What is Nutritional Therapy?
While I was training to be a nutritional therapy consultant with the Nutritional Therapy Association last year, a small part of our workshop weekend included developing and presenting an elevator speech.
Many jobs require little explanation – a simple title paints a clear enough picture. Nutritional therapy is new enough, small enough and nuanced enough to require a bit more information.
My elevator speech went something like this: “I am a Nutritional Therapy Consultant and I help people who struggle with the poor health effects of processed foods to regain their health through whole food nutrition.”
Even that description is significantly lacking.
So, What is Nutritional Therapy?
Nutritional therapy is individual.
There are certain recommendations that are good for everyone, such as drinking more water and eating more vegetables. Beyond these types of suggestions, however, there are almost no catchalls when it comes to diet and nutrition. Due to a wide variety of factors – nutritional state, hormonal balance, stress level, lifestyle, culture, history and biology – the list is really endless. No two people have the exact same need or will respond in the exact same way to identical protocols. We call this bio-individuality.
Why Bio Individuality Matters
Working with bio-individual clients presents both challenges and opportunities.
The challenge is that there are no one-size-fits all plans, but the opportunity is the ability to offer real help and change. The help and change are made possible by gathering a wide breadth of information via a health history form, a food log and a nutritional assessment questionnaire for a nutritional therapist to evaluate needs.
The health history form investigates a lifetime of health and nutritional states and asks questions that may seem unusual such as the kinds of foods you ate as a child. A food log is also included and is incredibly important. An honest tracking of everything the client ate for three to seven days – as well as corresponding moods, energy levels and digestive notes – gives a nutritional therapist vital information. The food log is imperative for assessing the client’s current nutritional state. It also gives clues about other factors such as time limitations or energy patterns. The final document is the nutritional assessment questionnaire, a set of 321-questions that gives a big-picture view of potential areas of dysfunction needing support. Areas of need may include digestion or blood sugar handling, for example, but can include other health-related issues.
Nutritional Therapy is Holistic
Nutritional Therapy respects that no health issues occur in isolation.
If a client is experiencing arthritic pain in their hand, the pain has less to do with the hand and more to do with underlying inflammation and nutritional deficiencies. A client reporting daily afternoon sleepiness would never be recommended a 2 p.m. coffee as a pick-me-up. The nutritional therapist would look more deeply into the food log, health history and questionnaire to search out ties between blood sugar regulation, adrenal function and digestive dysfunction.
A visit with a nutritional therapist will not end with a bottle of pills to cure a client’s ills – though supplements are often accessed. A client will walk away with a mutually agreeable plan with information about their nutritional state, nutritional recommendations or a specific nutritional plan, recommendations for lifestyle changes and suggestions for related practitioners if needed.
Nutritional Therapy is Complementary
Nutritional therapy does not diagnose or treat diseases.
It is designed to be a partner. If you are in the midst of a heart attack, please go to the emergency room. Coming to a nutritional therapist with a diagnosis from a physician can sometimes be helpful, but it will not be the main focus of the sessions. Conditions requiring medical attention should continue to receive qualified care – even while working with a nutritional therapist. The recommendations in nutrition, lifestyle and supplements should also be discussed with the client’s physician, but will typically get the green flag. Nutritional therapy protocols are safe and health promoting and rarely a cause of negative interaction. In fact, the addition of nutritional therapy protocols and support to more conventional treatments can offer a huge boost in healing and health outcomes.
Is Nutritional Therapy for you?
If you are a human not living up to your potential of health and vibrancy, then yes, it is for you. Nutritional Therapy will help you dive deep into the causes of your dysfunction – digestive discomfort, poor blood sugar control, hormonal imbalances – and the host of downstream effects. You will be provided with an individualized plan for correcting those imbalances. The set of nutrition, supplemental and lifestyle recommendations will support your natural ability and right to regain the health you deserve.
Editor’s Note: Sara Kennedy is a certified nutritional therapy consultant. She is the owner of Renegade Wellness found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/paleoalaska. Reach her online at www.thriveak.com.