It used to be the case that you’d go to a nutritionist and come away with a diet plan that encouraged you to eat more whole, natural foods and cessed junk. Perhaps you might have had a few supplement recommendations included in your plan. But nutritionists of today are taking things to another level. Advances in health screening mean that getting to the root of health challenges and creating targeted strategies for overcoming them have become increasingly sophisticated. And it’s not just overcoming health challenges that nutritionists are supporting clients with. Increasing numbers of people are turning to functional nutritionists for guidance with health optimisation in a bid to be the healthiest versions of themselves both short term and into later life.
A wide range of tests are available that can help you get a clear understanding of your state of health and anything that’s out of balance. Advanced nutrient testing can assess levels of a wide range of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats. Sophisticated hormone tests such as the DUTCH test or comprehensive blood work can allow doctors to prescribe bespoke HRT to women going through the menopause. Gut health testing can identify the root cause of common IBS symptoms like bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort. My clinic specialises in weight loss so we regularly screen to look at underlying reasons as to why our client might have struggled to lose weight in the past. Underactive thyroid is surprisingly common and often not picked up through conventional testing of TSH as a standalone marker. Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol can also compromise health, inhibit weight loss and speed up ageing processes.
WE CANNOT EXPECT THE SAME DIET TO BE SUITABLE FOR EVERYONE. PERSONALIZATION ACCORDING TO OUR LIFESTYLE AND STATE OF HEALTH IS KEY
Before we get into the latest in supplementation, we must first look at the basics. There’s no point building in advanced supplements if you are suffering from deficiencies. Low vitamin D is a widespread problem, even amongst those in warmer countries due to our increasingly indoor lifestyles and lack of sun exposure. Vitamin B12 is another common deficiency, particularly amongst vegans and vegetarians, and iron is often lacking in women who are having periods. Our diets tend to be dominated by omega 6 fats while being low in omega 3, so most people can benefit from an omega 3 supplement.
NAD+ and NMN are two supplements of particular interest in the longevity space right now. NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is a coenzyme found in every cell in the body. It plays a crucial role in various biological processes, particularly in energy metabolism and cellular homeostasis. Some research suggests that boosting NAD+ levels may have potential health benefits, such as improving mitochondrial function, enhancing cellular repair mechanisms, and potentially extending lifespan.
NMN (Nicotinamide mononucleotide) is a compound that is naturally produced in the body and is a key molecule in the synthesis of NAD+. Both NAD+ and NMN can be taken as dietary supplements. Well researched nutraceuticals for supporting healthy ageing include resveratrol (found in grape skins of all colours), curcumin (from turmeric), quercetin (found in onions and apples) and piperine (from black pepper). Prior to starting any supplements it’s important to ensure that they don’t contraindicate any medications you might be taking. If in doubt, always check with your doctor first.
Of course, you can’t out-supplement a bad diet. Good nutrition must start with a good diet. The future of dietary optimisation is personalisation. We are all different. We have different bodies, different health challenges, different lifestyles and different dietary preferences. How can we expect one diet to fit us all? Finding an approach that’s right for you is key and a good nutritionist will take a detailed case history and look at your health status and lifestyle in order to create a plan that’s tailored to your needs.
If you’re keen to improve your diet but you’re not working with a nutritionist, it’s worth keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks and noting down everything you eat. This can often be an enlightening experience and help you get clear on what’s working well for you, and what needs improvement.