What Does A Nutritional Therapist Actually Do?

There are a lot of misconceptions about the role of nutritional therapists in healthcare. In this article, I hope to clarify them and explain why you may wish to consider booking an appointment with one in the near future.

Living - and working - in a country that provides free healthcare for its citizens is certainly a privilege but it has a tendency to create skepticism for any other form of healthcare that falls outside this paradigm and charges a fee for services rendered.

Nutritional therapy is a relatively new profession - one that exists mainly in response to the alarming and seemingly ubiquitous rise in chronic disease despite advances in modern medicine. The science on which it is based has evolved so quickly (and continues to do so) that its practitioners are often in disagreement over best practices, leaving the average layperson - at best - confused and - at worst - critical of the profession as a whole. Caring for oneself and the attainment of optimal health was once so instinctive that it is no wonder people bristle at the very idea of an “expert” presuming to know what is best for a perfect stranger, having neither lived their lives nor faced their challenges.

Rather than fuel what can be a dynamic of right versus wrong, I think it may be helpful to simply outline what I do and how it might benefit you in particular and the overburdened NHS in general.

Collaboration: is both the heart of what I do and the future of healthcare. I collaborate in a few very important ways:

  • I make it clear from the beginning that I am an ally. Clients set the agenda, the pace at which they are willing to proceed at any given time, which path to go down and when.

  • I liaise with clients’ doctors and recommend the services of other healthcare providers so that we can work as a cohesive team. This gives each client the opportunity to design their own protocol and to possibly boost the effects of each intervention.

Empowerment: our body’s have an innate capacity to heal - given optimal conditions. I believe that sharing knowledge on the most optimal conditions for the individual before me whilst recognising (and making it clear) that they have the right to choose which path to go down - and when - is absolutely crucial. Most importantly, I introduce the notion that our genes are not our destiny. None of us need plod on towards inevitable decline as “decreed” by our genes. Any choices made today have an impact on the expression of one’s genes and, therefore, one’s health (and on the health of one’s children and even grandchildren) in the future - for better or for worse. Keeping this in mind engenders a profound feeling of control over the course of one’s life. Empowering clients in this way is also more likely to help them become the foremost expert on themselves and to, therefore, take a proactive - as opposed to reactive - role in the long run.

Investigation: I look beneath symptoms and labels to find root causes, bearing in mind that these always differ from person to person. Viewing the body as an interconnected whole, I also use functional testing - if desired - to ascertain levels of underlying phenomena (inflammation or oxidative stress, for example) that may be driving either sub-optimal function or a disease process. This vital information then underpins the direction the client may wish to take and gives the best possible outcome.

Above all, I encourage an open mind, a desire to experiment and the use of any outcomes as valuable data with which to inform next steps. Ultimately, my goal is to teach clients to fish for their own resources - be that intrinsic motivation, awareness, intuition, the bolstering effect of past successes/familial support, etc. This, I find, is the best and most sustainable way to help them achieve as much independence from me as possible and to see that their health lies in their own hands in the long run.