What is nutritional therapy?

Nutritional therapy is, in the most basic terms, the use of nutrients to help people to avoid illness and achieve good or optimum health. It is also widely understood that nutritional therapy should be tailored towards an individual’s needs, since their health history, nutritional status and genotype will influence how different nutrients affect them.

The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), defines Nutritional Therapy as ‘the application of nutrition science in the promotion of health, peak performance and individual care.  Nutritional therapy practitioners use a wide range of tools to assess and identify potential nutritional imbalances and understand how these may contribute to an individual’s symptoms and health concerns.  This approach allows them to work with individuals to address nutritional balance and help support the body towards maintaining health. Nutritional therapy is recognised as a complementary medicine.  It is relevant both for individuals looking to enhance their health and wellbeing and for those with chronic conditions wishing to work with or ‘consult’ a nutritional therapist in collaboration with other suitably qualified healthcare professionals.

‘Practitioners consider each individual to be unique and recommend personalized nutrition and lifestyle programmes rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Practitioners never recommend nutritional therapy as a replacement for medical advice and always refer any client with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional.  They will also frequently work alongside a medical professional and will communicate with other healthcare professionals involved in the client’s care to explain any nutritional therapy programme that has been provided.’

Nutritional therapists are different from dieticians and nutritionists. Dieticians tend to work within the NHS, are governed by law, and work to a curriculum defined by the British Dietetic Association. Nutritionists typically work for public bodies or the government, rather than seeing clients on an individual basis as nutritional therapists do.

Here are a few key facts to remember when considering Nutritional Therapy and its potential value within a wider medical context:

  • Up to 80 per cent of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer could be prevented by changing diet and lifestyle habits, according to the World Health Organisation (1).
  • The UK spends £47 billion annually on health costs from obesity and related illness, according to a 2014 report from the McKinsey Global Institute (2).
  • Iatrogenic death, or medical mistakes, kill an estimated 90,000 people annually in the UK, largely through adverse affects to pharmaceutical drugs, according to a 2007 study published in the British Medical Journal (3).
  • Hippocrates, the Greek physician who is widely regarded to be the ‘father of western medicine’, is quoted as saying: Let food by thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.’

(1) http://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/part1/en/index11.html
(2) http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/20/obesity-bigger-cost-than-war-and-terror
(3) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1570852/Hospital-blunders-kill-90000-patients.html

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