Clinical Nutrition is the study of the relationship between food ingested and the well-being of the body.
More specifically, it is the science of nutrients and how they are digested, absorbed, transported, metabolised, stored, and utilised and how the resulting by-products are excreted as waste by the body. In addition to studying how food works in the body, nutritionists are interested in how the environment affects the quality and safety of foods, and how these factors influence heath and disease.
The History of Clinical Nutrition
The actual study of human nutrition dates back to the 18th century, when the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier discovered that there was a relationship between metabolism of food and the process of breathing. Lavoisier, later crowned as “Father of Nutrition and Chemistry”, demonstrated that oxidation of food is the source of body heat.
In the early 1940s Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) were established by the National Research Council, which established nutrition as a science on a national and international level. The RDAs defined the minimal nutrient intakes necessary for the prevention of Frank Deficiency States that are more likely to lead to severe deficiency diseases such as beri-beri and rickets. Until recently, these guidelines were used to set nutritional adequacy standards for the general population.
Researchers and scientists continue to uncover the therapeutic role of individual nutrients in the prevention and treatment of disease. For example antioxidants such as beta-carotene, selenium, vitamin E, and vitamin C appear to protect against the development of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.
The field of Clinical Nutrition has evolved into a practice that is increasingly incorporated into mainstream medical treatment. Clinical Nutrition is recognised as a modality that can enhance the well being of a client during times of good health, ill health, and when undergoing conventional pharmaceutical protocols, as well as playing a vital role in disease prevention. “One size fits all” is no longer appropriate in determining the nutritional needs of an individual.
What is a Clinical Nutritionist?
A Clinical Nutritionist has completed a minimum of 2 years training, including clinical assessment, holds an NZQA accredited, internationally recognized qualification and is registered with a local association that serves as an umbrella body.
A Clinical Nutritionist’s recommendations will be based on the most recent research information combined with traditional experiential wisdom that has evolved over the centuries as to what foods should be eaten when and by whom.
Some may choose to see a Clinical Nutritionist as an adjunct to medical treatment to further enhance results or speed up recovery. Others may choose a nutritionist as their primary health care provider and the first port of-call for any health concern, trusting their practitioner will refer them on as needed. A clinical nutritionist may also help with prevention of ill health, helping establish a healthy lifestyle before any symptoms of imbalance manifest.
What to Expect from a Clinical Nutrition Appointment
In the initial face-to-face consultation the Clinical Nutritionist will take a detailed case history, asking questions regarding medical history, family history, and personal diet, lifestyle and exercise habits. As much information as possible will be gathered in order to construct an overall view of the client’s state of health. This may involve compiling a food diary, noting signs and symptoms linked with certain foods and how they are consumed, providing laboratory test results and more. Based on the information provided by the client, dietary and lifestyle changes may be recommended alongside therapeutic grade dietary supplements.
Diagnostic tests and assessments may be performed and these may vary between practitioners.
Once an initial appraisal has been completed, a Clinical Nutritionist will make various dietary and lifestyle recommendations to assist the individual on their path to increased vitality and wellbeing.
Usually, two to three follow-up appointments are required to monitor the individual’s progress and make any minor adjustments to the initial program.
There are many health conditions a Clinical Nutritionist may be able to assist with including but not limited to: anxiety, asthma, behavioral disorders, learning difficulties, cardiovascular disease, children’s health, chronic fatigue, digestive complaints, diabetes, eczema, food and environmental sensitivities, hay fever, headaches and migraines, hormonal complaints, insomnia, joint complaints, metabolic disorders, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, PMS, psoriasis, pregnancy, sub-fertility, respiratory complaints, and weight management.
A good Clinical Nutritionist is an educator –and will lead you in the right direction on how to make changes that can enhance vitality and all aspects of physical and psychological health.