25 November 2013

Trust a Dietician? Can you?

On the website home page it starts with Why choose a dietician? The answer they provide is:

"Choosing the right person to seek help and advice from can sometimes be a confusing task. Many people claim to be experts in nutrition yet have very limited knowledge and offer no protection to the public". 

This is true. When it comes to health and well-being, it can be confusing with so many people claiming to be experts and you cannot always be sure of their credentials. This is why it is preferable to do your homework when booking an appointment to see someone. Look for someone who is highly qualified and registered with a professional body who positively promotes high standards of education, training, practice and integrity in the nutrition profession and who promote the application of nutrition science for optimum health, disease prevention and patient care.

I’m not talking about dieticians here. They have their own rules and regulations. I am talking about nutritional therapists.

I’m not sure who they are talking about when they say ‘experts in nutrition having very limited knowledge’ because it took me 4 years of nutritional education and 12 years of experimenting on myself to know what the body really needs nutritionally. What I learnt is not pie in the sky. But what the heck do I know? I’m just guessing right?

Dieticians call themselves the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to nutrition and food professionals. Personally, I have never heard this term before now but speaking only from my perspective, a dietician is the last person I would see when it comes to my heath and well-being.

A few years ago, my mum told me about when she went to see a dietician. At the time, she was having untold digestive issues. The dietician told her to eat 3-5 slices of bread for the fibre as it would help move things along, plus drink a glass or two of milk.

Milk, dairy and wheat in general are difficult to digest. If this (‘gold standard’) dietician did her homework she would have realized that the majority (if not all) of Afro Caribbean’s, Africans and Asians lack the enzyme to digest lactose, a milk sugar. Further, another protein in dairy products called casein is just as difficult to digest. It wasn't long before my mum suffered terrible side effects…cramping, bloating, gas, etc.

Bread contains high amounts of gluten and anti-nutrients or salicylates that are practically impossible for the body to digest. What the hell was this dietician thinking when she suggested my mum eats these ‘foods’? Oh of course, she was thinking about the Eatwell Plate or as Zoe Harcombe calls it, the Eat Badly Plate!

My mum knew it was the bad advice she received (from this so called ‘gold standard’ dietician) that made her symptoms worse, so she stopped eating bread and milk and of course the symptoms improved. She was still having issues so I stepped in and gave her specific supplements no only to aid her digestion but improve any discomfort. She is much happier now plus she is much less bloated. Because she is rather sensitive, I am taking the slow road with her. But of course as an expert I have very limited knowledge and have no idea what I am taking about. I couldn't possible have helped my mum because I have no idea what I’m doing. All these years of accumulated knowledge and I'm just talking out of my backside.

There is an author, an American medical doctor who was seeing clients who had type 2 diabetes. She was prescribing the usual low fat high carb diet (that every dietician knows and prescribes) and realized she was giving bad advice. She noticed the low fat high carb diet (the ‘gold standard’ of bad nutritional advice) was making her patients worse.

She totally changed her approach and now her patients are getting fabulous results. Her name is Diana Schwarzbein and she has written several books which I recommend you buy and read.

There are very big difference between dieticians, nutritionists and nutritional therapists.

On the Trust a Dietician website they claim nutritional therapists

“Nutritional therapists use commercial (non-NHS approved) dietary supplements including mega doses of vitamins and minerals, and commercial (not NHS approved) allergy testing.

Of course! We know your body is capable of healing without the use of synthetic medication thank you very much[1]. We recommend supplements most doctors prescribe like a basic vitamin and mineral supplement alongside digestive aids, vitamin D and fish oils. A therapeutic dose is recommended for short periods whilst your body is in the healing stage, then lower doses for maintenance.

Allergy testing on the NHS is limited and patients get highly frustrated when a test shows nothing is wrong with them. Everyone knows their own body so to be told ‘it’s all in your mind’ or ‘there is nothing wrong with you’ is not helpful.

The test nutritional therapist’s use are from highly respectable companies. The laboratory tests are robust and comprehensive and yes, they are done privately and as a result they are expensive; however, they show the complete picture and provide a much clearer picture of the patient’s symptoms in addition to a full explanation of what approach to take to heal their bodies, whether this is through food, supplements or both.

If someone is borderline diabetic, a nutritional therapist would never recommend a low fat high carb diet. That is the worse thing we could do. My approach would be to recommend dietary changes especially if they are on medication.

The British Dietetic Association held a live event in October of this year; their sponsors? Belvita, the sugar laden breakfast biscuit that will leave you craving more carbs and Danio who make extra thick yoghurt laced with plenty of sugar. But because they contain yoghurt cultures, dieticians approve of them - they are viewed as ‘healthy’.

Belvita breakfast biscuits contain ‘slow release’ carbohydrates that release energy over 4 hours. Dieticians love their carbs so for them, this biscuit is ‘healthy’.

If a client came to see me and was eating biscuits for breakfast, I would change that immediately to something highly nutritious that contained protein and fat. A dietician would advise you to eat low fat otherwise you will end up with high cholesterol or even worse heart disease. By approving a diet of biscuits and sugared yoghurt, you are on the fast track to these diseases anyway…but what do I know?

Eating a low fat diet is detrimental to your health. A dietician will ask you to eat margarine instead of butter. Spread plastic on your bread and you’ll be sure to end up with blocked arteries.

By the way, the venue for the live event was at Vinopolis – the wine tasting venue that has five bars!

I have so much to say on this subject, I will no doubt write another article on it. But let me finish with this…

A couple of years ago, I went to a conference on obesity at a hospital in North London. Out of all the medical staff and ‘gold standard’ dieticians, I was the only nutritional therapist.

When it came to lunch time, I was shocked to see that…

It was healthy!

The food was lovely! Plenty of fresh wonderful salads, fish, chicken and cold meats. BUT!! Shock horror, there where no carbs!

The dieticians were in uproar. One of the dieticians sitting at my table said she would never make it through the afternoon if she didn’t have bread or at least something carb based.

The lunch providers relented and bought out the bread basket. The sigh of relief.
The bread disappeared faster than when it came out. I was amused to say the least. These women (most dieticians are women) almost fainted due to the lack of carbs.

Funnily enough, I made it through the afternoon with plenty of energy to spare. By 3.30pm they were reaching for the caffeine complaining it was hard to concentrate. Surprise, surprise!

Dieticians feel threatened by nutritional therapists because we get results. When it comes to health and well being, we take the holistic approach. Science is great, but not everyone fits into the one size fits all approach, particularly with the amount of carbs represented on the plate. Everyone is different, even dieticians acknowledge that but they still treat everyone the same, nutritional therapists don’t.

[1] Medication is necessary particularly in serious cases. If you are on medication and would rather seek an alternative, speak to your doctor first. A professional nutritional therapist would NEVER EVER advise coming off medication. If we could, we would rather work with your doctor preferably in the surgery.