What is a Nutritionist?
An accredited nutritionist has received tertiary training in the field of nutrition (in my case an Advanced Diploma in Nutritional Medicine). They will also be a member of a governing body, holding them to a high level of professional conduct and ensuring they adhere to set targets for continued education each year.
However, “nutritionist” is not a protected term here in Australia, meaning anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Make sure you ask what training / qualifications they have.
What Does a Nutritionist Do?
A nutritionist looks at health and wellbeing from a holistic (ie whole body) perspective. This means that we don’t split the body (metaphorically) up into it’s constituent organs or systems (ie heart / cardiovascular system or lungs / respiratory system) and focus our approach on just those organs or systems. Rather, we understand that the body functions together as a whole, and dysfunction in one area could very well be caused by dysfunction in another area and may well be impacting on dysfunction on yet more areas.
We also address mental health (stress and anxiety are common complaints) as well as physical health. For example, poor gut health impacts mental health (symptoms may be anxiety, low mood, emotional outbursts), cardiovascular health (gut dysbiosis is correlated with cardiovascular disease) and skin health (for example rosacea and eczema are just two conditions linked to intestinal permeability). A nutritionist would address a condition such as rosacea by addressing food triggers and poor gut health first and foremost.
Our training is evidence based, meaning our protocols are backed up by peer reviewed research and studies.
Why Should I See a Nutritionist?
If you have ongoing health concerns that are not being adequately addressed by your GP or medication, or if you have non-descript symptoms that are nothing major but just make you feel very bleurghhh every day then it is very probably that you need to work on your diet and lifestyle. And you probably already know that 😉
Diet and lifestyle is the very foundation of our health and wellbeing, and there’s so much information “Out There” that it can be hard to work out what is good advice, what is bad advice and what is just totally irrelevant to us. A nutritionist tailors a diet and lifestyle to suit you and your requirements, working with you at a level you are comfortable with. We’re basically your friend that knows about food.
What Happens During an Appointment?
When you book in to see a nutritionist you will probably receive a lengthy intake form to fill in and perhaps a food diary. In my case, I like to start putting together a treatment plan before seeing a client so I’ll ask for these forms to be returned a few days before the appointment so I can go through them thoroughly. The intake form will include questions about your family history, childhood illnesses as well as in depth questions about your current symptoms and situation.
In the actual appointment we will spend an hour or so drilling down into the details of relevant aspects of your history and current status to create an accurate picture of a protocol that will work for you.
Does a Nutritionist Just Look at Diet?
I use a multi-faceted approach. Food and drink are of course the foundations of the treatment plan, but just as important are lifestyle factors such as sleep quality, stress management, exercise, etc. I’ll give you a treatment plan that encompasses both diet and lifestyle, designed to work with your life. You may also be referred to other healthcare practitioners, including your GP, acupuncturist, chiropractor, etc.
What About Supplements?
As an accredited nutritionist, we do have access to practitioner only supplement ranges. These tend to be of a very high quality, more so than supplements available at your supermarket or health food shop. Personally, I prefer to work with real food to address nutrient deficits, gut healing, liver health, etc, but sometimes supplements can be very useful for short term use to bump up nutrient levels quickly or support faster health improvements. But there is no “quick fix”, fundamentally the work needs to be done to improve overall health via diet and lifestyle changes.
How About Testing?
Testing definitely adds to the overall picture presented by a client. If you have tests from the last year you can email or bring them with you to your appointment.
An accredited nutritionist will be able to refer you for testing at a local lab, or will refer you back to your GP for testing, as necessary. Only a very small number of tests are eligible for the Medicare rebate due to a heavily stressed public healthcare system, so if thorough testing is required this may mean you need to pay for the tests. However, it’s up to you whether you want to do the testing or not. Sometimes it is very helpful, other times your symptom picture is enough to start with.
How Often Will I need to See My Nutritionist?
It really depends on your particular case. To set up good habits for general wellbeing an initial consult plus 2 follow ups over the course of 2-3 months is recommended. If you have a chronic illness to address then it is likely you will need to see a nutritionist every 4-6 weeks for at least 6 months, checking in a few times a year after that for any trouble shooting. However, it also depends on your personality type too, you might be a “take the bull by the horns” type of person who’ll be up an running after the first follow up, or you may need a little more encouragement and support.
Is an Appointment Covered by my Private Health Care Fund?
This depends on which health care fund you are with so you will need to check before your appointment.
Should I tell My Doctor That I’m Seeing a Nutritionist?
Yes, absolutely. It is very important that your doctor knows about any complementary therapists you have engaged and knows about any supplements or protocols you may be on. I’m also happy to communicate directly with your doctor regarding the protocol we’ve worked on if that’s something you would like or require.
How Do I Find The Right Nutritionist For Me?
Most nutritionists will specialise in a few particular areas. For me, that’s autoimmune conditions (such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) and guidance with the Autoimmune Protocol, gut health (including bloating) and women’s health (including endometriosis, PCOS, etc). I also prefer to use high quality wholefoods wherever possible.
Most if not all nutritionists will also offer a free “Discovery Call“, which is a 15 min chat about your expectations, what the nutritionist can offer and basically making sure you are a good fit for each other. This might sound surprising (or obvious perhaps) but what most nutritionists want is to work with clients to effect positive, long term, change in their lives. This isn’t likely to happen in just one appointment, so we need to make sure from the start that both parties are willing and able to work together to put in the hard work that is required for long term change and health benefits.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to book in for a free, no obligation chat 🙂