What is a Nutritional Therapist and how can we help you?
Are you baffled by the numerous titles in the field of nutrition? ‘Nutritionist’, ‘Nutritional Therapists’, ‘Dietician’, ‘Health Coach’, and countless other titles – well – we don’t blame you. People are constantly asking us to explain what the nutritional therapists at Nourish Well do and how we can help with their health, so we hope this helps clear up some of the confusion.
The Nutritional Therapists at Nourish Well are all insured and registered to practice in a clinical setting and have been trained on an accredited course that typically includes the foundation study of biomedicine and biochemistry. Depending on which associations we are registered with (e.g. ANP, BANT), Nutritional Therapists are governed by that association’s code of ethics and complaints procedure. In our practice, we apply the science of nutrition to promote good health and care which means our recommendations are always evidence-based. However, we also give consideration to each individual’s unique constitution and life history.
What you read in the papers, on the internet or even just hearing what other people tell you is getting very confusing as so many proclaim to be a nutritionist or know about nutrition – ‘are eggs good or bad?’, ‘do fats make you fat?’, ‘can we still eat meat?’, ‘are calories still important?’, ‘what is good and bad cholesterol?’ - it seems like everyone is becoming an expert and trying to force their ideas upon what is right to eat or not to eat. I distinctly remember attending a juice fasting retreat in the beautiful countryside of Dorset, before I started my education in Nutritional Therapy. Their stance was that a raw food diet (of fruits and vegetables only) was the only way to heal for everybody. I practiced this for many months afterwards and waited for my ‘better health’ to kick in, but it never did. Instead, I became more fatigued and my autoimmune symptoms became worse. I finally gave in and saw a Nutritional Therapist who assessed my individual circumstances and gave me a bespoke plan which included meat and fish. It was this that got me stronger and better, not raw vegetables. There simply isn't a one-size-fits-all diet. Healing must be personalised according to the individual and their needs.
Our standpoint at Nourish Well is that we are all biologically and biochemically unique; we have our own individual genetic predispositions; we may be exposed to different toxins, emotions, environmental and lifestyle factors. Therefore what works for one person may not work for another, which is why we spend a lot of time gathering information about each person. We use a very wide range of tools to look at the individual holistically to identify any imbalances and discover the root cause - this is based on the ‘functional medicine’ approach. Once the information has been evaluated, we would then create a personalised plan using the healing power of food alongside any lifestyle changes necessary to help the body and mind go back to its natural equilibrium or ‘homeostasis’. We 'Let Food Be Thy Medicine' as Hippocrates once said.
Whilst we are not able to legally diagnose, we can prescribe specific diets, supplements and order tests. Our advice may also include the provision of recipes, ideas of where to shop or eat out and other practical suggestions on how to incorporate healthy eating into busy lifestyles.
If there are naturopathic solutions which are considered non-invasive and natural and often have anecdotal evidence from traditional use over hundreds if not thousands of years (but have not gone through many clinical trials such as Ayurvedic or Traditional Chinese Medicine) then we can also explore these areas with the client’s consent or desire. Most of us have a basic training in this, but some choose to extend their study even further with an extra qualification in 'naturopathy' itself. This may also include herbs and flower remedies and techniques such as iridology that reads the iris.
Our approach is integrative and complementary which means we are not looking to replace medical advice. We always refer clients with ‘red flags’ to medical professionals, and often work alongside doctors where possible whilst maintaining lines of communication with any other healthcare professional that the client may be seeing. I can personally relate to this because with my autoimmune conditions, I still maintain a good relationship with the medical specialists that I have been seeing for many years as well as fitting in a nutrition and lifestyle plan to manage my day-to-day wellbeing. By using nutritional therapy, I am able to minimise any side effects from medications, support the body in its recovery and reduce fatigue so that I can enjoy exercise and optimise my overall health. It also helps me to minimise the effects of stress and be able to have a full night’s sleep.
So what are Nutritionists, Dieticians and Health Coaches?
Nutritionists are trained on the scientific basis of food and nutrition. They work in a range of settings to provide evidence-based information and guidance – for example in research, education or policy development – therefore they typically work for public bodies. They can also work privately to advise and provide information on nutrition. Sometimes Nutritional Therapists call themselves ‘Nutritionists’ (to make it even more confusing!) but strictly speaking Nutritionists do not have clinical training and are unable to offer specific dietary advice to those with health conditions but can make recommendations about food and healthy eating in general which can help alleviate or prevent future problems.
Dieticians work principally in the NHS and are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council. Dieticians are evidence-based and use the science of nutrition to create eating plans to help individuals with conditions or general health. Dieticians work within strict regulated rules and food guides, therefore commonly base their advice on Reference Nutrient Intakes (RNI) which are guidelines based on the amount of nutrients required in order to avoid any deficiencies. This approach may mean that your own individual and unique characteristics are not taken into account. For example, dietetic science does not consider the rapidly evolving sciences of molecular genetics or evolutionary biology which is an area that Nutritional Therapists are able to explore together with their clients.
Nutritional Therapists and Dieticians are similar in the sense that they work to promote good health by encouraging positive food choices and they are both trained in clinical practice to give one-on-one personal health advice. Both groups must also practice with full professional indemnity insurance.
Health coaches, on the other hand, look to support clients with strategies that engage individuals in health behaviour change. This could include methods such as motivational interviewing, goal setting or positive psychology. In my understanding, health coaches can make general suggestions on nutrition but nothing specific to the person or their condition. There are many Nutritional Therapists, Nutritionists and Dieticians that may take up additional training in health coaching or a form of alternative therapy to help bring about behavioural changes such as NLP or hypnotherapy. This is especially so if the practitioner is specialising in areas such as eating disorders, food addictions or weight loss.
If you have any more questions about nutritional therapy leave a comment below or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Lydia Ghazali.