Health & Fitness

Is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Right for You?

June 26, 2018

Since I get asked pretty regularly about being an NTP, who should work with an NTP, what the NTA is like, and everything in between, I thought it would be helpful to write up a few posts answering all of these questions! Today I’ll be talking about what an NTP is and who would benefit from working with one, and my next post will be all about the program itself, since I know many of you are thinking about joining the program!

What is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner?

I am certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) through the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA), but what even is an NTP?!

“A Nutritional Therapy Practitioner is a nutritional therapist certified by the NTA to evaluate nutritional needs and make recommendations for dietary changes, helping clients balance body chemistry and achieve optimal wellness. NTPs are not trained to diagnose or treat pathological conditions, injuries, or diseases.”

That’s the official definition from my course materials, which pretty much sums it up. Let’s break that apart, though! Basically, what it means is that the NTA teaches students/graduates how to help clients tap into their body’s own “innate intelligence” and support the foundations of health to rebalance the body and get its different systems working properly again.

The NTA is all about the foundations of health, a.k.a. the Foundations. These foundations are a properly prepared, nutrient-dense diet, digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acid balance, mineral balance, and hydration. In order to support those foundations, we need to give the body the nutrients it needs and make sure the body is actually absorbing the right things, and health will naturally follow from there.

As NTPs, we cannot and do not diagnose or treat any medical conditions, but we also don’t need to diagnose or “treat” in order to get phenomenal results with clients. The key is to balance out the body and support its processes so that it heals itself. NTPs learn all about how the body works and what causes dysfunction so that we can evaluate clients’ diets and lifestyles to figure out what they can adjust to address different imbalances and deficiencies. We focus on the root cause of any issues or symptoms, and addressing the root of the dysfunction is what balances the body out. This is very important to me, because I strongly believe in addressing root causes rather than utilizing symptom management, which, sadly, many other practitioners still rely on.

Why focus on getting to the root of the issue rather than a band-aid approach? Well, getting to the root cause will ultimately allow the client to move forward feeling their best without additional support in the long run. Who wants to use a “band-aid,” so to speak, their whole lives? Addressing diet and lifestyle support the foundations for an overall healthy body and mind, and it’s important to me to teach my clients the skills they need in order to rebalance their bodies now and also prevent any health issues from occurring in the future. Many people come to Nutritional Therapy looking to address one or two things, and they leave having transformed far more than that. For example, it’s not uncommon for someone to come to me wanting to clear up their skin, and in the process they find that their digestion and energy levels improve, weight balances out, mood and mental clarity enhance, and more – symptoms they might not have even noticed they were struggling with before. Oftentimes, people get so used to the way their bodies are feeling that that’s their “normal,” so they don’t fully recognize all of their symptoms.

Nutritional Therapy Practitioners are also trained to perform the Functional Evaluation and utilize Lingual-Neuro Testing Techniques with clients. The Functional Evaluation uses a series of palpations and other physical assessments to identify deficiencies and imbalances in the body, and then the NTP can recommend diet, lifestyle, and supplement changes based on that to help strengthen the body’s foundations again. Not all NTPs actually utilize the FE, but we are all trained to perform it. Lingual-Neuro Testing allows us to determine which specific supplements will work best to support the client’s unique body.

You might have heard of NTCs, or Nutritional Therapy Consultants. The difference between NTCs and NTPs are that NTPs also learn the Functional Evaluation and Lingual-Neuro Testing to help further support clients through supplementation beyond diet and lifestyle changes, and the NTC program doesn’t teach the FE or LNT skills. NTPs and NTCs are incredibly similar – we learn the same information about the foundations.

What can nutritional therapy address?

Well, A LOT. Nutritional therapy is incredibly powerful! That’s the beauty of looking at root causes and supporting the body’s foundations (digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acids, minerals, and hydration) through diet and lifestyle. When you get the body’s systems back into balance, a lot of different symptoms start to naturally take care of themselves.

Obviously, NTPs can help you when it comes to nutrition and finding a way of eating that works with your unique body type. We pride ourselves on taking bioindividuality into account. NTPs can help anyone improve their diet and lifestyle for overall general health, and also act as preventative care for the future to prevent you from struggling with health problems years down the line. Many of the common signs or diseases of aging can be prevented by adjusting diet and lifestyle NOW.

Besides prevention, however, NTPs can help you address problems like digestive discomfort, bloating, constipation, gut dysbiosis, acid reflux, detoxification, acne, eczema and psoriasis, other skin conditions, joint pain, mental health issues like anxiety and depression, hormonal imbalances, period regulation, fertility, improved athletic performance, autoimmune conditions, chronic health conditions, energy levels, stress, weight loss or weight gain, and much more. Again, we don’t “cure” and can’t guarantee any results, but we help you support your body so that it is able to heal on its own.

Who should work with an NTP?

