About nutritional therapy
What is nutritional therapy?
Nutritional therapy used to be referred to dismissively as ‘alternative medicine’ but is now recognised as complementary medicine and is relevant for individuals with chronic conditions, as well as those looking to enhance their health and well-being.
The science of what to eat is getting the recognition it deserves and is actively being promoted by a small number of well-known and recently enlightened medical doctors, like Dr Rangan Chatterjee and Dr Michael Mosley as research continues to demonstrate that many health conditions are affected by our diet and lifestyle choices.
Nutritional Therapy can help you with a wide range of health concerns such as:
- Low energy and fatigue
- Sleep problems
- Poor stress management
- Skin conditions
- Hormonal imbalances
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Digestive health issues
- Low immunity
- Inflammatory and autoimmune conditions
- Mental health
- Weight loss
- General well-being and healthy eating habits
What does a nutritional therapist do exactly?
Nutritional therapists assess and identify the possible underlying root causes that may be contributing to your symptoms and health concerns and apply the latest research in nutrition and health sciences to develop a personalised diet, lifestyle and (sometimes) supplement plan to support your needs. They might bring in some coaching to help you put the ideas into practice in a meaningful way or break through whatever barriers have held you back in the past. Let me explain this a bit better...
Most people get that – on a conceptual level at least – they should probably eat a bit better than they do, they should probably move more and take the time for more ‘me time’ to live a long and happy life.
‘Life’ seems to get in the way of achieving that. Many of us are juggling jobs and the complexities of modern relationships, leaving little time to dedicate to the business of ‘being healthy’. Convenience often wins. It’s not that that’s wrong per se, but here’s the thing: all the time we are not eating or moving or living as well as we know to do, we are silently getting sicker. That may actually be going-to-hospital sick or it may just mean having health niggles that bother us greatly but that we have learned to cope with. I’m talking here about things like IBS or other tummy troubles, ongoing tiredness, sleep issues, PMS, arthritis, stress or anxiety, wonky hormones, or possibly weight that has crept on over the years and you can’t seem to shift it, no matter what you try.
The truth is that the food you eat matters more than you can possibly imagine and in many cases, simple changes to your diet can improve the symptoms of some of these conditions so much that there is a really profound shift in how you experience life.
Why work with nutritional therapists?
Newspapers are full of sound bites about the latest foods, but they don’t really join the dots, and it’s difficult to see what might be possible for you. The vast majority of doctors – even those being trained today – have next to no current knowledge or practical experience of what their patients should be eating or how they might integrate the theory into their lives. They live in a world, by and large, where the solution presented during your 10-minute session lies in a prescription.
Some – like Dr Chatterjee – are taking on training in something much bigger called Functional Medicine. This is a framework for considering that the symptoms you are experiencing are a result of imbalances in your body and, rather than treat the specific symptoms themselves. Nutritional Therapists are trained to work out and understand the root cause of the problem and base their programme around that. If you think about it: nearly all medications merely suppress symptoms. Only very few are an actual cure – antibiotics come to mind here. The exclusively pharmacological approach conventional medicine so often employs does nothing to uncover the root causes. Metformin lowers blood glucose – but why is it high in the first place? Statins lower cholesterol – but why is it elevated? Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) numb pain – but why are you in pain? These are the questions nutrition professionals will ask before embarking on a quest to find out to then be able to address the root cause.
You might hear practitioners talk about people being ‘biochemically unique’. That means that there isn’t a single way of eating that is right for everyone. Your DNA, previous medical history, and any current symptoms as well as what you like and don’t like, not to mention your personal circumstances are all important when a nutritionist creates a plan for you. It is personalised just for you. That takes both time and skill. You could download something from the internet – if you knew what you were looking for – but it is not the same. A nutrition practitioner may also work with high quality professional (vs. off the shelf low quality) supplements targeted to a specific condition or your own health goal. This can be a minefield – potentially dangerous and inevitably costly – if you don’t know what you’re doing.
What if i already know what to do?
Knowing what you should be doing is only part of the problem. Staying motivated is the hardest part of any plan. The single best way to stay in the zone is to have coach who can keep you motivated, give you a nudge or call you out if you start to go off piste. This is the single biggest thing that makes the difference between reaching your goal and actually staying there. That’s where health coaching comes in. It keeps you accountable will ensure all that good work doesn’t go to waste.