HNFM Graduate Certificate

About the HNFM Graduate Certificate

For health professionals with master’s or doctoral degrees who choose not to take the full HNFM master’s degree curriculum, the University of Western States offers an online graduate certificate in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine that helps you to deepen your understanding of these subjects. The curriculum includes nine of the 17 required courses in the UWS master of science program. Please note, the HNFM certificate is distinct from the HNFM master’s degree program. Speak with an admissions advisor to find out which program is best for you.


Certificate completion consists of the eight core courses below plus one elective of the student’s choice. The Principles of Functional Medicine course must be taken first, after which courses may or may not be taken in the order listed. The Supervised Nutrition Mentorship is optional and fulfills the elective requirement.

Guest Lecturers

The HNFM program often hosts prestigious guest lecturers to speak about exciting topics in health, nutrition and wellness. Here are a few guests we’ve had the honor of hosting and the topics they presented on:

Neal Barnard, MD – “Evidence on Plant-Based Diets and Diabetes”
Kara Fitzgerald, ND – “Molecular Biology of Fatty Acid Therapy”, “Food Allergy, Intolerance, Sensitivity”, “Allergy and Atopy”
Alan Gaby, MD – “Controversies in Nutrition”
Alan Goldhamer, DC – “Fasting, Food Addictions”
James Gordon, MD – “Self-Care is the Heart of Health Care”
Dennis Hoyer, DC – “Fundamentals of Laboratory Assessment”

Master's Degree Credit

Upon completion of the certificate program, participants may choose to finish the remaining coursework to earn the master of science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine degree. All of the completed courses in the certificate program will count toward the master’s degree.

Learning Outcomes

With appreciation of the rapid advancements in the field of clinical nutrition and the increasingly respected role of nutrition in the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease, the Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine graduate certificate program prepares graduates to safely and effectively utilize nutrition, natural remedies and biopsychosocial therapies in the management of patients with complex health challenges at an advanced level beyond traditional nutritional programs.

Graduates of the HNFM graduate certificate will develop effective, evidence-informed management and wellness approaches utilizing nutritional and lifestyle interventions within a functional medicine framework.


You can buy your textbooks online. Find the HNFM textbook list here.

Curriculum: 8 required courses and an elective (choose one)

Curriculum Sequence

View the curriculum sequence by quarter.

Find your HNFM certificate planner here.

Course Descriptions

Click to open the course descriptions for each curriculum section below.

Core Courses

MSN6100 Principles of Functional Medicine (5 credits)

This course presents the fundamental concepts of functional medicine, including genetic predisposition to illness, biochemical individuality, environmental factors functions and imbalances, triggers and mediators of illness, common clinical imbalances (oxidative and reductive stress, energy production, structural integrity, assimilation, immune surveillance and inflammation, other defense mechanisms, hormone and neurotransmitter regulation, detoxification and biotransformation, nutritional genomics, and the relationships of mental, emotional and spiritual elements to health and healing). The personalized, whole-person, integrated systems approach of functional medicine will be compared and contrasted to conventional approaches of health care. Specialized clinical assessments, diagnostic functional tests and measures/biomarkers of allostatic load will be explored, along with some of the core therapeutic approaches used in many patients. This course lays the foundation for many of the subsequent courses in this degree program and must be taken in the first quarter of the program. (5+0)

MSN6101 Evidence-Based Nutrition (3 credits)

This course provides core knowledge in evidence-based nutrition with a focus on the role of nutrition in health optimization and disease treatment. Students will gain a detailed understanding of the practical application of various nutrients and dietary strategies used in clinical practice. Discussions will also incorporate the three components of evidence-based health care (clinical expertise, patient preference, research evidence) into the decision-making and data-analysis process. (3+0)

MSN6204 Gastrointestinal Imbalances (4 credits)

This course presents a functional medicine approach to understanding the metabolism of the gastrointestinal system, with an emphasis placed on the nutritional implications of dysfunctional digestion or absorption, intestinal membrane integrity and permeability, alterations in GI microbiological flora and gut ecology, hepatoenteric cycles, hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes, assimilation of nutrients, and the GI immune system. Nutritional support of GI function and repair is emphasized. Health disorders reviewed include inflammatory bowel diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, gluten sensitivity, autism, and disorders of systemic inflammation. (4+0)

