History of Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional Therapy has its origins in naturopathic principles from ancient Greece, China, India and Europe. The discoveries of nutrient deficiency diseases such as scurvy (vitamin C), beriberi (vitamin B1), pellagra (niacin), rickets (vitamin D) etc, first linked the importance of diet to health.

 

In 1911, the Polish chemist, Casimir Funk discovered ‘vitamins’. He found that small amounts of certain substances in food could cure deficiency diseases. There followed recommended ‘minimum daily doses’ of these nutrients to prevent such diseases.

 

Then in 1939, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi lectured on optimal daily doses of vitamins. This precipitated a new era in vitamin research, which was further advanced by the discovery of DNA in 1944.

 

In 1945, Linus Pauling, widely considered as the forefather of modern nutritional therapy developed the concept of ‘molecular disease’, hypothesising that disease and ageing begin within the cells of the body. Ten years later, Denman Harman postulated the ‘free radical theory of ageing’, and that this process could be modulated/delayed by the use of certain nutrients, including vitamin C. This represented a major scientific discovery in vitamin research [1]. Nutritional Therapy today is based on the work of these early pioneers and has evolved to encompass the Functional Medicine model of health. 


Philosophy and Principles of Nutritional Therapy

At the Be Well Clinic, the Nutritional practitioners adhere to a Functional Medicine approach to Nutritional Therapy. The main principle is to identify and address the underlying cause of an individual’s symptoms or health concern(s) using a systems orientated approach, based on the person as a whole [2].

 

The importance of the therapeutic relationship between the Nutritional practitioner and individual is of paramount importance in helping to improve health and wellbeing outcomes. Functional Medicine addresses the whole person, it is patient-centred as opposed to disease-centred. It encompasses an individual’s unique history and looks at the interactions between genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that can impact long term health and chronic disease.

 

According to the Institute of Functional Medicine [2], “Functional Medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual”. In this way, it better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century [2].



Evidence Base

Nutritional Therapy as practised at the Be Well Clinic, is based on a Functional Medicine approach to health care, for which there is a comprehensive evidence base [2]. The effectiveness of Nutritional Therapy in a clinical setting is very difficult to measure using a standardised controlled trial, as influencing factors are subjective and unique to each individual. Such factors include the variance in genetic, physical, emotional influences, lifestyle choices and environmental exposures. Similarly, the therapeutic relationship between the practitioner and client is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of the outcome and as it is unique, is difficult to quantify as evidence for efficacy. Despite this, there is extensive research on the use of natural products (including, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, botanical supplementation) for health benefits [2].

 

In recent years, scientific research has made incredible strides in helping to understand how diet and dietary supplements can influence health and some chronic diseases. This includes the importance of Vitamin D in supporting immunity in the prevention of chronic diseases including certain cancers [3]. A further example is the well established recommendation that women who are planning to get pregnant or who are pregnant, should supplement with folic acid (a vitamin from the B group) before and during the first three months pregnancy, for the prevention of Neural Tube Defects in their infant(s) [4]. The evidence base for the implementation of beneficial dietary and lifestyle changes for the amelioration of many modern chronic health conditions is extensive, completed by respected agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) [5].

 

 

Regulation and Training

At the Be Well Clinic, the Nutritional practitioners are fully insured and trained to a very high academic level, having attained Bachelor of Science (BSc Hons) degrees in Nutritional Therapy from the University of Westminster.

 

As part of this training, they were required to complete over 300 clinical hours with an emphasis on reflective practice, to ensure the best possible outcomes for the therapeutic relationship with their patients. They are members of the professional body, British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy (BANT) as well as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) and thereby adhere to a code of strict professional standards. They are required to complete and log regular Continued Professional Development (CPD), in the form of further training and research so that they have current and relevant knowledge of any developments in the field of nutrition and health. To facilitate this, they have access to scientific resources and data bases, providing peer reviewed scientific research.

 

[1] Institute of Complementary & Integrative Medicine (ICIM): The Origins of Modern Nutritional Therapy & Nutritional Therapy Today.

[2] The Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM):  About Functional Medicine.

[3] An Update on Vitamin D and Human Immunity, Martin Hewison, Clin Endocrinol. 2012;76(3):315-325. 

[4] Preconception and prenatal care: Part of the continuum. Johnson TRB, Gregory KD, Niebyl JR. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds.  Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 5

[5] Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases 
Report of the joint WHO/FAO expert consultation, WHO Technical Report Series, No. 916 (TRS 916), 2003