foods refer to foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, without undergoing significant processing or refining. They are rich in essential nutrients, fiber, and other beneficial compounds. Examples include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. By focusing on whole foods and minimizing processed foods, which often contain added sugars, unhealthy fats, and preservatives, you can maximize the nutritional value of your diet and support your overall health. 

Encourage a diverse, primarily plant-based diet:

A diverse food as medicine diet that is primarily plant-based means incorporating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds into your meals. Plant-based diets have been associated with numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of chronic diseases, improved weight management, and increased intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

Include food from healthy animals:

If you choose to consume animal products, it is important to prioritize those that come from healthy, sustainable sources. Look for organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild-caught options, as they tend to have higher nutrient content and fewer harmful additives. These animal products often have healthier fat profiles, higher omega-3 fatty acid content, and fewer antibiotic residues. 

Promote anti-inflammatory food choices:

Chronic inflammation is linked to various diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Choosing anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce inflammation and promote overall health. Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods include fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, olive oil, nuts, seeds, turmeric, ginger, leafy greens, berries, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. By incorporating these foods into your diet, you can support your body’s natural inflammatory response and potentially reduce the risk of chronic inflammation-related conditions. 

Care about food and its sources:

Being mindful of the quality and sources of your food is essential for both your health and the environment. Go for organic produce, when possible, to reduce exposure to pesticides. Choose locally sourced and sustainably produced foods to support local farmers and minimize the environmental impact of long-distance transportation. Additionally, consider the ethical treatment of animals and support practices that prioritize animal welfare. By caring about the food you consume and its sources, you contribute to a healthier and more sustainable food system. 

Recognize that individuals have unique food need:

Each person’s nutritional needs and tolerances can vary based on factors such as age, gender, activity level, underlying health conditions, and personal preferences. It’s important to acknowledge that what works for one person may not work for another. Some individuals may have specific dietary restrictions or sensitivities, while others may have higher nutrient requirements due to certain life stages or health conditions. Consulting with your Forum Health team can provide personalized guidance tailored to your individual needs. 

Roanne says “Discovering how nutrition can be modified on an individual basis takes time, but is absolutely worth the effort. The great thing about Forum Health is that we understand that and have providers, health coaches and resources to help patients along the process.”

Forum Health’s functional medicine practitioners understand the impact of diet on energy levels and use nutrition to address chronic fatigue. Working with health coaches, you can explore how to incorporate nutrient-dense foods into your diet, gut health optimization, and personalized dietary plans that can aid in energy restoration and overall health. 

Want more help with nutrition and your unique dietary needs?

Meet with one of our expert health coaches! Trained in both nutrition science and counseling, our health coaches can help you overcome the barriers needed to meet your health goals.

*Source: Chen AMH, Draime JA, Berman S, Gardner J, Krauss Z, Martinez J. Food as medicine? Exploring the impact of providing healthy foods on adherence and clinical and economic outcomes. Explor Res Clin Soc Pharm. 2022 Mar 18;5:100129. doi: 10.1016/j.rcsop.2022.100129. PMID: 35478519; PMCID: PMC9032066.