MSN6300 Detoxification and Biotransformation Pathways and Imbalances (3 credits)

This course examines the metabolic pathways involved in the conversion of exogenous and endogenous toxins and waste compounds and molecules into excreted substances, placing them in context within the functional medicine model. Phase I and II reactions, regulation of detoxification pathways, genetic variations, and functional assessment of these mechanisms are detailed. Nutritional support and the effect of drugs on detoxification pathways are reviewed, as well as the disturbed physiology and eventual pathology that results from imbalances in detoxification and biotransformation. (3+0)

MSN6302 Hormone and Neurotransmitter Regulation and Imbalances (3 credits)

This course examines the actions, interrelationships, control mechanisms and imbalances of neurotransmitters, neuroendocrine factors, hormones and immune mediators. Particular emphasis is placed on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, thyroid metabolism, and sex hormones. The effects of toxins, free radicals, stress, diet, nutrient deficiencies, digestive disorders, drugs and specific foods on neurotransmitters and hormones are analyzed within a functional medicine framework. Laboratory testing of the various substances, including precursors and metabolites is included. (3+0)

MSN7106 Autoimmune Disease: Causes and Strategies (3 credits)

The prevalence of autoimmune diseases is increasing rapidly worldwide and, as with other health ailments such as hypertension and diabetes, these conditions are becoming particularly more common in westernized societies. Rapid changes in disease prevalence point to a change in the patient’s environment rather than to genetic causes, to which these conditions have traditionally been ascribed. Likewise, these conditions that were once considered idiopathic have now been described and researched to the extent that we better understand the etiology and pathophysiology of the disease process, allowing us to formulate improved treatment approaches. This course uses a functional medicine perspective to explore the major autoimmune diseases, their unique and common etiologies, laboratory assessments, physical exam findings, and nutritional and integrative interventions, including pharmacologic drugs. Prerequisite: MSN7200 Immune Imbalances and Inflammation. (3+0)

MSN7200 Immune Imbalances and Inflammation (4 credits)

This course explores inflammation and immune dysfunction as common pathogenic mechanisms in many chronic disorders, such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, allergy, and autoimmunity. Dietary and phytonutritional influences on the inflammatory process, including both proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects, are explored in depth using a functional medicine framework. Case studies include autoimmune diseases, allergies, and metabolic disorders. Risks, benefits, and nutritional interactions associated with common anti-inflammatory medications are reviewed. (4+0)

MSN7115 Meal Planning in Health and Illness (2 credits)

This course prepares students to design and modify meal plans in order to promote optimal health, address specific illness states, manage weight and encourage healthful food behaviors. Emphasis is placed on demonstrating practical skills for effective patient assessment and communication with appropriate documentation. Special consideration will be given to food selection, preparation methods, patient preference, operating within a budget, cultural influences and the creation of sustainable plans that encourage long-term compliance.


MSN7101 Structural Integrity (2 credits)

This course examines the interrelationship between structure, function, well-being and chronic pain syndromes. Structural integrity is considered throughout the spectrum, from cellular membranes and receptors up through the neuromusculoskeletal system and whole-body structure. Nutrients closely related to membrane integrity, transport and signaling mechanisms, pain mediation, and bone metabolism are discussed. Selected assessment procedures are reviewed so that practitioners can directly identify and treat areas of dysfunction for common pain syndromes; included in this physical assessment is the “nutritional physical” by which clinicians can appreciate physical manifestations of internal imbalances and nutrient insufficiencies. (2+0)

MSN7201 Fundamentals of Mind-Body Medicine and the Psychology of Well-Being (2 credits)

This is an overview of mind-body medicine — history and current practices. There will be a particular emphasis on the growing variety of evidence-based mindfulness practices, specifically Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and related approaches including Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Mindful Self-Compassion. We will approach mind-body medicine through a biopsychosocial lens, taking into account the context and culture of environment. We will also explore the impact of meaning and story on illness / wellness and how this can be brought into the therapeutic relationship through Narrative Medicine. This class includes a strong experiential component through instruction and practice in mindfulness and other mind-body practices. (2+0)

