What is a Clinical Nutritionist?
A clinical nutritionist studies the importance of nutrition in daily health and a health promoting lifestyle.
They learn about healthy and unhealthy proteins, carbohydrates, fats and oils, the effects of each vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, oils and other nutrients have on the body.
They compare many of the variety of dietary plans practiced in Eastern and Western diets. They look at egetarian, vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, the consumption of fish and seafood, lean high-quality poultry and meat, raw foods, food combining etc.
They study anti-oxidants learning about correct dosages, and correct applications for prevention or treatment.
They learn to address various specialty programs in nutrition such as weight loss, sports nutrition, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypoglycemia, female health concerns, male health concerns, boosting immunity, treating autoimmune diseases, diabetes, substance abuse, smoking, candida, adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, liver toxicity, digestive disorders, gluten intolerance, food allergies, migraines, and other common and uncommon concerns.
What is Clinical Nutrition?
Clinical nutrition is the study of the relationship between food and a healthy body. More specifically, it is the science of nutrients and how they are digested, absorbed, transported, metabolized, stored, and eliminated by the body. Besides studying how food works in the body, nutritionists are interested in how the environment affects the quality and safety of foods, and what influence these factors have on health and disease.
What are Nutrients?
Nutrients are substances that the body needs to be healthy. The body requires more than 45 nutrients, and the ways they are used are as different as the molecules, cells, and tissues they help to create. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats — called macronutrients — are broken down (metabolized) to provide energy. Vitamins and minerals — called micronutrients — are not used for energy themselves, but are the fuel that activate the nutrients in the body.
What are Nutritional Supplements?
The term “nutritional supplement” refers to vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are used to support good health and treat illness. For example, plant compounds known as phytochemicals (found in fruits and vegetables) have powerful disease-fighting properties. While it’s always best to get nutrients through the foods you eat, sometimes taking a supplement can help. For example, taking zinc supplements has been reported to shorten the duration of the common cold and lower the incidence of acute diarrhea in children. One very very important point here is that these supplements are of high quality sources. Heavy metal toxicity and pesticide poisoning is very common and taking supplements with these components in them won’t help to achieve the desired outcome of health. So many times the nutritionist will carry supplements in their office just for that very reason.
How do vitamins and minerals work?
Vitamins and minerals play an essential role in the body’s normal metabolism, growth, and development. For example, while a vitamin is not a source of energy by itself, it can provide the key the body needs to unlock energy stored in food. Some vitamins and minerals work together, such as the mineral zinc and vitamin A. Zinc enables the body to use vitamin A to promote good vision. Not getting enough vitamin A may lead to night blindness, a condition in which the eyes have trouble adjusting to darkness. Zinc supplementation may help prevent this condition by helping the body use vitamin A. Another example is calcium and vitamin D. Calcium, which is very important in bone and heart health, is more readily absorbed if vitamin D is also present.
Taking supplements, however, is not the answer to long-term good health. Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise and a positive mental attitude has been shown to be the best bet for a healthy lifestyle.
What constitutes a healthful diet?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid suggests that we use fat “sparingly,” and that our daily diet include 2 – 3 servings of dairy products; 2 – 3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, or nuts; 3 – 5 servings of vegetables; 2 – 4 servings of fruit; and 6 – 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, or pasta. But the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. Our food needs are influenced by many factors, including age, gender, body size, pregnancy, and health. A clinical nutritionist or nutritionally oriented doctor can help you determine what type of diet is best for you. No matter what, you can improve your diet by adding more fruits and vegetables and cutting back on saturated fat and sugar.
What Does a Clinical Nutritionist Treat?
Scientists have found many other connections between diet and disease. In a clinical study of 20,000 men, for example, eating one fish meal per week was linked to a 52% reduction in the risk of sudden death from a heart attack. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect the heart from fatal arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm).
In another clinical study of more than 42,000 women, those who ate lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and only lean meats lived longer. High intake of fruits, vegetables, and legumes is associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease.
There are many ongoing studies regarding clinical nutrition. Some interesting results show that:
- Diets high in folate (found in leafy greens, dry beans and peas, fortified cereals and grain products, and some fruits and vegetables) may lower risk of stroke and heart disease.
- Eating small amounts of fish when pregnant may protect against early delivery and low birth weight infants. Some fish may contain higher amounts of mercury, and should only be eaten in moderation. Ask your obstetrician which types of fish are best for you when pregnant. Taking iron supplements improves aerobic training ability in iron-depleted women.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids) in the diet may reduce risk of cataracts.
- Lutein from dietary sources (such as kale and spinach) may protect against colon cancer.
- Flavonoids (found in apples, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, citrus fruits, onions, and teas) may protect against cancer.
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish (such as herring, tuna, and salmon) help reduce inflammation and help prevent certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
- Vitamin E (in the diet from fruits and vegetables) may reduce the risk of angina (chest pain) and heart attack in people with atherosclerosis.
What can I expect from a visit to a nutritionist?
At first, the clinical nutritionist will ask you questions about your medical history, family history, and personal lifestyle. The medical history might include questions about your diet, digestion, history of weight loss or gain, sleep and exercise patterns, and relaxation habits. Some clinical nutritionists will ask you to bring a 3-day food diary and list of any herbs, supplements, or medicines that you take regularly. Laboratory tests might be used to find out if you are low in any nutrients and to test your organ function. This way, a nutritionist will get a full picture of your nutritional lifestyle.
During the second part of the visit, the nutritionist will suggest ways that you can fill the gaps and reduce the nutritional “overloads” in your diet. For example, your nutritionist may suggest that you eat your meals at different times or cut down on the amount of carbohydrates that you eat. The nutritionist will also offer advice on specific nutritional supplements if necessary (see below). The nutritionist will then schedule follow-up visits to monitor your health.
Many times a nutritionist will recommend a major dietary change for a short period of time to see if some of the presenting complaints/symptoms can be alleviated. If after that time period, there is no change, then lab work in the form of the “usual” blood tests, or more expanded tests may be ordered to find out what is causing the problems.
The labs used in our office include, but are not limited to:
These tests are not inexpensive, but will give some direction as to which way to go with more difficult health conditions.