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What Does a Gut Health Nutritionist Do?

If your digestive system has been a little off lately, you've come to the right place. Whether you are experiencing feelings of stress or burnout or have recently changed your diet, there are numerous reasons why you may be experiencing stomach pain or poor gut health. 
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While it's normal to experience the occasional upset stomach, heartburn, or nausea, these symptoms should not occur frequently. And if you are experiencing these digestive symptoms daily, then they might be causing significant disruptions to your life. 

Thankfully, there is a solution to your digestive woes. Small diet and lifestyle changes can have a positive and life-changing impact on your gut microbiome and immune system. A gut health nutritionist is the best person to guide you through these changes. 

What is a gut health nutritionist? 

A gut health nutritionist is an expert in how your diet impacts your gut health. Not only will this healthcare professional educate you on the basics of digestive health, but they will also equip you with the tools you need to improve your digestive tract and overall health. Building a nutrition plan is one of the most critical tasks a gut health nutritionist will assist you with. This nutrition plan will focus on your digestive disorder and consider your dietary preferences. Food sensitivities and special nutritional conditions will also factor into this diet plan. 

As you learn more about digestive health from your nutritionist, you will gradually feel more empowered to manage your health independently. Your nutritionist will teach you how to grocery shop, read nutrition labels, and prepare healthy meals and snacks that you enjoy. 

If you're interested in learning more about the role of a gut health nutritionist, read more here.

Am I a good candidate to work with a gut health nutritionist?

If you experience chronic stomach pain, indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, or general digestive discomfort, there's a good chance that you would benefit from speaking with a gut health nutritionist. Sometimes it takes just a few sessions to clear up minor digestive issues. If you have one of the following conditions, you should strongly consider working with a gut health nutritionist. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Individuals with IBS typically experience cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. 

Unfortunately, IBS is not an illness that goes away overnight. People with this chronic condition will need help managing it long-term. The good news is although it may be painful, uncomfortable, and inconvenient, most people with IBS do not have extreme symptoms. 

Adjustments to lifestyle, diet, and stress levels can frequently alleviate IBS symptoms. A gut health nutritionist can help you implement those changes seamlessly and effectively into your daily life. Additionally, a nutritionist can help monitor your IBS and take preventative measures to prevent it from worsening.

Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Some common symptoms include persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgent need to move bowels, cramps, and constipation. 

Like IBS, Crohn's is a chronic disease. There are times when the symptoms are active, referred to as flares, and when the symptoms are in remission and you may not experience any signs of the disease. People with Crohn's need to seek a healthcare professional because it is impossible for someone with this disorder to self-diagnose. 

A nutritionist can also help people with Crohn's manage their illness. While there is no known cure, combining treatments and lifestyle changes can help an individual stay on top of their condition and live a normal life. Treatments for Crohn's disease typically include medication, changes in diet and nutrition, and, in some cases, surgery. 

Celiac Disease

While some individuals are gluten intolerant, others are diagnosed with celiac disease. Eating gluten sets off an immune response in your small intestine if you have celiac disease. If someone with celiac disease continues to eat gluten, the reaction continually damages the lining of the small intestine, ultimately preventing it from absorbing vital nutrients. This can lead to diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating, anemia, and other severe symptoms. 

While there is no cure for celiac disease, this food sensitivity can be managed by following a gluten-free diet. If people are careful with their diet, they can go on to live a symptom-free life. Individuals with celiac disease may not need to work with a nutritionist long-term, but they can benefit from learning about the disease over several sessions. Additionally, having a point of contact in an emergency may be beneficial. Even if you don't meet with your nutritionist regularly, you can reach out to them if you experience flare-ups or chronic digestive issues. 

Need some more time to think? Read more here.

How a gut health dietitian can help you create healthy lifestyle choices

There are many ways that a gut health dietitian can help improve your gut health and achieve a healthier and happier life. Often, all it takes is small and manageable changes — you just need to know what these changes are and how to implement them.

Teach You the Basics

A gut health nutritionist will help you understand the basics of your digestive disorder, including clearing up confusion about what, when, and how much to eat to manage your condition. As you learn more about digestion, you will feel more empowered to make decisions regarding your health. Trips to the grocery store, dining out with friends, and preparing meals will no longer be stressful and will become second nature. 