MSN8100 Botanical Medicine (2 credits)

This course presents a practical overview of medical botany/herbology, including history, composition, safety, and therapeutic use of the most commonly used botanical medicines. Each of these agents is reviewed regarding its classification, bioactive components, herb-drug-nutrient interactions, mechanism of action, metabolism, indications and contraindications, toxicology, methods of administration, and dosage. (2+0)

MSN8101 Nutrition in Special Populations (2 credits)

This course looks at nutritional needs and interventions in special populations, such as young children, the elderly, pregnant women, post-surgical patients, patients with terminal illnesses, and disabled persons who may have mental or physical conditions that affect their basic nutritional needs and their ability to utilize food normally. (2+0)

MSN8115 Advanced Practice Modules (modules from IFM and AFMCP) (2-4 credits)

Advanced Practice Modules (APMs) and the week-long Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) from the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) can be completed for elective credit, with one APM or one AFMCP substituting for one elective course in our MS program. APMs are focused on a single key health dysfunction such as gastrointestinal, cardiometabolic, detoxification and immune imbalances. APMs are offered both in person and electronically for greater ease of access. In order to receive credit for the IFM and AFMCP modules, students are required to submit an original paper that demonstrates understanding of the content of the module. (2-4+0)

MSN8125 Pharmacology and Drug-Nutrient Interactions (2 credits)

This course provides a practical overview of pharmacologic therapy used in the management of ambulatory patients with chronic illnesses or non-life threatening acute illnesses. The student will study the effects of drugs on organ systems and diseases and the mechanism of action (pharmacodynamics), the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of drugs (A.D.M.E. of pharmacokinetics), potential toxic effects of medications, factors affecting the effectiveness of drugs, and interactions with drugs, botanical compounds, foods and nutritional supplements. (2+0)

MSN8132 Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics (2 credits)

This course explores the current understanding and practical application of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics. By considering the impact of individual genetic variations on nutritional status and requirements (nutrigenetics), students will learn to provide tailored dietary and nutritional recommendations that accommodate common genetic variants. Evaluating the evidence for food and nutrient modulation of gene expression (nutrigenomics) will improve the student’s ability to design nutritional treatment plans that address common chronic illnesses and aid in their prevention. Connections to nutritional epigenetics and genetic testing options will assist the student in navigating the complexities of gene-mediated influences on health and illness. (2+0)

MSN8135 Psychology of Eating and Wellness (2 credits)

This course explores our complex relationship with food: why we eat what we eat, how we eat, and why we eat too much or too little. Based on positive psychology, mind-body medicine, cognitive-behavior therapy, and a functional medicine model of psychological intervention as paths to wellness, the course also focuses on expectations, beliefs, and resistance to change. Students will examine their own eating and wellness practices, as well as their readiness for counseling others. Therapeutic interventions for developing healthy behaviors and recognizing eating disorders will be discussed and the role of family, peer, societal, corporate, and governmental influences on personal choices will be emphasized. (2+0)

MSN8145 Plant-Based Nutrition (2 credits)

This course provides a comprehensive guide to plant-based nutrition. Subjects addressed include obtaining sufficient protein from plant sources, the health benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet for prevention and treatment of chronic disease, and determining which supplements are essential. Emphasis is given to transitioning to a vegan diet, and its appropriateness during pregnancy and breastfeeding, for children and teens, for people over fifty, and for people engaged in recreational sports and competitive athletics. Nutrient-dense recipes and menus are provided. Various dietary controversies are evaluated in an evidence-based framework. (2+0)

MSN8165 Nutrition Practice Strategies (2 credits)

This course addresses essential aspects of successful nutrition practice with an emphasis on advanced nutrition counseling techniques. Students study effective communication, observation, and active listening skills. Assessment of stages of behavior change and motivational interviewing are integrated with methods for guiding clients/patients through goal setting and maintaining accountability. Case studies to integrate knowledge with clinical application are examined. Analytical strategies such as planning, implementation, and assessment of progress are discussed to prepare the practitioner for successful patient management. Practical steps for setting up a nutrition practice are presented. (2+0)