“If a person does not receive the nutrients they need to regulate neurotransmitters, mental health symptoms are likely to result.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
My passion for health began when I was a teenager. I worked at a gym in my hometown and grew interested in health and wellness while using the equipment during my off hours. I often had a tendency to worry, but during college, I suffered from both mental and physical symptoms of generalized anxiety. In addition to a professional counselor, I also saw a nutritionist, and so my education began. Ever since then, proper nutrition and exercise have remained two constants in my life that keep me grounded. My personal journey and passion for health inspired me to pursue a career in nutrition, focusing on the impact that food and lifestyle have on mental health.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
Before the first session, clients will complete an initial interview, nutritional assessment questionnaire, and food and mood journal. These will act as a roadmap to help us identify our specific areas of focus and develop a course of action. Clients will select short-term goals that will ultimately help them achieve long-term ones. My attention will be placed on both nutritional and lifestyle goals that are specifically tailored to the individual client. Lifestyle practices such as adequate sleep, breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, and engaging in hobbies are likely to be recommended as a means of decreasing stress and promoting physical and mental wellbeing.
How can nutrition improve mental health?
An incredible amount of research has been conducted in recent years exploring the relationship between the body and the mind. For instance, someone experiencing anxiety and depression may encounter physical symptoms such as digestive issues, headaches, fatigue, and chronic pain. A study by neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences in 2016 illustrated the ways in which stress, depression, and other mental states can impact organ function and showed that there is an anatomical basis for psychosomatic illness. Conversely, there is also a physiological component of mental health. If a person does not receive the nutrients they need to regulate neurotransmitters, mental health symptoms are likely to result. In this instance, nutritional therapy can be used to explore whether specific nutrients are simply missing from the person’s diet or if the nutrients are not being properly absorbed.
If there was one thing you wish people knew about the nutritional therapy experience who might be hesitant to try it, what would that be?
Nutritional therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Recommendations are bio-individual, meaning they are specifically designed for each client based on their symptoms, health history, genetics, and life situation. I work with clients to help them discover what is best for their body and lifestyle. We move at the pace the client prefers, whether that be small, gradual changes, or more drastic ones. The nutritional therapy process is designed to allow the client to achieve lasting improvements, rather than short-term fixes. It is a holistic approach, so clients should expect lifestyle suggestions along with nutritional recommendations.
What excites you most about the evolving mental health landscape?
I am excited that mental health is being discussed more openly and with vulnerability. There is now greater significance placed on mental health by the broader health community than in the past. This has led people to realize that they are not alone and to feel more comfortable asking for help. Organizations like Alma are helping people get the help they need. Furthermore, people can now access a more multi-dimensional approach to therapy by combining psychotherapy with other methods such as acupuncture, nutrition, yoga, and meditation. All of these factors make me hopeful for the future.
“The nutritional therapy process is designed to allow the client to achieve lasting improvements, rather than short-term fixes. It is a holistic approach, so clients should expect lifestyle suggestions along with nutritional recommendations.”
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