Nutritionists must walk a fine line between advice related to a healthy lifestyle and treatment of conditions best left to a medical professional.
More often these days, doctors and nutritionists are making that walk together, according to Paul Bogosian and Tamara White, CN, the father and daughter team who operate the Better Life Nutrition Center at 1715 15th Street Place, Moline.
This October, Mr. Bogosian will mark 30 years of offering a wide selection of natural foods, vitamins, nutritional supplements and counseling to his many customers in and beyond the Quad-City area. From Oct. 12-17, Better Life will feature an anniversary sale giving 20 to 70 percent discounts on some products. There also will be drawings for door prizes and product samples.
While Mr. Bogosian's interest in nutritional supplements developed during his days as a body builder, it intensified when he suffered health issues of his own. He did not diagnose his own condition. He left that to a medical doctor, but he knew there were nutritional supplements that could mitigate the illness from which he was suffering.
Ms. White joined her father in the business after earning her bachelor's degree and becoming a certified nutritionist. She noted that the role of the nutritionist is not to make a diagnosis or to advise patients to substitute vitamins for the medication prescribed by their doctors. The role of the nutritionist is to advise clients about making healthy lifestyle choices in the face of their condition.
However, Ms. White noted, she is seeing more and more clients referred to her by medical doctors who are aware of the benefits available to their patients through proper nutritional support.
"Within the last week alone," said Ms. White, "I have dealt with four clients referred to the store by doctors." The issues involved the digestive benefits of probiotics, supplements that can contribute to a reduction in cholesterol levels and natural hormonal support for women.
Once a doctor makes a diagnosis and refers a patient to the store, Ms. White can advise patients of the best nutritional choices to meet their needs -- what foods are recognized as aggravating a given condition and what foods are recognized as easing the effects of certain conditions. She can advise which vitamin supplements or homeopathic medicines are generally recognized as being helpful to people suffering from specific illnesses.
According to a recent article published by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, " 'Physicians and nurses are as likely as members of the general public to use dietary supplements, and most physicians and nurses recommend supplements to their patients,' says a new study published in Nutrition Journal, a peer-reviewed, on-line journal that focuses on the field of human nutrition."
Natural medicines have been in existence for thousands of years. Some have proven themselves effective over time. Glucosamine, for example, is generally recognized as a treatment for joint problems, but taking it does not mean a patient can stop taking the prescription for Celebrex given by a doctor.
Cinnamon, niacin, red yeast rice, sytrinol and policosanol are generally recognized as being helpful to people suffering from high cholesterol, particularly for people who have difficulty tolerating the statin drugs prescribed for high cholesterol.
People suffering from celiac disease need to avoid foods with gluten, foods often difficult to locate in a grocery store. At Better Life, Mr. Bogosian and Ms. White can assist clients in finding healthy foods that will not aggravate such conditions.
Other conditions for which homeopathic and herbal treatments can be beneficial include high blood pressure, prostate problems, hormonal balance, depression and anxiety, pain and inflammation and natural male enhancement. For people who suffer from lactose intolerance and cannot drink cow's milk, Better Life has rice milk and almond milk.
Most doctors, dietitians, and nutritionists will tell patients that eating a healthy diet will provide all the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy life, but getting the right foods, in the right amounts, prepared in the proper manner to maintain the nutritional content is not easy, and some people don't have the time or desire to devote to the careful planning and preparation of nutritionally beneficial foods. That is another area in which vitamin supplementation can be helpful.
According to recent reports, many Americans, due to their sedentary lifestyles inside their homes, are lacking in sufficient amounts of vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. Too many adults and children are inside working or playing on a computer or watching television instead of being outside soaking up vitamin D from the sun, and too many children drink soda instead of milk, which is another valuable source of vitamin D.
According to Ms. White, other generally recognized deficiencies in the American diet involve food processing. "Many foods are over processed," said Ms. White, and, because of the processing, the foods may be robbed of important enzymes that influence the metabolism of nutrients. Enzymes, for example, are required to break down protein to make it available for use in the body. Other foods, she said, may lack nutrients because they were grown in depleted soils.
For people experiencing vitamin deficiencies, vitamin supplementation can provide the nutritional support they are not getting as a result of their lifestyles or eating habits. Yes, the vitamins are available through proper diet, but it is clear many people in the United States do not follow a proper diet. People may fail to eat a proper balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Most often, said Ms. White, people tend to eat too many carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain. She said soda drinks leech minerals from the body.
Nutritional supplements will not cure obesity. Only diet and exercise can accomplish that, but some supplements may complement those efforts. Natural sweeteners that can substitute for sugar include stevia, xylitol and erythritol. The supplements Lipotrim and Super Citrimax can help reduce carbohydrate and sugar cravings
Athletes who are pushing their bodies to extremes also need additional dietary support. For most, a good protein supplement will give them the boost they need, but protein can be overdone. Too much protein puts additional strain on the liver and kidneys.
This is another area in which Ms. White can be helpful. How much protein does an athlete require? Ms. White can provide the counseling to assist athletes in reaching their goals without wasting their money or overtaxing their digestive systems.
Ms. White said the current recommended daily allowance for protein is .36 grams per pound of body weight. An athlete following a rigorous workout program may require as much as one gram of protein per pound. Whey protein is one of the easiest to absorb, said Ms. White, and egg-white protein works well. She is cautious about soy protein, which can be difficult for some people to digest and can affect hormone balance.
She said an average six-ounce steak provides 20 to 30 grams of protein. Eggs offer six to seven grams of protein per egg, and a serving of nuts may contain four to eight grams of protein, depending on the type of nut.
To assist Ms. White in making recommendations for her clients, she employs such diagnostic tools as hair analysis. The analysis can identify levels of minerals and heavy metals in the tissue. Mineral levels, said Ms. White, are indicators of how organs are functioning in the body.
"It also tells you how the body is metabolizing things," according to Ms. White. The analysis, she said, is performed by Analytical Research Labs in Arizona and can indicate which foods are not digesting or metabolizing properly. Based on those results, Ms. White can make recommendations to balance out the problems.
Before Ms. White makes her recommendations, she has a variety of resources she can use to identify any possible conflicts between doctor prescribed medications and nutritional supplements. People on blood thinners, for example, have a number of supplements they should avoid, such as vitamin K.
Mr. Bogosian said one of the features of Better Life Nutrition that keeps his customers coming back is the store's service-oriented philosophy. "We special order, ship worldwide, continually bring in new products and take special training and classes on the products," according to Mr. Bogosian.
Mr. Bogosian also noted that contrary to comments by critics of the supplement industry, products carried in the store are held to high standards of quality. NOW, one of the largest of the supplement manufacturers, belongs to several organizations that monitor industry standards for the production of nutritional supplements.
Nutritionists, especially those operating commercial businesses that sell nutritional supplements, must be careful in the way they handle clients. There are certainly items within the walls of Better Life Nutrition Center that can be helpful to people, and some of those same items are not appropriate for everyone.
The training and the experience of the staff at Better Life can lead people to make wiser choices about the foods they eat and the supplements they take.