Myth Bust

You've heard it before, but we'll repeat it: don't believe everything you read online. Before consulting with a healthcare professional, you most likely learned about gut health from the internet. And while some of what you read may be true, some statements may be exaggerated or misleading. A nutritionist is perfect for clarifying contradictory or untrue information that could lead you astray. 

Incorporating Beneficial Foods into Your Diet

One common gut health myth is that you need to follow a restrictive diet for good gut health. In fact, the opposite is true. Improving gut health is more about incorporating certain foods into your diet rather than eliminating them. For example, foods rich in fiber promote the growth of good gut bacteria, which can get your digestive system back on track. 

While women should try to consume 25 grams of fiber daily, men should aim for 38 grams. Foods packed full of fiber include pears, raspberries, avocados, and whole-grain bread. 

Prebiotic foods are also known to promote the growth of good gut bacteria. Examples of prebiotic foods include apples, bananas, oats, and artichokes. 

Managing Stress

Due to the gut-brain axis, stress can be extremely harmful to both gut health and mental wellbeing. Individuals with digestive disorders often need to practice stress management to remain healthy. A nutritionist can walk you through basic strategies to help wind down and relax, including meditations, mindfulness exercises, and light aerobic activities. If necessary, a nutritionist can also help connect you with a therapist, mental health professional, or functional medicine practitioner. 

Make Eating Fun

Whether you have celiac disease or are lactose intolerant, sometimes a food sensitivity means you no longer get to eat your favorite foods. But all hope is not lost. A nutritionist can help you find ways to make your diet healthy and enjoyable by providing cooking tips, meal prep guidance, recipe modifications, and snack ideas. These days, many substitutions are tasty alternatives. If you have any foods you particularly crave or miss, mention them to your gut health nutritionist to get expert suggestions. 

Liaise with Your Health Team

If you are grappling with a severe digestive disorder, you may need to see other doctors and healthcare professionals besides a nutritionist. A nutritionist can liaise, advocate, and communicate with your healthcare team to make sure that all of your doctors are on the same page about your diet and nutrition program. 

Is a gut health registered dietitian the same as a gut health nutritionist? 

When searching for a "nutritionist near me," it's essential to understand the distinction between dietitians and nutritionists. While gut health dietitians and nutritionists perform similar tasks, these positions are not interchangeable. The main difference between these two healthcare professionals is their credentials. A registered dietitian will have the letters "RD" or "RDN" at the end of their name. Every RD or RDN has at least a bachelor's degree in nutrition, has completed hundreds of hours of supervised practice, and has passed a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). 

Meanwhile, nutritionists have varying levels of professional experience and expertise. Because there are no restrictions on who can use the title "nutritionist," all registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.

If you want to work with the best of the best, a certified nutrition specialist is the most advanced certification for personalized nutrition practitioners. These specialists will have a master's degree in nutrition or a similar field, at least 1,000 hours of practical experience, and a passing grade on nutritionist certification boards. 

Setting realistic goals for working with a gut health nutritionist

While seeking a gut health nutritionist is a crucial step in managing your digestive health, it is not a band-aid solution. You are still responsible for protecting your health and holding yourself accountable for your diet and lifestyle. If you struggle to adapt to a particular aspect of your new health plan, exercise regime, or sleep schedule, speak with your gut health nutritionist. Being diagnosed with a digestive disorder can be a significant life change, and your nutrition expert is there to make this adjustment as seamless and manageable as possible. 

How to get started with a gut health nutritionist today

Finding a compatible nutritionist can be challenging. Not only do you want to find someone who specializes in gut health, but you also want to work with someone with a compatible personality and approach to nutrition. You may already be frustrated by searching for a "gut health nutritionist near me."

Nowadays, you don't need to do the hard work of finding your gut health nutritionist – online platforms such as Top Nutrition Coaching will do the heavy lifting for you. By simply providing us with some basic information, our team will match you with one of the best gut health nutritionists in our network of fully-qualified registered dietitians. 

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About the author

Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN
I'm a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with education from Boston University and clinical training from both Brigham & Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I specialize in helping the military and non-military individuals embrace nutrition as a partner in both their mental and physical health.

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