It’s personal

It’s an exciting time to be a nutritional therapist. Earlier this year I attended a 5-day Functional Medicine training course, where the 300 delegates were a mix of doctors and nutrition professionals. We were all there to learn how to do medicine better: listening to the same lectures, studying the same mechanisms, seeking to influence the same pathways. By the end of the conference it was clear to all of us: this was not about conventional vs complementary medicine, it was about a whole new approach to medicine that recognises the superior results that can be achieved when diet and lifestyle interventions are considered alongside surgical and pharmaceutical approaches. We left with a new understanding of what good medicine really means: medicine that focuses on restoring health rather than controlling disease, and respects the desire of the patient to be part of their own solution; a broader definition of health care that recognises that diet and exercise and, yes, even meditation, can be just as powerful on a prescription pad as surgery and drugs.

The reason for telling you this is to illustrate that things are changing: nutrition and lifestyle changes are increasingly viewed as powerful, evidence-based interventions that doctors are seeking to include in their practice. If you watched the BBC’s Doctor in the House series with Dr Rangan Chatterjee, you got a good idea of the kind of health care I’m talking about. It is particularly suitable for the intractable diseases that afflict most of us these days: life-threatening problems like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer; but also niggling problems that undermine your enjoyment of everyday life, like depression, anxiety, joint aches and pains, hypertension, indigestion, and fatigue.

The distinctions between conventional and complementary medicine are becoming blurred, and the crossover between the two is where some of the most exciting developments are taking place. For example, in cancer research there are ongoing studies looking at the synergies available from a combination of precisely targeted nutrition and medical treatment. Your body doesn’t distinguish between conventional and complementary approaches, it just responds to what works.

I can see a future where you can go into a clinic setting, provide a drop of blood and saliva and they will be able to tell you about your genes, your nutrient status, the composition of your gut flora, the diseases you are likely to get, and the ones you don’t have to worry about. You’ll leave with a diet and lifestyle prescription, most likely some supplements as well as some carefully targeted pharmaceuticals to support you on a highly personalised level. It’s coming, and it will be amazing. Before it can happen, the NHS needs to transition from a service that treats disease to one that promotes health: it will require a major paradigm shift but I have no doubt that the coming generation will settle for nothing less.

But right now there is a conspicuous gap between what we know and what we can apply. Personalised medicine may be just around the corner but there are a multitude of issues to do with funding, technology and training to overcome before it’s widely available. Until the gap closes, and the health service catches up, it makes sense for everyone, especially those with the most pressing health problems, to supplement their medical care with personalised diet and lifestyle advice, to address underlying causes of disease, and to ensure that their bodies can function as well as possible.

I can help you bridge that gap. I can work with you and alongside your medical team to ensure your health is considered in a holistic context, taking into account the various nutritional, environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors that are affecting your situation.

I’ve been a nutritional therapist for nearly fifteen years. For me, this has never been simply an academic pursuit; it’s part of my identity. I was born with a body that just doesn’t obey the rules. My health problems have been life-threatening more than once, with no easy answers, prompting me to explore my own genetic and biochemical glitches during a continuous programme of scientific study and self-development. It’s a mission that turned into a career helping other people with life-threatening conditions using a combination of nutritional therapy and life coaching. More recently that has evolved into a specialist interest in breast cancer, using everything I’ve learned both personally and professionally during twenty years of breast cancer survival.

I want to be clear that The 1939 Cancer Act states that cancer treatment and advice can only be provided by qualified medical professionals. However, I believe that the current medical system is not doing enough to explain to people how they can help themselves in addition to treatment. We know that most cancers occur as a result of poor diet and lifestyle choices and it is, therefore, logical to assume that improving these choices has the potential to improve outcomes for patients. There are no known treatments, medical or otherwise, that provide guaranteed outcomes but our understanding of cancer is improving all the time. While the medical profession tends to focus on the eradication of cancer cells, complementary medicine is more inclined to look at the underlying systemic imbalances: nutritional therapy can help to support the body before, during and after treatment to maintain and regain full function; life coaching tends to address the psychological aspects more directly. When combined, these approaches are powerfully synergistic.

Most of my clients already eat very careful diets and go to great lengths to look after themselves. As a result, most of them are confused about why their health is not as good as it should be. Conventional thinking about nutrition does not recognise that some of us need significantly higher levels of some nutrients, that certain habits and lifestyles can lead to rapid depletion, some inherited tendencies or historical patterns may make it harder to process food into the chemicals we need, or that digestive issues may sigmificantly reduce absorption. By looking at one-size-fits-all solutions we risk trying hard to do everything right but never getting to the root of the problem. That, in itself, can be exhausting and dispiriting. If you are going to put so much effort into staying healthy, it makes sense to make sure you are focussing on the right things.

My Three Steps to Health Programme is designed to provide a more personalised approach: to help you find out why your body went wrong and what to do about it. My qualifications, and in particular my recent postgraduate studies, are specifically designed to train me to evaluate scientific evidence alongside a clinical case history to create a personalised diet and lifestyle programme. Based on the Functional Medicine model it aims to identify and modify your personal set of biochemical idiosyncrasies that may have led to your health crisis.

Since graduating from ION with distinction in 2003 I have continued to develop my clinical and academic career through studying, lecturing and writing – educating clients, students and other health professionals about the role of nutrition in health. I completed a professional life coaching qualification in 2011 and, in 2016, a postgraduate certificate in  Personalised Nutrition with CNELM. In March 2017 I completed AFMCP in Functional Medicine.

My recovery from breast cancer has taken me down several different pathways of trial and error, as well as many years of study. I’ve condensed that learning into my Three Steps to Health Programme to help you on the road to recovery as soon as possible.

My focus is not only on physiological balance but also on supporting you through the psychological aspects of dealing with a difficult diagnosis, and to take more effective care of yourself in the future than you have in the past.

Please read about how to get started over here or get in touch below.

My Credentials & Qualifications

  • PG.Cert, CNELM – Postgraduate qualification in Personalised Nutrition.
  • Dip. ION (Distinction) Nutritional Therapy – Institute for Optimum Nutrition
  • Certified Professional Coach – International Coach Academy
  • BSc (Hons) Management Sciences – UMIST
  • NTCC – Registered with the  Nutritional Therapy Council
  • BANT – Member of the British Association for Nutritional Therapists
  • CNHC – Member of the Complementary and Natural HealthCare Council
  • mIFM – Member of Institute of Functional Medicine
  • Conflicts of Interest: None: I am totally independent and receive no funding or support of any kind from any food or other commercial organisations.

As well as writing two blogs, I’ve also published a charity cook book and my weight loss book, The Dissident Diet, which was in the Amazon diet bestseller list for much of 2014. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me in the kitchen cooking for friends and family, in the garden getting muddy, or with my head stuck in a book or research paper learning as much as I can about cancer and longevity.

Thanks for visiting and please read about my Three Steps to Health programme over here, get in touch below. or book an appointment or a free exploratory chat over here.