/ Food & Drink, Health

Has your diet been helped by a nutritional therapist?

Smiley face made from fruit and veg

Nutritional therapists can help identify patterns in your eating habits, but is their advice always nutritionally sound? My friend recently went to one, but the advice she was given has left me feeling curious about their role.

She was feeling a bit run down and had suffered a few colds and thought some improvements to her diet might help.

She was told to record a food diary for three days and take it along to the consultation so the therapist could see the types of food in her diet and see whether she was missing any food groups or lacking in any nutrients.

The nutritional therapist took a history of symptoms and went through her food diary. At the end of the session the therapist advised her to stop eating wheat and dairy as she said they were too difficult to digest and were putting strain on her digestive system.

She also recommended that she start drinking fresh fruit and veg juice every morning. While this sounds sensible in terms of increasing fruit and veg intake, it is much better to eat the fruit and veg because you lose much of the fibre through juicing.

The importance of different food groups

But, as a nutritionist, my main concern was the total elimination of dairy and wheat. These are important food groups in the diet – especially dairy which is our main source of calcium.

Elimination of dairy from the diet is potentially dangerous as it can lead to calcium deficiency, which has implications for bone health. If you do cut out dairy then it’s important that you get your calcium from other foods – fortified soya milk, sardines and other small fish where you eat the bones, tofu, green leafy veg or even calcium supplements.

To me, it seems as though every other person is cutting down on wheat and dairy. I’m not sure why these particular foods are demonised as most of us don’t have intolerances to them.

Have you ever visited a nutritionist or therapist who has advised you on your diet? Where did you find them? Where you happy with the results?

Jennifer Hargreaves says:
16 October 2011

I am a qualified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner. I had a successful career in Human Resource Management spanning 20 years prior to the birth of my son. At the age of 2 there were concerns that he was possibly Autistic which was diagnosed at the age of 5. Doctors told me nothing could be done, we would have to learn to live with a boy with a lifelong developmental disability. As a result of doing research I trained in Nutrition Therapy to help my son (who is now doing well and on course for all C’s in GCSE level). Recent research by Professor Jeremy Nicholson concludes that to date, diet modification is the only protocol that can help autistic children and adults.

Due to testing by a GP specialising in Nutrition, my son was diagnosed Hypothyroid with Intestinal inflammation and Dysfunctional neurotransmitter function. We have used this information to adjust his diet with beneficial effects. I have not yet met nor heard of a GP/Consultant on the NHS who has been able to help him or any other children known to me.

I admit Nutrition Therapy cannot help everyone – one has to the interrelationship between
structural, biokinesthetic and biochemistry and many other factors in dealing with a health condition. However it has an important role to play in preventative health and education. It has, and continues to help my son have an ‘almost’ normal life.

SkepticalHealth says:
16 January 2012

I question your “nutrition therapy practitioner” degree. It sounds completely bogus. It also sounds like the GP you visited is a bit of a quack.


What is biokinesthetic? I cannot find that in the dictionary.

Jonathan says:
16 January 2012

Jennifer. I have two autistic sons. We followed the advice of our highstreet nutritionist to the letter and they’ve got worse. Your anecdotal evidence has just been tipped towards nutrition having no effect on austism.

Oh no. You might now have to provide some proper scientific evidence for your outlandish/harmful claims. I won’t hold my breath.


You may be interested in our latest Conversation about our undercover investigation into nutritional therapists. We found some worrying practices, such as therapists advising against going to your GP: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/nutritional-therapists-advice-worth-the-cost/

Elaine says:
16 January 2012


I am glad your son is doing well and progressing well at school. However it is not unusual for children with autism to become independent, successful adults with autism. However there is no real evidence that nutritional approaches have anything to offer. I am not sure how Prof Nicholson came to the conclusion that diet modification is the only way to help children and adults with autism, when there is plenty of evidence that behavioural interventions can be of great benefit. This NHS page (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Autistic-spectrum-disorder/Pages/Treatment.aspx) has a good summary of possible interventions and links to relevant evidence. I am surprised that you have not found anyone on the NHS who can help.

Just out of curiosity, you mention a diagnosis of dysfunctional neurotransmiter function. Is this an actual diagnosis? If so, can you provide some more information on it please?


There is a real difference between nutritional therapists and Registered Nutritionists (RNutr), who are assessed by the Association for Nutrition (AfN) and can only be on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists if they are qualified and competent in nutritional science and practice and uphold the highest professional and ethical standards through a comprehensive code of conduct.

Registered Nutritionists who consult on an individual basis would only do so under the supervision of a suitably qualified practitioner, such as a GP, if there is a pre-existing medical condition.

There is a response to this investigation on the AfN website, http://www.associationfornutrition.org

HR O. says:
16 January 2012

When I was 25, I suddenly became unwell. My biliary and pancreatic ducts got blocked and I suffered a very severe spell of colics that nearly killed me. As a result I had to have my gallbladder removed. I lost a fair amount of weight during this time and I was referred to a dietician who recommended eating crisps, donoughts and bacon as these were “high in calories” and would help me “build myself up”. I was shocked to hear this, particularly because all the foods I was recommended were really high in fat and my gallbladder had just been removed, so my ability to process fat would have been decreased as a result? When I said this to the dietician she showed me the guidelines issued by the hospital for cases like mine. This goes to show that whether you’re registered or not this does not make any difference. We all make mistakes and errors of judgement and blaming all Nutritional Therapists for the advice given by some is one sided and wrong!!