I’m obviously biased, but I think anyone struggling with any health symptoms could use the help of an NTP. If you are interested in working with someone who takes a real-food, holistic approach, then NTPs are a great option. If you require in-depth testing, there are certain NTPs who can help you with that if they’ve continued their education. That being said, there is a lot that can be done without any testing at all. In fact, I would urge you to work with a nutritionist prior to spending extra money on tests, because lab results can completely change after you’ve spent some time adjusting your diet and lifestyle. I think it’s best to adjust diet and lifestyle and then see where that brings your body.

If you’re interested in working with a naturopath or FMD, my recommendation is to start working with an NTP first in most situations. The NTP can help you work through all of the same diet and lifestyle factors that a functional medicine doc will have you start with anyways, but it tends to be much more cost effective to work with an NTP and then move to an FMD if it’s necessary to do so. However, many of my clients who are planning to work with an FMD eventually find that they never even need to – it just depends on the case. Huge changes can be made with diet, lifestyle, and proper supplementation. I think it’s a good idea to start with those changes, let the body balance out and start healing, and then see if there is anything left to address that would require testing or more work with an FMD. This also makes it much easier for functional medicine doctors to see what’s really going on and help you more effectively, because they don’t have to waste time working through diet, lifestyle, and nutrient balance if you’ve already done that work. If you are diagnosed with a health condition that requires the care of a doctor, however, then of course please make sure you are under the care of a doctor! Remember, recommendations from NTPs are not medical advice and should not be taken as such.

Many people find that NTPs are able to give them more individualized and in-depth attention regarding diet and lifestyle than naturopaths are, simply because of time constraints, which is also often why FMDs work in conjunction with NTPs or another type of nutritionist. More and more FMDs are now requiring their patients to work with a nutritionist before even seeing them, so that they can figure out the patient’s true health status after making lifestyle changes and then go from there. Looking back on my own health journey, I wish I had started working with an NTP before seeing an FMD, because I know it would have saved me a lot of time and money.

I also have many clients who choose to work with me in conjunction with their doctor, as part of their health team. This is a great option to get full support, and also have a few different opinions. For example, a common “health team” (and what I personally used to have) for people who are working through more difficult health issues consists of an NTP, a doctor, and a therapist. I also have clients who will also be working with an acupuncturist or energy healer as well. Usually people whittle that team down over time, but it can be really helpful to have people with different specialties all supporting your health from different angles. Plus, they all kind of overlap. For example, I know that I used to feel like I was getting mini therapy sessions from my NTP and acupuncturist in addition to my actual therapist. And if you can find someone you really connect with who is trained in multiple skills, then even better! There are NTPs who are also therapists, NTPs who are also energy healers, and so on. It’s certainly not necessary for everyone to see multiple practitioners, but for some people it is incredibly helpful.

I think that is a key component to every health journey – addressing all angles. That is why in my practice I take a holistic approach and focus on all aspects of lifestyle – nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep, mental health, energy work, and supplementation. I think it’s incredibly important to utilize other natural healing methods as well, like essential oils. I’m interested in helping my clients make lifestyle changes that will last rather than quick fixes, and I want to teach them skills to support themselves in the long run – not feel like they need to depend on a practitioner forever.

What’s it like to work with an NTP?

All NTPs do things a bit differently. You might go into an office, they might come to you, or they might see clients online or by phone. When it comes to nutritional therapy, though, remember that it’s not a quick-fix, band-aid approach. It’s a kind of “program” that requires commitment and regular check-ins to hold you accountable. The NTP will make recommendations for you, and as the body balances out those recommendations will adjust and change over time. I am committed to my clients and am with them on the journey.

Different NTPs tend to have different specialties and “styles,” so look for one that resonates with you! Some NTPs focus heavily on nutrition and supplementation, others are slanted more towards energy and mindset, some are exercise experts, and so on. Some specialize in fertility, some in weight loss, some in autoimmune conditions, etc. This often relates to their own personal health journeys.

Personally, I tend to focus a lot on tweaking nutrition (I am definitely a nutrition nerd) with a heavy emphasis on lifestyle factors because of my start as a health coach. I also focus a lot on mental health because I received my degree in Psychology, and mental health is something I’m very passionate about. I work with a wide variety of clients, but my emphasis is on gut health, mental health/body image/ED recovery, and healthy weight management, and this all relates back to how I found nutritional therapy in the first place. I personally experienced the power of a healing diet and healthy lifestyle in helping me work through gut issues like leaky gut, SIBO, and Candida, mental health issues like anxiety and depression, eating disorders, acne, weight fluctuations, and more. Experiencing it for myself was empowering, and it is what drove me to pursue a career where I could help others along that same healing journey by working with clients 1:1 and in my group coaching program, the Paleo Women Lifestyle Program!

In my next post, I’ll be talking all about the NTA and the actual NTP program for those of you interested in potentially becoming NTPs. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment!

What do you think?

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