Firstly as a nutritional therapist I know I am not allowed to diagnose or prescribe pharmaceutical medicines.
The boundaries of the NHS are different to functional medicine. For example, doctors will typically test the thyroid for T4 and TSH whilst functional testing is able to offer a more comprehensive profile including T3, reverse T3, endocrine disruptors and thyroid antibodies. Another example would be mental health. We are MOST DEFINITELY NOT allowed to diagnose depression and, as with any red flags, will REFER to a GP. However, what we can do is investigate the cause of observed changes in mental health/cognition for example by examining the microbiome, possible toxicity and nutrient deficiencies that may affect specific neurotransmitters.
I am in no way here to undermine or indeed claim to be of the medical profession. Nutritional therapy is complementary to what the medical profession do and 'supports' ‘optimal’ health and well-being.
For example, I recently worked with a client who had undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer. Her conventional treatment had finished and she came to me for some nutritional advice to help ‘mop up’ the chemical input from the chemo. Another example would be coeliac disease where I can advise on gluten-free approaches while ensuring vitamin and mineral levels are monitored closely and supplemented where necessary. Other examples of working as an adjunct therapy to medically diagnosed conditions include PCOS, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, eczema, psoriasis, asthma and the list goes on…
Clients often come to a functional medicine practitioner because their symptoms have not been recognised within the NHS. Often functional testing and extensive investigation/case taking allow me to communicate with the GP and offer additional information which may then support or negate a prior train of thought.
It is also VITAL that clients provide comprehensive details of any medication/medical intervention as it is imperative that interactions and contraindications are thoroughly explored before an individualised plan is formulated. Many assume that food is safe but certain foods interact with specific medications, for example, blood-thinning medications.
I will always endeavour to inform a client’s GP/practitioner of any suggestions and, where possible, develop an open dialogue. Contraindications and additive effects due to existing medication will be checked stringently.
As functional medicine practitioners we work as an adjunct to conventional medicine. How can a GP possibly advise on lifestyle changes when they are given a 10 minute window with each patient?? That's where we come in. We are able to tailor your plan to your individual biochemistry, carry out functional tests to support or negate hypotheses and work closely with your health care practitioners to get to the root of the problem.
If we can go some way to slowing/halting the onset of pathologies with nutrition and lifestyle advice then the pressure on the NHS will inevitably lessen.
How I can work with the medical profession:
Nutritional analysis – doctors often already have blood/urine test results that I can analyse to advise on diet, lifestyle changes or food supplements.
Identifying root cause – Initial consultations consist of an hour’s case history. Questions are asked regarding all bodily systems including the immune, respiratory, nervous, digestive, endocrine, reproductive, cardiovascular, urinary, skin/lymphatic and musculoskeletal. The systems under stress are prioritised according to presenting symptoms and an individualised plan is formulated. This format often flags up underlying causes and can be extremely informative. All nutritional advice is firmly grounded in scientific research.
Functional testing i.e:- comprehensive stool analysis, fatty acid profile, adrenal stress index, heavy metal toxicity, full thyroid panel, coeliac profile etc etc. All tests are suggested with a hypothesis in mind and results inform future suggestions and offer additional information to doctors/consultants.
Behavioural issues – Having worked in education for twenty years I have become increasingly aware of the impact of diet on behaviour. I am also aware of the current research regarding Autism, ADHD and other additional needs. In addition, I have a sound understanding of the accompanying behaviours and, over the years, have developed successful behaviour management strategies and worked closely with parents regarding their children. I have liaised with various outside agencies such as speech and language, occupational therapists and CAMHS.