By Lela Rabie
What is Nutritional Therapy?
" Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food." is a well known but in fact only partial quote from the famous Greek physician Hippocrates (460BC – 377BC). The full quote is said to go as follows: " Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick, is to feed your sickness." (1)
In this short utterance Hippocrates laid out the basic tenets of what is today known as Nutritional Therapy. In Nutritional Therapy great emphasis is placed on helping the body to heal itself (not forgetting the mind or spirit in the process!) through a wholistic programme tailor-made for each individual. There are no blanket approaches or magic pills, there are however revelations, new ways of thinking and being and reminders of the intimate relationship between oneself and ones body, mind and spirit. Through this programme the being is brought back to balance, so as to function at optimum capacity, filled with vitality, health and a natural enthusiasm for being alive.
During a consultation with a Nutritional Therapist they will take a full case history, the reason for this is so that the Nutritional Therapist can form a picture of where you are and how you got there, with relation to your overall health and well-being so as to be better able to work out a programme specific to your individual needs. A case history could include questions about your energy levels, creativity and motivation, concentration and short-term memory, sleep patterns, muscles and joints, the condition of your hair, skin and nails, whether you have frequent headaches, your digestion and the quality and colour of your urine, your menstrual cycle (for females), birth control as well as your eating habits, drug usage and hydration.
Included in a full case history there will most likely also be questions about your own and your families health history(often going back as far as your Grandparents), your birth and any traumatic physical or psychological events which have happened in your life thus far.
Try to be as honest and open in the information you supply as every detail helps to complete the puzzle. If it is not possible for you to access all of this information, there is no need to worry, the Nutritional Therapist will work with what is present and available.
Along with the case history, your Nutritional Therapist, depending on his/her qualifications and method, may request you to give samples of hair, blood, urine and even in some cases stools, these can then be analysed to give further insight into your current health picture.
Your Nutritional Therapist will process all the information received and using that, in conjunction with further interaction with yourself, give you feedback. This feedback could include: your Five Elements picture (from traditional Chinese medicine), your miasmic picture (miasms are used in homeopathy), your hydration or dehydration picture, your current diet and supplement programme and your electrolytes balance/imbalance.
From this process, the Nutritional Therapist then works out your programme.
The reason for such an extensive case history and feedback is that Nutritional Therapy aims not only to treat the symptoms but also the underlying cause/s of the symptoms. All body systems are connected and when there is an imbalance in one, there will be eventually be an imbalance in others, thus Nutritional Therapy aims to assist the whole being in coming back to balance.
A Nutritional Therapy programme will differ from person to person, as it is completely designed for the specific needs of the individual; however there are some elements which may be present in almost each one of such programmes. These include:
A period of detoxification – this can last anywhere from 3 – 28 days and could consist of a combination of dietary detoxification as well as using natural techniques to assist the process. During this period fasting may also be recommended (taking us back to Hippocrates, ' but to eat when you are sick..').
During the detoxification phase the art is for the Nutritional Therapist to assist you so that the speed of elimination is kept at an even rate throughout all the systems, from the cell to the outside of the body. In this way detoxification has a greater chance of being comfortable and it helps to ensure that no body areas are left unsupported. Please note that one should never attempt any form of detoxification or fasting without the supervision of a qualified practitioner, especially not for a period lasting longer than three days.
A period of adjustment - this period could have a duration of between 21 days and 3 months, in some cases even a year, it all depends on the individuals needs. Natural techniques would still be included and particular emphasis would be placed on optimising the individuals mineral, blood sugar and fatty acid balance. There would also be great attention given to hydration. During this phase the Nutritional Therapist may make use of Hering's Law of Cure, which states: ' Healing starts from the top, the head, to the bottom, from the inside to the outside, from the major organs to the minor organs and in reverse order in which they presented..' this will assist the Nutritional Therapist in tracking your progress during the programme.
Life-long maintenance – as stated, this period lasts for the rest of your life, using the techniques and habits you have learnt during the period of adjustment. You would continue to implement certain diet and lifestyle changes, constantly listening to your body and adjusting accordingly. For some this may mean going gluten-free or dairy- free for life, for others it could mean giving up alcohol or simply including more raw and wholefoods in their diet.
Natural techniques often recommended during a Nutritional Therapy programme may include: skin brushing, enemas, hot and cold showering, foot baths, hot and cold tubbing (only to be done with supervision), hot tub – cold wrap, sitz bath, Epsom salts bath, castor oil packing and colonics. Please note that all techniques should be carefully explained by a qualified practitioner and in some cases need to be supervised.
I thought Nutritional Therapy was all about nutrition?!
The Oxford dictionary defines nutrition as:' n. nourishment; the study of nourishment'. One can only be nourished by that which you absorb, thus, the difference between that which you take in (physically, environmentally and emotionally..) and that which you excrete. Seen in this way, Nutritional Therapy is about more than just diet, it also looks at how your environment is affecting your health, what you are able to 'digest' from life, what you are able to eliminate, what you are able to absorb. Nutritional Therapy uses natural, drug-free and wholesome foods, herbs, supplements, water and natural techniques to bring about change in a being, to help you to help yourself back to balance. Changing ones diet is but one step in the process which is a Nutritional Therapy programme.
Nutritional Therapy in South Africa.
To find a qualified Nutritional Therapist in your area visit the website of the South African Association of Nutritional Therapy (http://www.saant.org.za/). The site also gives information on upcoming events which may be of interest to those in the Nutritional Therapy industry.
Ultimately, there is a 'nutritional therapist' in each of us, in the sense that we are each responsible for what we decide to allow into our beings, be that in the form of food or drink, emotions or environmental pollution. We need to be conscious about our choices and equip ourselves with the knowledge to make healthy ones. Our Self never works against us. When we keep current with our body and being, we will receive the information we need to make the decisions best suited to achieving optimum vitality, health and balance.
The following websites were used for information and may be interesting additional reading:
Information was also taken from coursework books of the College of Natural Nutrition, Devon, United Kingdom. Visit their website for more information: