• micaela panzavolta

10 signs you need a nutritionist!

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

We've all been there!

We've all been to the doctor, gone through a course of medications that didn't solve the problem and felt stuck! I'm sure it has happened to many of you, like me, to think: what should I do now, who should I see? The GP again? A specialist - what specialist? Would complementary therapy help?!

Here are the ten signs you need nutritional therapy

(alone or in concert with conventional medicine)

1. Energy slumps and tiredness

2. Poor sleep

3. Digestive trouble

4. Skin complaints, such as eczema

5. Weight problems

6. Raised cholesterol

7. High blood pressure

8. Low mood, anxiety

9. Autoimmune conditions

10. Hormonal imbalances

1. Energy slumps

Energy slumps during the day (typically in the mid-afternoon) are often a sign of fluctuating blood

sugar levels. Consumption of high-sugar foods (such as refined carbohydrates) causes a sharp increase in blood glucose concentration that declines rapidly, leading to the need for something sweet (or high carb) again. This creates a roller coaster of fluctuating energy and hunger throughout the day.

The diet can play an essential role in managing tiredness, hunger and poor concentration.

Understanding how certain foods affect insulin and blood sugar levels can help a person make

informed choices about what to eat and when. A nutritional therapist will help you understand how

to eat for optimum energy and wellbeing and to avoid obesity and diabetes.

Example of foods that destabilise blood sugar levels

Cakes, cookies, pastries, sugary drinks, white bread, potatoes, white rice, pasta, noodles.

Example of blood sugar stabilising foods

Nuts and seeds, beans, chickpeas, lentils, hummus, whole grains, avocado, pears, apples,

cucumber, celery, dairy, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, tofu, tempeh

2. Poor Sleep

Your dietary choices can have a huge implication on whether you get a good night’s sleep or not.

Researchers have found that drinking a coffee six hours before bed can disrupt your sleep.

Reducing the stimulants in our diet and incorporating foods high in nutrients to support sleep is

essential to achieving quality sleep.

Eating foods that contain the essential amino acid known as tryptophan can help with sleep.

Studies have shown that increasing tryptophan in the blood directly increases both serotonin and

melatonin, two chemicals that affect mood and sleep.

High tryptophan foods include

nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese and dairy, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish,

oats, beans, lentils, and eggs.

And remember to eat bread.

Yes, I’ve said that. Carbohydrates allow tryptophan to easily enter the brain, so eating a slice of

bread or some other carb-rich snacks together with tryptophan-rich foods will give you a bigger

increase in serotonin and melatonin.

Supplements for sleep

Of course, many natural supplements help with sleep and relaxation.

Here are some backed by science:







A nutritional therapist will help you choose the right one at the right dose and will make sure there

are no interactions with other supplements or medications you are taking.

3. Digestive trouble

We are used to living with many nagging symptoms, especially digestive ones.

But bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation or heartburn is not normal and can be addressed

through dietary changes.

After looking at your food diary Nutritional Therapists can advise on reducing or omitting certain

foods in your diet that are known to contribute to gut issues. They will also be able to advise on

how to incorporate beneficial foods containing the nutrients required to rebalance your gut.

Foods that feed and replenish the good bacteria in your gut

Probiotic foods (which contain bacteria): all fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir etc.

Pre-biotic foods (which feed the good bacteria) bananas, onions, leeks, asparagus, oats, apples, barley, seaweeds, Jerusalem artichokes etc.

Fasting also plays a beneficial role. It helps in cleaning your gut and maintains the right balance of friendly bacteria. There are many ways of fasting, the simplest of all being a night fast (leaving the longest gap between your supper and first meal of the day).

A nutritionist can also help you choose and implement a diet designed to address specific

symptoms such as the low FODMAP, a 3 step diet used to help manage the symptoms of irritable

bowel syndrome (IBS).

The IBD-AID diet is used to alleviate inflammatory bowel diseases such as

ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s

If you suspect food sensitivities, an elimination diet is a way to test yourself. The process involves

avoiding certain foods completely for a few weeks, then reintroducing them into the diet one at a

time to identify which foods produce a reaction in your body. Blood tests can check for allergies but

are unreliable when it comes to intolerances. Again, the nutritionist will guide you through the

process making sure you get all the nutrients while avoiding the suspected foods.

There are many functional tests that a nutritionist can prescribe to check for inflammation,

malabsorption, dysbiosis infections and of course many supplements designed to help remove

pathogens, replace digestive factors, improve the good gut flora and repair the intestinal walls.

4. Skin Complaints

The skin is your largest detoxification organ (via the sweat)

Your main detoxification organs are the liver and kidneys, when there are skin issues you may have problems with the main detox organs, such as overburdened liver or kidneys.

Factors that may contribute to the problems

Food sensitivities

Imbalance of gut's microbial community

Overburdened liver unable to remove toxins efficiently (this in turns can cause food sensitivities)

Hormone imbalance

What can help

Increase in omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds)

Elimination diet

Detox diet


Healing the gut (leaky gut syndrome)

5. Weight loss

You can restrict your caloric intake avoiding fatty and sugary foods and watching your portions.

It works, but the downsides are hunger, cravings, and feeling of deprivation which can make

compliance in the long run low.

Apps like My Fitness Pal or Cron-o-meter can help with compliance.

Alternatively, you can adopt a different way of eating based on the Low Glycemic index (GI) diet

which will become your new normal way of eating and will not feel punitive or frustrating.

But what is a low GI diet?

Frequent spikes in blood sugar levels put your body in fat-storing mode. The more spikes you have

the more fat you store. The secret is to eat foods that release carbohydrates slowly in the

bloodstream and don’t cause any spike. The Glycemic index is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates. It shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when that food is eaten on its own.

High GI foods include:

sugar and sugary foods

sugary soft drinks

white bread


white rice or noodles

Low or medium GI foods include:

some fruit and vegetables

( e.g. cherries, grapefruits, apples, oranges berries, asparagus, avocado broccoli, cauliflower, celery)


wholegrain foods, such as porridge oats

6. Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of lipid that is essential for health. It is required to make bile acids (necessary

for digestion), sex and stress hormones such as estrogen and androgen, vitamin D, and cell

membranes (which encase every cell in the body).

Cholesterol comes from two sources: it is made in the liver and obtained from the diet.

Elevated blood cholesterol is well established as a factor in the development of atherosclerosis and

eventual CVD.

Having at least three of four healthful lifestyle factors—healthful diet, physical activity, nonsmoking,

not overweight—is associated with a 46% lower risk of coronary events in people with

high genetic risk. (New England Journal of Medicine)

Mediterranean-style diets have been found to reduce LDL cholesterol anywhere from 10% to 29%.

Example of Mediterranean style diet

Fruits vegetables and pulses (at least 400g a day in total or 5 servings of 80g)

Whole grains (50g a day, about 3 cups of cooked grains),

Nuts and seeds (30 g a day)

Low fat dairy (1 cup of low fat milk + 30 g of cheese a day),

Olive oil 3 tbs a day, fish (250 g a week),

Lean meat or poultry (100-150 x 3 a week, avoid processed meat)

Eggs (yolks 4 per week, white unlimited amount)

7. High Blood pressure

The DASH DIET a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy while low in saturated and total fat

has been shown in clinical trials to reduce your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks.

Over time, the top number of your blood pressure (systolic blood pressure) could drop by 8 to 14

points, which can make a significant difference in your health risks.

Blood pressure friendly foods include bananas, berries, celery, beets, kiwi, watermelon, oats,

garlic, leafy greens, pulses, dark chocolate, pistachios, cinnamon pomegranates, yogurt

8. Mood and psychological wellbeing

Food is key to mental wellbeing. Eating a brain-boosting diet can support both short- and long-term

brain function. Oily fish, dark chocolate, berries, nuts and seeds, whole grains, avocados, legumes, cruciferous vegetables, eggs are all foods containing nutrients that boost mental activity, prevent brain

shrinkage and delay cognitive decline.

In addition to making dietary changes and choosing the right food for the brain, some people

consider taking supplements to improve their brain function. But do these supplements work?

Clinical research suggests some do work.

Most researched nutrients and what they are used for:

B vitamins if feeling lethargic

Vitamin D if struggling with low mood or cognitive impairment.

Vitamin D is a hot topic among Alzheimer’s scientists, who are trying to understand if it can prevent

cognitive decline in the long term.

Magnesium if feeling jittery and anxious

Omega-3 fatty acid found in oily fish may improve brain function

Probiotics because about 95% of the ‘good mood’ neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in the gut

Proteins because to function adequately, the central nervous system requires several amino acids found in protein foods.

Mood-boosting herbs

Ashwagandha to help the body and the mind cope with daily stress

St. John’s Wort for depression

Damiana to boost and maintain mental and physical stamina

Lemon balm for anxiety

Ginseng for low energy

Chamomile for anxiety

Lavender for anxiety

Saffron for depression

5-HTP to improve mood

As with all other supplements, a nutritional therapist will help you choose the right one at the right dose and will make sure there

are no interactions with other supplements or medications you are taking.

9. Autoimmune conditions

Several autoimmune conditions are inflammatory, including asthma, Crohn's disease, and

rheumatoid arthritis. One’s diet can affect inflammatory responses within the body

Pro-inflammatory diets are high in saturated fats, trans fats (found in packaged foods and

takeaways), carbohydrates. Overtraining can cause inflammation too.

Anti-inflammatory diets are high in olive oil, fruit, and vegetables, nuts, beans, fish, whole grains.

Moderate activity is anti-inflammatory. The autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet is a relatively new, food-based approach to eliminating unwanted inflammation in a person's body which can cause altered intestinal permeability (the so called leaky gut).

The theory is that small holes in the gut cause food to leak into the body. This is thought to cause

the immune system to overreact and start attacking bodily tissues. By eating nutrient-rich foods and avoiding inflammatory ones, the AIP diet aims to heal the intestinal walls.

10. Hormonal imbalances

Certain foods in your diet can restore or throw off the balance of your hormones.

Foods that help maintain hormonal balance

high protein foods (eggs, almonds, chicken, oats, dairy, beans, chickpeas lentils, fish)

healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, and seeds, coconut oil, avocado, oily fish)

high fibre foods (fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts, and seeds)

green tea

Foods that can cause hormonal imbalances

sugar and refined carbs, trans fats, sugary beverages, alcohol, caffeine

stress, over or under-eating, no exercise or over-exercising, sleep problems can also negatively

impact on your hormones

Supplements and herbs such as agnus castus, Dong Quai, black cohosh, red clover, sage can

help with PMS and perimenopausal symptoms

If you suffer from Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) please take a look at my previous blog post, diet can make a huge difference in your case.

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