Nutrition therapy is the application of nutritional science in the promotion of health, peak performance and individual care. Nutrition is important as it can contribute to symptoms and impact upon health concerns. A positive effect of the correct nutrition, is that it enhances health and wellbeing and can improve the symptoms of chronic conditions. Each person is an individual. Age, circumstances, health, level of fitness and medication taken, all impact upon how, what and when to eat. A holistic approach to advice concerning nutrition is desirable, taking all these factors into consideration as well as goals and motivation.
Photo of some fresh fruit and veg
Good nutrition is crucial for the health of the major systems in the body- the skeleton, muscles, nerves, respiratory, circulatory, digestive, excretory, endocrine, reproductive and integumentary (skin, hair and nails) systems. Nutrition is necessary to achieve optimum energy levels, blood sugar balance, emotional and psychological wellbeing and gastrointestinal health. The aim is to maximise the health potential of an individual by explaining the health benefits of wholesome unprocessed foods for optimal wellbeing, and the therapeutic effect of particular foods for specific health conditions.
Practitioner and client talking
As part of a consultation with a health practitioner, diet and lifestyle would be discussed, as well as health status and any medication taken. To help improve some conditions, some foods may need to be reduced or eliminated from the diet, e.g. caffeine-rich drinks. Natural supplements may be recommended, but ideally the diet modified to ensure all nutrients in the correct quantities are consumed. Nutrition can make a big difference in the area of sports performance, whether as a serious athlete or when exercising for health. The correct nutritional advice can help to optimise performance. Athletes need a greater intake of calories, and specifically carbohydrates, fats and protein to provide the body with the necessary fuel. Carbohydrates are the first things used as an energy source by the body. Sufficient quantities are needed to prevent muscle fatigue. Only small stores are found in the liver and muscles, so regular intake is necessary to maintain performance and avoid injury. Protein is used for muscle growth and repair. A person engaged in resistance work would need extra protein in their diet. The amount needed is dependent upon the type of sport and frequency of training. The fatty acids are found in fats, and are a concentrated energy source. They are also part of the building blocks for hormones. Ideally, a period of 1-4 hours should be left between eating and exercising.
Person in sportswear drinking a smoothie
When weight management is a goal for exercise, cutting back on protein, carbohydrates and fat may have a negative impact upon performance. A balance of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, good quality protein, fat and hydration is necessary. Maintaining a good level of hydration is important. Dehydration affects performance, and can be dangerous for health. Before and after training or an event, hydration is crucial. The amount needed during exercise is variable, and is dependent upon the amount of sweating, duration and frequency of exercise.
Jug of water and glasses
A consultation would establish the goals of therapy, and where necessary, dietary advice would be given. Areas which would be discussed include:
- The importance of lean protein, fruit and vegetables in the diet.
- Education about the different food groups and the impact on health.
- Information about evidence-based nutritional supplements and their impact upon health.
- Strategies for improved eating habits.
- The correct foods to eat when exercising.
- The importance of hydration.
- Help and motivation to change.
It is the belief of Traditional Chinese Medicine that good health is the result of a balance between diet, exercise, rest and relaxation and a good mental attitude. A consultation with a practitioner would involve a diet tailored to you as an individual, based upon a questionnaire, medical history, tongue and pulse diagnosis. A unique pattern would be diagnosed, and a treatment plan and diet recommendations given. This would contain a variety of tastes, foods and herbs. There are 5 tastes, spicy, sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Each taste has different properties when incorporated into the diet. For example, bitter foods are drying and cold in nature. They would be used to treat ‘damp heat’ conditions. The different tastes are drawn to particular organ systems:
- Salty to the kidney and bladder.
- Sour to the liver and gallbladder.
- Bitter to the heart and small intestine.
- Spicy to the lungs and large intestine.
There are 6 food groups- meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, grains and herbs and spices. Processed sugar, coffee and salt are considered as superfluous. Balance is also necessary. Yin and Yang are opposing and complementary forces. The concept is extended to foods. For example, Yang foods should predominate in winter as it is a Yin time of year, and the opposite in summer. The diet should be in harmony with the seasons, with hotter foods eating in cold months; colder foods in hot months. Each person is an individual and as such will be viewed holistically with regard to their diet. Individuals require different properties and energies from their food depending upon their circumstances1. If changes are advised, your health and any conditions will determine whether this should be done quickly, or more gradually. There are 5 behaviours which should be avoided:
- Eating out of season, or a food which is bad for you as an individual. For example, a sufferer of constipation would be advised to include more fibre-rich foods into the diet. An ulcerative colitis sufferer would not.
- Eat only what you need- not to excess.
- Do not eat at odd times or introduce new foods without allowing your body to adjust.
- Do not eat if you are not hungry, or if the previous meal has not yet been digested.
- Do not suppress natural processes, such as passing wind, vomiting, urinating or bowel movements.
A holistic approach will be used to assess your requirements. The advice and therapy given will take many factors into consideration- such as your goals, health, physical or mental issues and age. This will enable us to tailor your treatment accordingly.
- Williams T ‘Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture, Herbal Remedies, Nutrition, Qigong and Meditation for Total Health’. Pavilion Books 2016.