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What Does a Gut Health Nutritionist Do?

Whether due to stress, burnout, or new food intolerances, there are numerous reasons why you may be experiencing poor gut health. Learn how a nutritionist can help.

While it's normal to experience the occasional upset stomach, heartburn, or nausea, these symptoms should not occur frequently. If you are experiencing these digestive problems daily, they may even disrupt your life. And when the health of your gut is linked to most other systems in your body, including the immune system, metabolism, mood, and more, it’s more important than ever to seek help.

Thankfully, there is a solution to your health concerns. Small diet and lifestyle changes can positively change your gut microbiome and immune system. A gut health nutritionist can guide you through these changes and help you find lasting relief. We’ll dive into what these nutrition experts can offer and how they could help you with your digestive health.

What Is a Gut Health Nutritionist? 

A gut health nutritionist is an expert in how diet impacts your gut health. Experts in clinical nutrition can educate you on the basics of digestive health and 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 be tailored to your specific gut issues and consider your dietary preferences, food sensitivities, and special nutritional conditions. 

As you learn more about digestive health from your nutritionist, you will gradually feel more empowered to manage your health independently. Through a holistic approach, your nutritionist will teach you how to grocery shop, read nutrition labels, and prepare a broad range of healthy meals and snacks you enjoy. The aim of a gut health nutritionist is to help you foster a sense of food freedom while also maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system.

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. With extensive experience in nutrition science, a gut health dietitian can help you in the following ways:

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 can clarify contradictory or untrue information that could negatively impact your medical condition or overall health. 

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 bacteria in your gut flora, which helps your digestive system get back on track. 

For example, while women should try to consume 25 grams of fiber daily, men should aim for 38 grams. Some foods packed with 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 well-being. Individuals with digestive disorders often need to practice stress management to maintain a healthy life.

A nutritionist can walk you through basic strategies to help wind down and relax, including meditations, mindfulness exercises, and light aerobic activities. 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 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 for expert suggestions. 

Collaborate 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. 

Am I a Good Candidate to Work with a Gut Health Nutritionist?

Seeking a gut health nutritionist is a crucial step in managing your digestive health, no matter what struggles you have. You are ultimately responsible for protecting your health and holding yourself accountable for your diet and lifestyle, but a nutritionist can help in countless ways.

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, and these symptoms may be managed through good nutrition. 

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. 

There are times when the symptoms are active, referred to as flares, and when the symptoms are in remission, you may not experience any signs of the chronic disease. As it is impossible for someone with this disorder to self-diagnose, people who believe they may have Crohn's should seek a healthcare professional for advice. 

A nutritionist can also help people with Crohn's manage their symptoms. 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. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten sets off an immune response in your small intestine. 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. People can live symptom-free lives if they are careful with their diet, so they may not need to work with a nutritionist long-term. Still, they can benefit from learning about the disease over several sessions and may discover new tasty recipes and alternatives to gluten.

Additionally, having a point of contact in an emergency may be beneficial. Even if you don't meet with your nutritionist regularly, you can contact them if you experience flare-ups or chronic digestive issues. 

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. 

How to Get Started with a Gut Health Nutritionist Today

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. 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. 

If you’re ready to improve your health, a great place to start is a nutritionist. 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. Although searching online may eventually lead you to an expert, it can also feel like an overwhelming process.

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 filling out our quick intake quiz, you can be matched 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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