You have likely heard of nutritionists, dietitians, health coaches, but may not have heard of nutritional therapy. There is an entire movement in nutrition that is designed to help you thrive, even if you’re feeling worse than ever or dealing with chronic, unexplained health issues.
Nutrition often gets a bad rap. It is forever changing and totally confusing. Is coffee bad? Is it good? Should you drink it black or with creamer or butter? Should you drink it at all? Who really knows anymore. Everyone has a different opinion and there are studies to back up every side.
If you’re feeling confused by it all, me too. But the good news is – there is help! Nutritional therapy to the rescue.
Nutrition in Healthcare
Before discussing nutritional therapy, I wanted to quickly go over how nutrition fits in with the current healthcare model in the US. Many people think that their doctor is the best person to chat with about their nutrition goals. After all, they know your body pretty well after a handful of appointments, right?
Doctors have a much-needed place in our world, but their main focus is typically on healing a sick body with prescription medications, not on supporting optimal health and wellbeing through recommendations for diet and movement. I have talked to countless doctors and nurses (some even in my family) who have told me their nutrition knowledge is lackluster at best, and that their nutritional education in school was a handful of hours learning the old-school food pyramid (click for nostalgia) or the more current MyPlate recommendations.
Dietitians focus on nutritional support, but they are often trained in government-created food recommendations as well and work more with people who have a serious medical condition. For example, a cardiologist might send their patient to see a dietitian for dietary support while taking blood pressure medication. This is amazing, however, it’s not always tailored to a patient’s individual needs and is more focused on healing that one specific symptom without diving into the root cause.
“Nutritionist” is an unregulated term that, in many US states, can be used by literally anyone. (Scary, right?) Any health coach, know-it-all, or random social media person can say they are a nutritionist. There are many wonderful and trustworthy “nutritionists” out there, but be wary and form your own opinion before trusting them completely.
Nutritional Therapy to Save the Day
Nutritional therapy might have “nutrition” in the name, but food is actually only part of the story here. Working with a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner can help you learn to eat a healthier diet and use food as a delicious tool, but our focus is much more therapeutic in nature than a dietitian or “nutritionist” would be able to offer.
The keyword with NTPs is bioindividuality. This means that we humans are all so very different. The two most basic differences are our ancestry and our local environment; we have different needs based on even these two very simple things. Just like fingerprints, no two bodies have the exact same needs at the exact same time.
Add to that the fact that our bodies are ever-changing, with fluctuations in hormones, blood sugar, toxic burden, stressors, and so many more factors. There is no one-size-fits-all diet, and everything about you will influence what foods serve you best in that moment. You may even find that on some days you can eat a food and other days your body says no to that same food.
So What is Nutritional Therapy?
Nutritional therapy is highly tailored to your individual body, needs, likes, dislikes, and much more. The first step to working with an NTP is intake paperwork, which includes a detailed interview questionnaire about your health habits and history, a 320-question symptom evaluation, and a five-day food and mood journal. This will help your NTP dive deep into who you are, what you need, and what is troubling your body.
Nutritional therapy can be a really valuable learning tool if you’re up for it. The biggest pro to working with an NTP is that we truly listen to you every step of the way. Our main concern is that you are supported through this entire process, and that includes teaching you how to listen to your body. We are like the mama bird teaching her birdlings to fly; our goal is to give you all the tools you need to leave the nest with confidence and strength. You are so capable! We love working with you, but the end goal is that you don’t need us anymore.
Nutritional therapy is client-led, meaning that your NTP will meet with you and put together a protocol that meets your specific needs, but with your input through every step. I am here for guidance and support, but the decision to make a change or not is yours and yours alone. I will never try to force you to make a change. This is your body to love and like.
Nutritional therapy is, to put it simply, like therapy with nutrition. Just as you would see a cognitive therapist to work out mental and emotional struggles, NTPs are here for working out struggles with symptoms that you can’t seem to figure out. These include things like bloating, gas, constipation, and digestive distress of many kinds, but can even go as deep as finding the root cause of fatigue, food sensitivities, joint pain, cravings, painful periods, and so much more.
So to sum up, working with a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner is awesome. It can be really beneficial when your body needs some TLC and you need some professional guidance.
Working With a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
As an NTP, I have two key focus points. The first is helping you to find and decrease stressors that may be impacting how your body feels. I know, I know… stress. It is an unforgiving part of life, from work to kids to the political climate and more. It’s exhausting! But that’s not all we are dealing with.
Less-considered stressors include things like:
- inflammation caused by unknown food sensitivities
- oxidative stress due to highly processed foods
- decrease in resilience to life stress when we don’t get enough exercise or sleep
Stress is classified as anything that disturbs the body’s environment, creating a need for adjustment to pull itself back to homeostasis. Homeostasis is how our bodies adapt to change in our internal and external environments. When we’re forced to change too much or too often due to stress, it can deplete our bodies in a big way.
This is where my second focus comes in. One of the best ways to identify stressors is to learn to listen to your body, and one of the best ways to conquer those stressors is by eating a nutrient-dense diet full of colorful vegetables, pastured meats, healthy fats, and antioxidant-rich fruits. We cannot always decrease our life stressors (family, work, chores, etc) but we can increase our defenses against stress by providing our bodies with ample nutrients our cells need to function optimally.
You may not feel great right now, but your body is not broken. Real food is almost always the missing puzzle piece. Your body cannot thrive without nourishment to feed your cells.
While a nutrient-dense diet is best for every body, the specific foods we should be eating regularly are incredibly bioindividual. As I mentioned above, there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Men and women have different hormones and different nutritional needs. Pregnant or breastfeeding mamas will have much different needs than mothers with older kids or women going through menopause. Small children have different nutritional needs than teenagers and adults.
As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I want to help you find the foods that suit you best in this season of life.
I want to guide you in learning to listen to your body so you can figure out your optimal foods in your next season as well.
I want to help you find the root cause of your health issues and help you work through them using real food as a dependable tool, or “medicine” — the original medicine. We will work through your struggles with lifestyle changes, leave behind past habits, and destroy cravings that don’t serve you.
We will work at your pace. I will make recommendations that fit your lifestyle and goals, and they will always meet you where you are. The best change is the one you will make. My job is to hold your hand and support you through this process with my knowledge and experience.
Your body already has an innate wisdom to heal and thrive — my job is to support you in connecting with it.
You are already whole, you are already beautiful, and you are already healing. Getting back to the foundations of wellness can help you feel that way. Food is truly medicine and I would love to help you learn to use it.