I did not set out to become a Nutritional Therapist. Actually, I had never heard of Nutritional Therapy. Do you know what a Nutritional Therapist is? Or how a Nutritional Therapist can be of help?
Before we get to definitions, job descriptions, and qualifications, I’d like to tell you a bit more about how I found myself with this job title.
My husband learned he had Celiac disease a few years after he learned that his cholesterol level was a bit high. After following his doctor’s recommendation to eat a vegetarian low fat diet for a full year, to see if he could bring down the cholesterol level to avoid going on a statin, and seeing no change, he felt frustrated. What had all that work, and longing for the flavor of bacon, been for? A few months later, he learned that he has Celiac, and so immediately he took gluten out of his diet 100%, and his cholesterol went down 50 points (on the American cholesterol scale). He has been living 100% gluten free ever since, enjoying pain-free digestion all the while.
Then when my son was about 3 years old, we tried to figure out a few things all at once. A bit of a rash on his face, some tummy troubles, difficulty following instructions, clumsiness, and an inability to control his emotions. While this may sound like your average 3 year old behavior, we knew it was out of the lines of what we and his teachers considered to be in the normal range of behavior for his age. So I scoured the mass media books I could find on allergies, sensory issues, behavior problems, and any topic that seemed remotely similar. I learned that ‘leaky gut’ might exist, but that most people were skeptical. I removed gluten and dairy from his diet when he was four, and found that there were skeptics everywhere. It was hard. People thought I was traumatizing my child for no reason, and when we learned we were moving to London a few months after that, I surrendered out of sheer exhaustion.
Fast forward to another year later, and I realized it was the right thing to do again, but this time, with my son in a new school, and with more confidence and preparation, I removed gluten and dairy from his diet again.
At the same time, I enrolled in the College of Naturopathic Medicine, in their three year program to become a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist. I barely knew what that meant, but I knew that it entailed intensive study learning anatomy, physiology, and pathology for a year, followed by two years of study in nutrition and 200 hours of clinical practice. It was exciting, and I had no idea what I was in for, but I knew that I needed to understand nutrition from the inside out. I wanted to know how all of these biochemical reactions worked once the food we ate was digested and absorbed. I wanted to learn all I could from the bottom up or the inside out, so that I could stop being confused by all the conflicting internet information and research articles that were too technical for me to understand at the time, while also being frustrated by the mass media books that were only surface information without references and explanations behind the statements being made.
All I wanted was information. I just wanted to know what to feed my family. I was the mom, the wife, and now I was no longer working full time, so it was my full time job to make sure my family had healthy food on the table, and we had allergies to deal with, and maybe some other things called intolerances...? And for the next three years I went to school, studied, wrote papers, and took tests, and learned more than I ever imagined I would. And as I began to sit in clinics, and then to practice being the practitioner in those clinics, with my classmates and teachers to guide me in giving recommendations to our clinic clients (our friends, family, and friends of friends who agreed to be our clients), I learned what a tremendous gift I was receiving in this course. I loved being able to transfer this knowledge to others, who could benefit from all that I had learned over that three years.
In the meantime, I took my son, who was having some troubling digestive issues and behavior difficulties (he felt foggy and out of control), to a nutritional therapist who had graduated from the College of Naturopathic Medicine. She recommended a plan that involved an incredibly strict diet protocol for a year. At the time, my son was 8, and I knew that it would take tremendous commitment from him, and our whole family, to get through each day with the restrictions we were facing. But if it worked, a year was small price to pay, and so, with my faith in this system I was learning so well, we persevered. It was a lot of work for me, a lot of work and patience for my family, and an unbelievable amount of will, courage, hard work, and sheer determination for my son.
This next bit is a bit harder to describe. Because I’m his mom. Because every time another person mentions anything about my son being a ‘normal kid’, I feel myself getting a bit teary. For any mother who has ever worried that her child was a bit out of the bounds of ‘normal’ or listened to her child beg to know why they are not like everyone else, go through months of crossing fingers, hoping the plan that you are following leads to anywhere near your goal, and done her very best to go all out in the hopes that something will get better, you will understand why I feel that tear welling up. Because a year later, when people said ‘but he’s just like every 9 year old boy’, I could say ‘yes, he is...now’. And no one can ever take that away.
He does not eat peanuts because he is allergic. He does not eat gluten, because he is intolerant and has a genetic predisposition for Celiac. But he does laugh, he does act like a normal wonderful completely loony bins boy, and he’s still a complete riot. And now I can worry about his table manners, how kind he is to others, and how loudly he is bouncing his basketball. I’m proud of everything he has been through, proud that he stuck to it, proud that he trusted and went all in. And I’m proud of who he has become as a result.
And I want to share that feeling. I want other mothers, other sons, and other families, to be able to feel that there is a plan, that there is hope, and that there are many ways to feel better that are in our control. Sometimes we just need information, guidance, and a plan. And when I can be a part of that, and when something that I have learned can be passed along to be part of that help and part of that plan, then I feel I am giving back, just as someone gave to me and to my family.
And so that’s why I am a Nutritional Therapist. And it’s why I use my qualification to help others. It’s important to me to be able to share what I can and to help where I can. And to find the best and most appropriate resources to recommend when they are needed. I love what I do and I would love to share it with you if you find that you ever need information, guidance, and a plan.
Thank you for listening. I am always available if you want more information on Nutritional Therapy or on ways that it may be of help to you. I wish you laughter, health, and of course, broccoli :)