Peddling snake oil? – nutrition in the media

Young woman sitting on grass and drinking waterAs some of you may be aware after reading the Which? article and today’s Daily Mail, nutritional therapists have been undergoing a bit of a bashing recently. I could write about this point all day and possibly get nowhere, so what I will say is this.

Those of you who read my blog (and the numbers are amazing! – thanks guys!) know that on a yearly basis I write about what I do, what I dont do, what I cant do and what I shouldnt do. There is a clear line in the sand about my role which I adhere to strictly and over the years I think clients have been quite amazed at how involved I get with their GP’s.

If you are thinking of getting nutritional advice, make sure whoever you are seeing is well qualified, and until regulation is really sorted which may take a couple of years, make sure this person who you are intrusting with your health is qualified. By that I mean at least three years of training, a BSc or an MSc. Listen to your gut. If the consultation is going into the hundreds of pounds and you are being sold loads of supplements, you are clearly not with the right person. Unfortunately what has happened is that although the majority of BANT members are highly trained and skilled the governing body can include members who practice other forms of alternative medicine, or you have not been through rigorous training. In my opinion you cannot be a jack of all trades. These people should not be a part of BANT, and let’s hope in the next year that tighter stricter regulations evolve. It is time that BANT was more regulated and I for one, welome this and I do not want to be boxed in with charlatans and quacks.

Keeping your GP in the loop, and making sure you have been to your GP first to rule out any serious disease is paramount. If that is not happening, again be very cautious. I have a strict policy of not seeing anyone until they have seen their GP. Let me colour this whole issue with an example:

Last year I saw a lady who had been told she had the breast cancer gene (BRCA1 and BRCA2). When I asked her what her doctor had suggested she said ” oh no, I havent seen my GP, I was told by xxxxxx”. I probed again, “So do you have the blood results with you?”, “Oh no” she said “it was done on a vega machine”. I was apoplectic with rage for this client of mine, and called her GP up at once, talked it through with him. He was most helpful and saw my client the next day and ran a blood test. The test was negative. My client had been so scared and frightened of this so called “diagnosis” that she wasn’t even going to tell her GP. Whoever this person was, should be struck off from whatever body they are a member, and never allowed to practice again, but I suspect they are still going, still peddling their ludicrous nonsense on the back of holding a rod. This story is not uncommon.

This makes me sad and angry. Firstly because nearly 20 years ago I was one of those sick people, who went from quack to quack who sold me miracles, who saw my desperation, who watched me part with my sickness benefit with no qualms. I remember ending up in Amersham on some Star Trek nonsense machine that made me feel so ill, I had to call an ambulance in the car on the way home as I collapsed – the bill £250. Secondly, when people are highly trained and doing amazing work on the cutting edge of science they should be celebrated not lambasted and mocked like witches waiting to be dunked. This brings me to the Which? report – a greatly flawed and biased article as is the Daily Mail who are not exactly known for their intelligent balanced journalism. However the issues raised were valid.

There is a place for all of us to work for the benefit of our clients/patients. The bond that brings us together is surely our desire for people to get better. I haven’t taken the hippocratic oath but having been so ill, I couldn’t be more empathetic if I tried. I’d like to think I advise all the people I see like I would my family. This recent media row should not pit dietician against nutritionist – we both have valid places and slots to fill. There are incompetant doctors, nurses, plumbers, dentists, solicitors and yes nutritional therapists as well. Yes lets flush them all out and make what we have… the very very best. I hope this resolves itself soon as the health of the nation and the individual is paramount. Let’s keep what really matters as our focus for the future.

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