What is nutritional medicine and what does a nutritionist do?
While studying and when opening my clinic, I was often asked a couple of questions, “what is Nutritional Medicine?” and “why would I see a nutritionist?”. This article provides some insight into the world of Nutritional Medicine and what I do as a clinical nutritionist.
What is Nutritional Medicine?
Nutritional medicine considers how nutrition impacts on health, the relationship between disease and diet, and seeks to understand and treat the root cause of health conditions.
It is a holistic, patient-centred approach to health and wellbeing where practitioners work closely with clients to prevent and manage complex and chronic health conditions using food, nutritional supplementation and lifestyle recommendations.
Importantly, Nutritional Medicine is an evidence-based modality that is underpinned by biological and social sciences including anatomy, physiology, nutritional biochemistry, microbiology, genetics, pathology, pharmacology, psychology and counselling.
Why see a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner/Nutritionist?
Many people think that you only see a nutritionist if you want to lose weight and while we certainly have expertise in that area, people also choose to see a nutritionist to support their energy, help them to sleep better and to support the treatment of chronic disease.
Many patients are looking for natural, holistic and more sustainable options when it comes to feeling better, managing chronic conditions and reclaiming their health and vitality.
A nutrition consult is not just about the food that you eat. It is an in-depth session that explores all of the factors that can impact on your health. After a session, you will walk away with a clear action plan for supporting optimal wellbeing.
Check out these signs and symptoms that could be indicating you could benefit from seeing a nutritionist.
Food as medicine
When it comes to health, food truly is medicine. If you eat the food that your body needs, you will feel healthier and happier. But if you eat the foods that don’t agree with your body, symptoms and even disease can develop.
As well as what you eat, a nutritionist will explore how you eat. The way that we eat food can have just as much impact on the body as what we eat. The time of day, the amount of food consumed, the setting and the state of mind can enhance or impair absorption of nutrition from food.
How we live our lives in between meals and snacks plays a big role in nutrition and health. This is why a nutritionist will look at lifestyle factors that can impact on wellbeing. In a consultation, we might discuss:
Stress levels and management
Exercise and activity levels
Exposure to environmental toxins
Supplements are a contentious subject in the health world. Most qualified practitioners agree that they should never be used to replace a balanced diet. However, they can play an important role in some cases, such as:
When there is a chronic disease that has impaired nutrient absorption; or
Alleviating symptoms so that a person has the time and energy to improve their diet and lifestyle; or
There is a frank deficiency of a nutrient e.g. iron, vitamin D or magnesium.
When supplementation is warranted, it is best to go for a high-quality option. Practitioner-level supplements are designed for maximum absorption and use specific forms of nutrients to support particular health benefits. They also have lower levels of excipients (inactive substances that may be used as fillers, preservatives or colouring agents) and come in specific formulations with therapeutic doses.
A practitioner can choose to focus on an area of interest and work with clients who fall into this category. They might work with specific body systems such as digestive health. Or they might work with an age group or stages of life, such as mums or children. The longer a nutritionist works in a niche, the more experienced they become.
As a nutritionist, I have an interest in working with busy, stressed, exhausted professionals (which makes so much sense seeing that I was one). I assist with stress management, increasing energy levels, digestive concerns and foods intolerances. While I am more than happy to see folks that fall outside of this area, this is where my passion lies.
Along with individual consultations I also work with teams and organisations providing wellbeing seminars and facilitating workplace wellbeing programs. You can see more about my areas of clinical interest here and my other services here.
How to choose a nutritionist
Currently in Australia, ‘nutritionist’ is not a protected term. This means that there are no rules about who can call themselves a nutritionist. So here are a few tips to help you choose a nutritionist:
Ask them about their qualification. Professional (health) associations require that nutritionists have a minimum of an advanced diploma to be eligible for membership and insurance. A nutritionist with a Bachelor degree has studied for a minimum of 3 years.
Ask them which association they belong to. Association membership is voluntary. However, to maintain membership, a nutritionist must keep their skills and knowledge up to date through continuing education points. This lets you know that your nutritionist is committed to ongoing education.
Ask them if they have any specific areas of interest. Someone who works in the area that you want support with is ideal. Others are more general practitioners, so they may not have as much specific knowledge about your concerns.
So, if after reading this you think you could benefit from seeing a nutritionist and have some questions, I’d love to hear from you. You can make a general enquiry here, book at free 15-minute discovery session here, or find out more about me and how I found my way to practicing nutritional medicine here.