Nutritional therapy is a complementary therapy, which means it can work alongside orthodox medicine. It is a way of using food and supplements to encourage the body’s natural healing. It does this by:
Detoxifying the body
Correcting vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Restoring healthy digestion
Developing a positive attitude
In order to achieve the above goals a nutritional therapist asks a lot of questions about all aspects of your health and well being including medical history, dietary history, family history, menstrual problems, digestion, energy levels and exercise. By analyzing a person’s diet and tailoring it to their individual needs – rectifying any vitamin, mineral and other nutrient imbalances – nutritional therapists seek to alleviate and treat common diseases and promote health.
Diet has always been a part of medicine and healing, and is a feature of all traditional medicine systems. However, dietary and nutritional advice and therapy have become much more specific following scientific advances in the understanding of essential nutrients and their functions.
In the early part of the 20th century, biochemists began to isolate individual vitamins and minerals and determine their importance. Later research has focused on the role of amino acids, enzymes and friendly bacteria in healthy digestion, and antioxidants in slowing aging and preventing cancer.
The body requires essential macro- and micro-nutrients in order to sustain life and health. The macro-nutrients are carbohydrates (sugars and starches), proteins (including amino acids), fats (including essential fatty acids) and fiber. The micro-nutrients are vitamins, minerals and trace elements. The body can’t manufacture these micro-nutrients itself, so they must be obtained from the diet.
Poor diet, increased intake of junk food, a decrease of nutrients in the soil, chemical farming methods, global pollution and high-stress lifestyles are all thought to play a part in nutritional deficiency, which is becoming increasingly common even in the developed world.
Individual needs for different nutrients have also been shown to vary widely. Careful dietary adjustment and/or nutritional supplementation can therefore have a huge impact on health.
Categorizing Nutritional Therapy
Theory behind Nutritional Therapy
Certain diseases appear to be linked to particular nutritional deficiencies. Replenishing these nutrients, through food or supplements, facilitates changes at a cellular level and helps to restore body function. For example, studies have shown that prostate problems may be linked to deficiency, may be affected by deficiency and deficiency in pregnancy may contribute to birth defects such as spina bifida.
Nutritional therapy has been shown to be beneficial for many conditions, especially heart disease, arthritis, digestive complaints such as constipation or irritable bowel syndrome, gout, asthma, cancer and diabetes. It’s also used in the treatment of hyperactivity in children, chronic fatigue and obesity. Correct nutrition is crucial during pregnancy, too.
Consultations often begin with a questionnaire analyzing your diet and lifestyle. You may be asked to keep a food diary and take certain tests to determine levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, bowel function, levels of healthy bacteria in the gut and possible food intolerances.
These tests can take the form of hair, sweat and urine analysis or blood tests. The practitioner may also use electrical devices (such as the VEGA system) or muscle testing as used in applied kinesiology to detect food sensitivities. He or she may also carry out physical examinations – of your skin and nails, for example – to look for signs of deficiencies.
Treatment involves tailor-made diets usually eliminating specific foods and increasing the intake of others. Specific nutrients in the form of pills, capsules, powders and liquid tinctures may also be recommended.
The difference between a nutritional therapist and a dietician
This is a very common question and believe it or not, they are different.
1. A nutritional therapist works on optimum amounts of nutrients which are the amounts needed to minimize health problems and promote optimum health. A dietician works on recommended daily amounts of nutrients (RDA’s) which are set by the government and are the amounts needed to prevent diseases such as scurvy and beriberi.
2. A nutritional therapist works on prevention of health problems as well as encouraging the body to heal itself. A dietician doesn’t always recognize the role of nutrition in some health problems e.g. sinusitis, menstrual problems, asthma.
3. A nutritional therapist uses lots of research from peer reviewed sources. A dietician uses research based on scientific evidence.
4. A nutritional therapist looks at environmental factors. A dietician does not.
5. A nutritional therapist looks at the patient holistically. A dietician tends to focus on a particular problem.