Should You Be Asking Your Doctors for Nutrition Advice?

May 31, 2020

Should You?

A doctor juggles between lots of roles. From being a physician to a provider at home and finally being a member of a family. It’s tough to be at all the places and be everything at the same time. For some doctors, patients  are the first priority. They love to serve humanity and this was the reason why they chose medicine as their career.  This sometimes elevates them to a God-like status. And this leads to a lot of people blindly trusting their doctors even for nutrition about lifestyle diseases. 

Is This The Right Thing To Do? 

Well, we just want to showcase some facts, so that you can decide for yourself. 

1. Education/training in nutrition

Globally, medical curricula have been described as lacking sufficient nutrition education. A lack of nutrition education within medical training has been highlighted as a major barrier for doctors to provide nutrition advice . Studies in the US have described nutrition education within medical degrees as insufficient and highlighted the lack of standardized competencies, resulting in nutrition education ranging across medical programs from none, to short lectures, to nutrition rotations . A recent study from Ghana explored medical students’ opinions on nutrition education within the medical curriculum . The students described nutrition education as inadequate for various reasons, including the low priority of nutrition education and poor translation to clinical practice.

2. Time constraints

In Australia and New Zealand, doctors consistently report that they do not have adequate consultation time to provide nutrition advice . Australian GPs have reported spending between 1–5 minutes discussing the patient’s diet, when and if they provided nutrition advice . Supporting behavior change for chronic disease requires rapport development with patients, and an understanding of individual’s psycho‐social needs and how to motivate them to change; this will take significantly more time than is available in a typical 15‐minute general practice appointment 

However, providing sufficiently detailed nutrition advice that is relevant to a patient’s health goals, useful for the patient, and that results in measurable changes, is not common in practice settings. Numerous challenges and barriers have been identified for why doctors do not provide nutrition recommendations to their patients. 

A lack of nutrition education and training and time constraints during appointments. Although patients trust their doctor and hold their advice in high regard , their doctor might not have the time and skills to effectively communicate optimal diet advice that can enable their patients to make behavioral change.

Nutrition and Dietetics programs typically involve either 3‐year Bachelor’s or 2‐year Master’s level training to develop competence and enable accreditation in providing dietary counselling services and medical nutrition therapy to patients. It is therefore understandable that doctors report having a lack of confidence and knowledge or indeed the complex skills required for effective, person‐centered nutrition counselling. 

The Way Forward

For doctors to be able to provide nutrition advice and recognize the need for referral for more specialist nutrition therapy, the nutrition knowledge and practice gap within the medical profession needs to be bridged.

Not only do doctors require nutrition knowledge, they also require practical skills and guidance on how to integrate nutrition advice into their own practice. While the deficit of doctors’ nutrition knowledge and provision of nutrition advice is recognized, with barriers and challenges identified, doesn’t it make more sense to then seek nutrition advice from the ones most qualified to provide it? 

A good nutritionist begins their work understanding the root causes of anyone’s health dysfunction which takes anywhere between 1- 2 days.  

Next, based on the data from that analysis, they would customize healing solutions for the person by working with the most powerful medicine on this planet- Food. Since each body responds differently to food,  a ‘one-size-fits-all solution’ never works. They then find a solution that works optimally for each person.  

What follows next is the is the the most important part of a well designed nutrition and lifestyle coaching system- there SHOULD be genuine care and a true partnership with each of the patients with discipline, persistence and plain old sincerity until their health problems are permanently resolved from the root. 

And lastly because healing never happens in isolation, some of the best coaching programs offer the support of a community and a tribe.

This is the only prescription one needs to heal holistically from chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, PCOD/ PCOS, high cholesterol, skin and gastrointestinal problems etc. 

At The iThrive Life we follow this four fold model very closely and have seen phenomenal results. That’s how we truly make diseases disappear.

Mugdha Pradhan
Functional Nutritionist

With a Master’s degree in nutrition and two decades’ experience in health and wellness, Mugdha has successfully healed many people at iThrive (Previously ThriveFNC) since 2017. Mugdha herself was struggling with finding solutions when her health took a nosedive. With modern principles of functional medicine and ancient wisdom about food, paired with spirituality, she beat several chronic illnesses.

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