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Nutritional Medicine

What Is Nutritional Medicine?

At its most fundamental level, biology becomes chemistry. Living cells rely on chemical processes to communicate, derive energy and fulfill their role in your body. A vast and complex series of chemical reactions govern everything from the electrical impulses that keep your heart beating to the serotonin production that lets you enjoy a beautiful day.

Nutritional medicine is the study of how macronutrients and micronutrients affect these chemical processes and how attention to cellular nutrition can benefit your overall health. Plants can create their own nutrition via photosynthesis, but you must obtain everything your body needs to maintain itself from the foods you eat. Chemical processes dismantle the proteins in your dinner and assemble them into new muscle and bone. The adage that you are what you eat is true even at the cellular level.

Every chemist knows the concept of a limiting reagent, the ingredient in a chemical equation that controls how far a reaction will proceed and how much product it will create. The same principle applies to the chemical reactions that take place in your body; without a sufficient supply of an essential micronutrient, your nutritional needs may not be met. Large nutritional deficiencies show themselves as overt disorders such as scurvy or pellagra, but even small deficiencies can affect your health.

A nutritionist can pinpoint these areas of deficiency and recommend a course of action to restore nutritional balance. Some compounds play a role in numerous reactions, making the overall nutritional picture even more complex; a trained nutritionist understands these interrelated reactions. Supplementing your diet with the proper micronutrients ensures that your body has all the construction materials that it needs to build a healthy you.

Who Needs Nutritional Medicine?

If you eat, you can benefit from nutritional medicine. Medical recommendations for a healthy diet invariably include daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but maintaining that ideal every day may not be practical or possible for everyone. Nor are your nutritional needs static over time; your body has quite different nutritional requirements when you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, recovering from illness or trying to reach and maintain a healthy weight. The aging process also causes subtle changes in your body’s requirements. The nutritional needs that your diet once met may no longer suffice for your current lifestyle.

Researchers know that stress dramatically affects your health, but they’re only now coming to a clearer understanding of how diet and stress relate. Physiological and psychological stress don’t always arise from negative events; taking up a challenging new exercise regimen or getting a promotion at work can also alter your nutritional needs. Vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more widespread. Nutritional counselling ensures that you receive everything your body needs if you adopt a new way of eating.

You may already know of some nutritional medicine fundamentals. Folate’s role in preventing neural tube defects during pregnancy and the importance of calcium in building bone tissue have become common knowledge. However, a nutritionist has a greater understanding of the complexities that affect nutrition such as absorption and bio-availability. You know that bones contain calcium and need more of it to stay strong, but not all forms of calcium supplements are equally accessible to your body. Some disorders such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome can affect nutritional absorption. A nutritional medicine expert understands these influencing factors and can advise you on the supplements you need given your health, lifestyle and current diet.

How Does Nutritional Medicine Treat Conditions?

Nutritional medicine specialists use a combination of dietary changes and nutritional supplements as their chief tools. After discussing your diet with you to establish a clearer picture of your unique metabolic profile, your nutritionist will recommend foods and supplements that give your body what it needs to carry out everything you ask of it. Your food preferences and dietary restrictions also affect the nutritionist’s recommendations.

What to Expect During a Nutritionist Consultation

During your first consultation, you can expect to provide an extensive history of your current food intake, preferences and allergies. You’ll also detail important information about your lifestyle such as the amount of stress you feel and any health concerns you may have. Your nutritionist will need to know about the medications you take; some medicines alter absorption rates and affect your nutritional profile. Some habits also affect micronutrient balance in your body, so your nutritional medicine specialist will ask you about these as well. For example, tobacco users frequently have a greater need for vitamin C.

Subsequent consultations will assess your current state of health and adjust your diet and supplement regimen as needed. Education is a major part of nutritional medicine; you’ll gain insight into the chemical processes that keep your body functioning well and learn how best to support your health through appropriate nutrition.