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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Smart

What is Nutritional Medicine?

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

There is some misunderstanding around this profession. I've been confused with dieticians, naturopaths and even functional medicine doctors. But I'm not any of those. I'm also not your average nutritionist. My qualification is in a fairly new field - Nutritional Medicine.

What is it?

In Australia a degree in Nutritional Medicine has only been available in the past decade or so, so there's still not that many of us around. Many Naturopaths have added the qualification to their previous one, so that gets confusing too.

We are sometimes called 'natural health' practitioners, like naturopaths, because we share the belief that the body is a complex interrelated system with an innate ability to heal itself when given the right 'tools'. We believe that disease is a result of genetics, lifestyle factors and dietary choices that can be modified or addressed to improve wellness. We also believe that for every individual the journey towards improved health is different, treatment plans highly personalised according to those differences.

Gone are the days when health practitioners or doctors with these beliefs were viewed as 'on the edge', unscientific, or irresponsible. Today, those who practice Nutritional Medicine are trained in evidence based practice. In a world of burgeoning and accessible medical, health, diet, and genetic research, there is, at our fingertips, a vast array of gold standard, scientifically reviewed and validated research regarding the benefits of certain diets and various 'nutraceuticals' in the management of disease.

It's easy to see how diabetes management benefits from attention to diet for example, but did you know conditions such as alzheimers, depression, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, even cancer, have all been linked to dietary patterns and nutritional factors? Nutritional Medicine is highly beneficial for chronic degenerative conditions with a range of options for the management of symptoms and prevention of progression.

What about weight loss? A Nutritional Medicine approach to the treatment of obesity is very different to that of a dietician. I have absolutely no interest in putting you on another 'fad' diet for weight-loss. Instead, I'm interested in the underlying disease state that has caused your weight retention. We use functional medicine testing to determine contributing factors such as hormonal imbalances, thyroid disfunction, nutrigenomics, and chronic inflammation. Not everyone who is overweight has eaten their way to poor health, very often food has little to do with it. Where overeating is involved, there are often underlying physiological drivers of that behaviour that need to be identified. It is only when these underlying issues are addressed to modify your biochemistry and metabolism that weight control can be achieved and maintained. In a Nutritional Medicine approach, weight loss becomes simply a secondary benefit to the quest for overall improved health.

What can you expect at an appointment?

1. A full medical history taken - including family history (genetic factors), dietary and lifestyle practices, previous test results.

2. Functional testing (if warranted or desired) - these may include metabolic tests, hormone testing, fecal analysis, thyroid testing, genetic tests.

3. A treatment plan - including health goals, dietary and lifestyle advice, prescription of nutraceuticals (vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and other agents designed to support your particular needs)

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