When I started my work in holistic nutrition over a decade ago, choosing non-allopathic practitioners as part of a health care team was novel and unconventional. These days I’m happy to see that holistic advice and practitioners have become far more mainstream, with increased acceptance and open-mindedness (even though I’m aware we still have a ways to go).
With the boundless options of health coaches, nutritionists and other practitioners on the internet (each with many unfamiliar letters or acronyms next to their names), it can be challenging for us to figure out who is credible and can best help us with our health challenges.
Who Is Qualified to Give health and Nutrition Advice?
There are very few governing boards in the natural health industry. Anyone can call themselves a natural health practitioner, wellness consultant, nutrition coach and the list goes on. Way back when I was doing one-to-one nutrition consulting, some of my clients’ physicians referred to holistic nutrition as ‘hocus pocus’ and ‘a load of hooey’. It doesn’t help that some nutrition schools don’t offer full nutrition training and support, which can negatively affect the entire profession.
Nutrition information abounds, as do the multi-level marketing (MLM) companies aimed at selling supplements, superfoods, protein powders, nutraceuticals, detox protocols, and weight loss programs. A lot of what is in the market is a load of hooey. People selling these products often receive their nutritional training solely from the companies producing these products. Individuals go to conferences, take weekend workshops, get all ‘rah rah rah’ about the products and leave with a ‘sell sell sell’ mentality. After all, if they sell enough, they can join weekend golf getaways and Caribbean cruises.
They are working on building their wealth at a direct cost to the health of the people who buy from them. It is one thing to profit off the sales of knives, cookware or cosmetics when it comes to multi-level, but to profit directly off people’s health challenges or goals without the health care education to explain the claims they are reiterating can be irresponsible.
I am not saying the products being sold by MLMs are all bad. Some of them are good. I don’t, however, believe that anyone should be taking health advice or supplement recommendations from people who are not professionally trained or certified to be giving it.
Anyone selling supplements or giving dietary advice should be able to explain specifically why those products or foods are best for you. Ten different people, all with the same primary complaint, will each have their own unique needs and unique contributing factors and therefore require a unique diet, supplement and lifestyle program.
Natural health care is unbelievably powerful when used properly and respectfully. The state of our health plays a vital role in everything we do. I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking out the best health care team to help you take care of your health.
So how do we do this?
how to choose your health care team
When selecting a natural health practitioner, I recommend you consider the following:
Find out what their formal training is
Ask the practitioner or provider what certifications, registrations and/or qualifications they have to be practicing the health care modality they are practicing. You have an absolute right to know this. If any of the certifications are unfamiliar to you, ask them to explain – but also be sure to conduct your own research about trainings or practices.
Talk to them first in person or by phone
You have to ensure their philosophies align with yours and that you are the right fit for each other. Good health care depends on a mutual relationship of trust, support and honesty. Ideally, this is a lasting relationship. This is a starting point for what questions you can consider asking during this time.
Many natural healthcare practitioners offer free initial consults (usually around 15 minutes), so it’s not an unreasonable ask. But remember that person isn’t giving you all of the solutions to your health issues in that 15-minute time frame. The consult is for figuring out what your key health challenges are, for you to ask questions about their services and for you both to determine if it will be a fruitful client/patient-practitioner relationship.
Find out what their treatment plans include
Learn how often follow-up appointments are expected, average costs, other supportive services available and generally how this practitioner will help you achieve your health goals. You want to have an idea of what the road map will look like before you start the journey! You must have confidence they will support you as you go through the program, and not just until the sale is made on the products.
Ask for references
I don’t mean the ones posted on websites. Though those are valuable and valid, and also curated. Ask for a couple of clients/patients that you could contact – and find out what kind of program or advice they were given (if they are comfortable sharing that information with you). No two people should have identical protocols.
It’s also helpful to ask friends and family if they have practitioners or members of their health care team they recommend.
Do some Googling
Do a basic Google search, plus I look at any social media accounts to see what people are posting and talking about. This gives me a huge window into who that person is, how professional they are, how competent they are at what they do, and what they know.
Important: Informed Consent
Here in North America, doctors are legally required to get informed consent from their patients. That means that doctors must fully explain the health risks and downsides of any treatment, and ensure the patient fully understands what will be occurring during a procedure, drug or other treatment.
Communication is key here – any practitioner, allopathic or holistic, should tell you all of the information you need to make an empowered, informed decision about your health. If a practitioner isn’t willing to explain something to you and make sure you understand it, and expects that you will do something ‘because they said so’, that is a huge flag that practitioner isn’t right for you.
I have a full episode of the Today Is The Day Podcast for you to listen to about this: Episode 27, How to Make Informed Decisions About Your Health
In summary, a good health practitioner will:
- listen to your needs
- answer your questions
- ask lots of questions of you
- communicate clearly about what can be done about your health and obtain informed consent
- fully explain the ‘why’ behind all of their recommendations
- create a custom protocol for you
- offer options, choices and alternatives based on what you’re comfortable with as well as take your financial considerations into account
- refer you to additional practitioners to serve your needs, if applicable
- have your best interests at heart
Spending the time up front to do the research about who you choose for your health care team will save you time and a lot of money in the long run. It’s a worthwhile process!
Further Reading and Resources
- 5 Mistakes Functional Medicine Practitioners Are Making
- What Is Functional Nutrition?
- Why You Should Have Copies of Your Blood Work and How to Read the Results
- How To Be Your Own Health Advocate
Photo Credit (header image): Catherine Farquharson