Getting serious about getting personal

Core to my MSc. programme is the idea that we are all unique, and that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. You may think that’s a great way for nutritionists to justify their existence on the planet but the more I read, the more true it becomes.

In thirteen years of clinical practice I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how almost identical diets can make one person healthy and another sick. Not only do we each thrive on a different balance of carbs, fats and proteins (macronutrients) according to our metabolic idiosyncrasies, but we also have a highly personal requirement for vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (micronutrients) according to our lifestyle and our genetic composition and expression. Where do you start if you want to find the diet that’s right for you?

It seems to me that there has never been so much debate and conflict in the world of nutrition – and there’s so much diet information out there! Ground-breaking research is being published daily – much more than any individual can read or take on board. Long-standing dogma is being abandoned as badly performed studies from the 1950s are overturned by new clinical trials that have learned from past mistakes. Enlightened doctors are recognising that diet and lifestyle advice may be more powerful than pharmacy while frustrated patients are increasingly taking their health into their own hands. Increasingly I believe that no one person – no single brain – can contain the knowledge required to be a nutrition ‘GP’: it seems to me that specialism is the only sensible way forward.

To complicate matters further, the more in love with food we become – the more we eat out, experiment at home, flirt with convenience foods, superfoods, functional foods and fast food options, the more our daily intake diverges from the diet we evolved to eat in our little corner of the world, the more difficult it is to confine our food choices to healthy options. Food is central to our recreation and social life; that’s not going to change any time soon.

Which presents me with a dilemma…

As a health practitioner I have a responsibility to ‘first do no harm’. On the one hand my expanding knowledge and skills lead to increasingly successful outcomes in clinic, on the other it becomes increasingly difficult to write anything meaningful on the blog. Or, to put it another way, if everyone’s different, how is it possible to write about nutrition in a way that works for a large audience?

I haven’t answered that question to my own satisfaction yet. I’ve already taken down a number of posts that I feel are no longer helpful for everyone, and today I’ve decided to take down most of the others while I think about a more universal way of sharing health information that can be relied on to be helpful not harmful.

So please bear with me while I transition. Meanwhile, if you are serious about changing your diet to improve your health then the best advice I can give you is to invest in a tailored nutritional protocol provided by a qualified, BANT-registered nutritional therapist, preferably someone with:

  • a recent qualification or who is currently engaged in a high level programme of study,
  • lots of clinical experience,
  • a special interest in your area of health concern.

Your practitioner should invest significant time with you to understand your personal health history and background, maybe commissioning functional tests or genetic profiles, to guide you towards a diet and lifestyle that works at an individual level. And you should emerge from the process with a clear understanding of your health issues and the diet and lifestyle steps you can take to feel better.

My area of special interest is helping you navigate the diagnosis, treatment and recovery from breast cancer. You can read more about how I can help with that over here.