You are what you eat. The proverbial quote that implies what we put in our bodies has a direct effect on our health and state of mind.
Eating well doesn’t just affect our weight, skin or gut. It is critical for our cellular health and imperative for reducing the risk of noncommunicable diseases. For the ordinary person, information on nutrition and dietary advice is a minefield. However, it is especially challenging if you have a pre-existing condition or specific allergies. You may find consulting a nutritional expert is the starting step you need to feel well again.
What is nutrition therapy?
Nutrition therapy considers your general health and specific conditions in relation to your diet and eating habits. The benefits can be wide-ranging. For example, a nutritionist can support you in weight management, managing an allergy or aiding a pregnancy. Depending on your specific goals, a nutritionist can use a combination of foods, supplements and dietary planning. They may also recommend fasting, tips for food preparation and lifestyle changes to manage existing conditions.
What are the benefits of nutrition therapy?
A balanced diet can help address many underlying health issues. Although it is important to remember that there is no one nutrient or ‘superfood’ that can cure all health conditions or make us healthy. It is about our overall dietary pattern and lifestyle changes over a sustained period.
That being said, nutrition therapy can help the body to function at its best. By supplying the body with the correct nutrients, in the right levels and portions, you can move towards optimal physical, mental and emotional health.
Some conditions that can benefit from nutrition therapy include:
According to The American Diabetes Association (ADA), there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet or eating pattern for people with diabetes. They also recommend each person with diabetes to actively manage their diet and food planning. However this is easier said than done, and where an individual can seriously benefit from the help of a dietitian or nutritionist.
Your diet choices can have a negative impact on your sleep quality. Research has shown a breakfast high in tryptophan (think chicken, eggs, cheese, milk and nuts) can improve melatonin levels in the body, leading to a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, alcohol or stimulants such as caffeine can disrupt REM sleep – the deepest part of your sleep cycle which can affect memory and learning.
Allergies and intolerances
A food allergy is an attack on the person’s immune system whereas a food intolerance involves the digestive system. However, the two can easily be confused, making it difficult to prevent reactions and self-manage if not diagnosed correctly. Always consult your GP if you think you have a food allergy as it can lead to a more serious reaction called anaphylaxis.
Food intolerance is more common, though can be difficult to diagnose. A nutritionist can put you on an elimination diet to figure out the root cause and help you manage it long-term.
High blood pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’. This is because it rarely has any noticeable symptoms and if left untreated, can lead to kidney failure, stroke and heart attack. Taking the right dietary approach such as reducing salt intake or limiting alcohol has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce overall cardiovascular risk.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting what we eat can have a significant impact on our mood and even the prevalence of mental health conditions. For example, a Mediterranean diet high in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, fish, and legumes, can reduce depression over a sustained period of time.
What to expect in your first appointment
Before your first appointment or consultation, you may need to complete a comprehensive health questionnaire and food diary. Your therapist will then gather more information from you about your health history, current health issues and food habits by asking you questions in your initial appointment.
They can explain which body systems they feel are out of balance and may suggest some health tests to uncover more specific imbalances, infections or nutrient deficiencies.
You will then receive a list of diet and lifestyle recommendations to achieve over the next month and a list of nutritional supplements to help support your journey back to better health.
How do I find a nutritional therapist?
Because nutrition affects all systems within the body, some therapists choose to specialise in a particular area. These can include:
- Weight loss, energy and metabolism.
- Gut health: including IBS, IBD, Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, ulcers, gut infections, candida.
- Skin health: eczema, psoriasis, acne.
- Fertility: including pregnancy and hormone conditions i.e. PMS, menopause, endometriosis, PCOS.
- Mental health: including anxiety, depression, anorexia and food fears.
- Vegetarian and plant-based diets or if you are working with a food allergy or intolerance.
The Nutritional Therapy Association holds a list of members who have completed their training courses. From Spring 2021 you can find a range of nutritional therapists in your area by visiting our website. Search and book your next treatment directly through our online marketplace.