Diary of a Student Nutritionist - Week 3 - Assessment and Diagnostics

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Assessment and Diagnostics

This week we were looking into the different tests that are available both through the doctors and privately to help you gain greater insight into someone's health beyond what you can see and they tell you.

It is exciting to see all of the tests available from the oral and vaginal microbiomes to thyroid and other hormonal panels. My clients are defiantly going to get their money's worth for the first few years as it will take many many hours to be able to read and understand each test in the level of detail necessary. But this is also a very interesting area of research so it is worth it!

Part of a Comprehensive Stool Test.

I personally know the challenges of choosing whether to test or not as many of the private tests are very expensive and GP tests are hard to get or not detailed enough. When you're showing all of the signs and symptoms anyway it is then having to make the decision do you test and check your hypothesis or do you put diet and supplement changes in and see what happens. This is a tricky decision and one that over time I will become more trained in to make the right call. This decision greatly varies between nutritionists where some will always tests, while others will never/rarely test at all. Neither is necessarily right or wrong as there are pros and cons to both.

My Personal Experience of Testing

One of the reasons I find this decision so tricky is that my nutritionists have done very little testing on me, and while my health over the last five years has improved beyond recognition there are still some lingering symptoms. With these lingering issues my nutritionists have tried many protocols each having no to little effect and each time I would get my hopes up that this would be the one and when it doesn't it would leave my nutritionists a little confused and me frustrated.

Now, these protocols work for the majority of people and therefore it seems right to try them first before spending lots of money on a private test. But while many of these protocols have worked for me, some have not, or they work temporarily and then the issue returns. This has meant I have spent quite a bit of time and money getting nowhere or just moving a fraction closer to where I would like my health to be. If I had run the many tests I ran this year back then I might have avoided this frustration and saved myself lots of money. Therefore, should you try the protocols first or test first?

Example 2: Mycotoxin Test, Looking For Different Types of Moulds

My answer to that question is 'it depends', as it makes sense to use protocols without testing when making blindingly obvious recommendations, when you are over 80% sure you know or when working with someone who is unable to afford a lump sum for testing. However, due to my personal experience I now strongly believe if I have put in some protocols and not got the reaction I was expecting or I cannot find a clear underlying cause of a clients symptoms I would advise my client to invest in a private test to save them time, money and frustration in the long term.

What If You Cannot or Do Not Want to Test?

Functional (Private) testing is relatively new and developing all of the time, and is a powerful tool that can greatly support both nutritionists and clients. It is however not necessary for healing as the body will give you lots of messages some of which are easier to read than others. This alongside a detailed intake questionnaire and continued monitoring from a nutritionist can lead to great things and is the way healthcare would have been many years ago and still is today in other areas of the world. If I was able to tell you how much this process alone has helped me over the last five years you would be shocked. The reason I personally like testing as an addition to this is it can speed things up, show you the finer details, show things you had never considered and enable you to tailor protocols to have a greater impact. I will always give my clients the option but make sure they are aware of the pros and cons of both.

What Would I Test?

Because of my journey and what I have learnt during my nutrition course so far, I certainly believe there are a few tests that I would highly recommend to all clients within the first few months of seeing them. The first is a genetic profile as this will allow me to see what I am genetically working with, a bit like reading a car manual to know how each bit works compared to another model. The second is a comprehensive stool test which will enable me to see how well the gastrointestinal tract is working, as there is no point putting in supplements or certain foods if you cannot actually absorb and utilise them properly. Thirdly, would be some basic blood tests from the GP, such as a full blood count. Then if finances allow any testing that is specific for the client and would speed up their healing journey.

In Your Shoes

Despite the frustrations, I am glad to have been through the process of following protocols, with some working and others not as it has opened my eyes to more complex cases. I will be able to put myself into other peoples shoes and clients will know that the decisions I make are always in their best interests, not because I have learnt about them but because I have experienced many of them myself. I can also explain to clients that some people are more complex than others, for some they will need to see a nutritionist for a few months to achieve their goals and for others, it may take many years (hopefully not too many) as there are so many layers to peel back with each layer taking time to find and heal.

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