The awesome power of food to heal has been recognised since the time of the great Greek physician Hippocrates. As this familiar quote sumarises:
“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”
The American College of Nutrition, in a recent paper, recognises this ancient principle and defines personalised nutrition, saying this on the subject:
“Personalized nutrition holds tremendous potential to improve human health.”
One size does not fit all, this is because of differences in biochemistry, metabolism, genetics and microbiota; these factors also determine how the individual responds to their environment and therefore, how they respond to Nutritional Therapy.
When I meet someone, the overall objective of being a nutritional therapist is to direct them to lifestyle changes that will improve their health. Looking to address their own specific health goals they have.
As a nutritional therapist, it’s common for people to come to me feeling like they are reacting to everything they eat. Sometimes enough clues are gathered and a pattern emerges, allowing me to make a suggestion to try to exclude certain foods. This can be hugely reassuring to a client who feels no one understands.
Excluding foods is not ideal and in extremes, in a quest to work out what they are reacting to, some clients come with very restricted diets. Therefore in an effort to identify possible problem foods, foods need to be carefully re-introduced to expand the clients’ current diet. In these cases, support to increase food tolerance is essential, and certain supplements and testing may be needed to support this.
Symptom patterns are not always straightforward and there may be more than one potential way the client needs support. Digestive/gut issues can often fall into this category, however, there can be a strong case to try a particular approach. Careful monitoring will enable an assessment to be made as to whether to progress or modify the strategy.
Using functional testing for gut issues, such as a Comprehensive Stool Test, can highlight and rule out what approaches are needed. It may be digestion that needs supporting, or it may be supporting the microbiome (balance of bacteria in the gut), or there may be evidence that stress is a factor.
For most of my clients, there is an element of stress and this can never be underestimated as a key factor in the presentation of symptoms and the ability to improve health.
Talking through someone’s situation with a nutritional therapist can be in itself a huge help and taking steps to support relaxation is an essential part of everyone’s program. Again, several tools can be used to do this; lifestyle changes, breathing techniques, supplements to help reduce anxiety, or testing to help evaluate how the stress is affecting the person on a biochemical level. Like all suggestions, this is a discussion with the client about appropriate next steps for them and it’s certainly worth noting that it’s not always about food and that actually, other lifestyle factors such as exercise and sleep need to be assessed as well.
You can start to see that there can be a lot to support and address. What is essential to a client’s success is taking into account someone’s circumstances. For example, do they commute to London, or are they feeding a family, or perhaps they are eating alone? To enable sustainable change to take place, it’s important to give the client appropriate support. This could include making make a few changes at a time. Making them accountable. Explaining why the changes might be beneficial. Even how a client is motivated to change varies from one individual to another.
It’s rare to find the silver bullet. For most, it’s a much more methodical journey, establishing a new lifestyle and understanding the benefits to their health. People quickly forget how ill they felt and it’s hugely beneficial as a nutritional therapist to be able to help a client reflect on how far they have come.
If you want to find out how Nutritional Therapy can transform your health, please get in contact and arrange a free 20-minute exploratory call to find out. I work as a nutritional therapist in Thame, Oxfordshire, and surrounding towns and counties including Buckinghamshire and beyond.
- Corinne L. Bush, Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Ahmed El-Sohemy, Deanna M. Minich, Jóse M. Ordovás, Dana G. Reed & Victoria A. Yunez Behm (2020) Toward the Definition of Personalized Nutrition: A Proposal by The American Nutrition Association, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 39:1, 5-15, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2019.1685332