Having gut symptoms such diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and wind can really affect your quality of life and it is always a good idea to report these symptoms to your GP. For more on how to approach your GP see here. If they have ruled out any worrying causes, they may be able to refer you to see a dietitian who can help you manage the symptoms through dietary treatment.
Sometimes, GPs may not be able to offer this or you may not feel heard or understood by your GP. If this is the case, you might be looking online for an appointment with a nutrition professional for dietary advice on your gut symptoms.
Experience means that the nutrition professional you are working with will have seen many people with the same symptoms but different underlying problems. This will help them to ask the right questions in order to understand the root cause of your symptoms and find a long-term treatment.
Experience also means that the nutrition professional you are working with will have many different treatment options for you – they will have seen patients who respond in different ways and will know how to tailor the treatment to you.
Gut symptoms can be due to an organic problem (for example; inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, diverticular disease, pancreatic or bile problems) or due to functional symptoms which occur largely due to disruption to our microbiome. Some nutrition professionals will have experience of one but not the other.
The term ‘nutritionist’ isn’t a protected title so it’s really important that you ask if your nutritionist is registered with the Association for Nutrition who ensure their nutritionists have a degree in nutrition and maintain a high standard of competency.
Nutritionists aren’t trained in dealing with medical problems so while some registered nutritionists may have up-skilled in gut health and done a lot of additional training, it’s important to check on this before booking in.
Nutritional therapy is part of alternative health. This qualification isn’t always degree level and nutritional therapists won’t have experience in working with medical conditions or in a medical setting.
Nutritional therapists may work with tests and treatments that aren’t scientifically valid. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be effective but it is important to recognise the limitations. If you are looking for a nutritional therapist, you should check they are regulated by the British Association for Nutritional Therapists and registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Commission.
The term ‘dietitian’ is a protected title like ‘doctor’ or ‘physiotherapist’. This means that only someone who has a degree in nutrition and dietetics can call themselves a dietitian and this means that they will have completed training in hospitals and clinics before they register and start working with patients.
One of the most important things to remember is that gut health is complex and your symptoms could be explained by many different conditions. Working with a nutrition professional who is highly experienced in gut health is key, especially if you’re parting with your hard-earned cash!
Most dietitians start their career in the NHS which means that they have the opportunity to see thousands of patients each year. Working alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals also means that they have knowledge of medications and medical treatments that have an effect on gut health. They will also be able to interpret and understand any investigations or treatments you’ve had with your GP or under a consultant. Dietitians will often liaise with your GP or consultant to request additional tests or treatments rather than asking you to pay additional money for these.
Dietitians can specialise in many areas from diabetes and weight management, to intravenous nutrition and tube feeding. It’s not possible for a dietitian to be scientifically up-to-date and have adequate expertise in more than a couple of clinical areas. For that reason, it is important to choose a dietitian who has many years of experience in treating and managing gut conditions to ensure you’re going to get the best service and treatment.
If you’re looking for a registered dietitian, a good place to start is The Freelance Dietitians page of The British Dietetic Association. Most dietitians will be offering online clinics and you can expect to pay between £100-250 for an initial consultation.
When you find a dietitian you like, read their website and find out more about their experience with gut health conditions before you book in. In particular, look out for NHS experience and research into gut conditions.
This article was written for us by Sophie Medlin, Director of CityDieticians.