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What is Holistic Nutrition in 2022 and (10 Things it is Not)

It’s a new year and many have resolved to change their eating habits in 2022.

The last few years have been stressful, and this has taken a toll on our health. However, many struggle with that first step. One of the reasons for this, is the plethora of information, and different choices when it comes healthy eating and living.

There are many different paths to take, and everyone must find what works for their individual needs.

One question I often receive is “Should I go vegan or become keto in the New Year?” to that, my answer is, “Why should you be either?”

Unfortunately, healthy living cannot be simplified into one word or a particular diet.

If one diet worked for everyone, then there would be no need for holistic nutritionists. Let’s start by looking at what is holistic nutrition.

What is Holistic Nutrition?

what-is-holistic-nutrition

Let’s start by breaking this down. What does holistic mean? Holistic means whole. It is an approach that means you are looking at the whole picture and ensuring you understand all contributing factors prior to coming up with a solution.

A holistic approach does not only apply to health. For example, there is also holistic financial planning now and holistic financial advisors. Other businesses will often use the term holistic when tackling various problems.

However, with respect to health, holistic means considering everything that is impacting a person’s well-being and considering all possible solutions.

It’s all about getting to the root cause and coming up with a solution that will fit someone’s individual needs.

Therefore, if for example you were visiting a holistic nutritionist with the primary concern of migraines, don’t be surprised if you are asked questions about your digestion and bowel movements. This is because imbalances of nutrients in the body can often cause many issues throughout.

This is why the holistic approach works so well when it comes to nutrition. A holistic approach would not work as well for cardiology. If you were having a heart attack, you may not want the doctor to ask you about your bowel movements!

A holistic nutritionist has also been trained in many different areas, not just biochemistry. Therefore, their recommendations may not only relate to the food, but also your water quality, body products and even stress levels.

For instance, if an individual had eczema, it may be that they are having a reaction to dairy products or their soap, it could be that stress is also affecting their flare ups. It could be a combination of many issues. A holistic nutritionist must be able to work with an individual to find the root cause of their problem.

A holistic nutritionist may also need to work with other health care practitioners as well. For instance, with respect to the eczema example, they may want to check that the client has seen a dermatologist. If not, the nutritionists may be approaching the problem, thinking that it is eczema when in fact it is psoriasis or even another condition that requires immediate medical attention. Many believe that holistic health is an alternative to traditional medical treatments, when in fact a truly holistic approach cannot exist without considering modern medicine.

Many a times holistic nutrition gets confused with other treatment modalities, and in this post, that’s what we’re going to focus on.

So, now that we have a better idea of what holistic nutrition is, here are 10 things that Holistic Nutrition is not:

1. Holistic Nutrition is not Homeopathic Medicine

Often, I hear the words homeopathic and holistic used interchangeably. However, Homeopathic is a very specific form of medicine. Homeopathic medicine came about in 1796 by German physician, Samuel Hahnemann. His theory was that “like cures like”. A homeopathic medicine is prepared by a Homeopath, and is a heavily diluted substance that usually comes in the form of small lactose pill. If you visit a homeopath, they will often provide you with customized remedies.

However, homeopathic remedies can also be purchased at many health food stores. As homeopathic treatments are heavily diluted, they often don’t have very many side effects or drug interactions (although, this isn’t always the case!!). Due to this, they can often be a good supplement option for young children or those on many medications. Most clinical trials around homeopathic medicine have had inconclusive results.

However, homeopathy has still maintained its popularity over the years. I personally have used the Camilla teething drops on my children when they were babies and I have used homeopathic remedies on myself in the past.

Many holistic nutritionists find that homeopathic remedies work synergistically with other supplements and can act as a bit of catalyst.

I will not tell you whether or not homeopathic remedies are effective. For the most part, I prefer to recommend dietary changes, as well as some select vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements in my practice. However, I will say that Homeopathy is not the same as holistic nutrition. Homeopathic remedies are one small part of holistic health and may or may not be used in a holistic nutrition practice.

2. Holistic Nutrition is not Naturopathic Medicine

Visiting a naturopathic doctor isn’t much different than visiting a medical doctor. You will explain your medical history and main health concerns. They will often conduct an exam and run blood tests or conduct other comprehensive testing (hair or urine analysis).

The main difference is a naturopathic doctor will prescribe natural solutions instead of prescription drugs.

These natural solutions may include supplements, herbal remedies, or dietary changes. Naturopathic doctors usually work with holistic nutritionists either in the same clinic or through referrals.

A naturopath will provide the general solutions, but a holistic nutrition will get into all the dirty details. This will include specific foods to eat, meal plans, recipes and more! But not all naturopaths have the same practice model. In general, while a naturopathic doctor’s and holistic nutritionist’s practice may overlap slightly, they also work great together.

3. A Holistic Nutritionist is not a Dietitian

Dietitian and holistic nutritionist are also words used interchangeably, so this is an important point to mention when it comes to what is holistic nutrition. While both deal with food, their respective approaches are very different.

A dietitian mainly focuses on food science, such as how many calories, fats, carbohydrates, and protein a food contains. While a holistic nutritionist will focus on the individual and the overall impact foods have on their health.

Holistic nutritionists not only consider the nutrition content of the food, but also how the body will react to the food.

  • Will it be digested?
  • Was the food processed in a way that will affect digestion?
  • Will this food be absorbed?
  • Does the food contain pesticides or additives that will impact the liver or other excretory organs in the body?
  • When and how is this food being eaten?
  • Is it combined with other foods that will affect digestion and absorption?
The body is not a machine. It is not just about energy in and energy out. We are biochemical beings. This is why holistic nutritionists believe that focusing on a foods overall chemical impact on the body is more important than calories or macronutrients.

We believe in teaching clients to intuitively eat meals with a variety of nutrients in a calm environment. This will help to balance hormones such as ghrelin, cortisol, and insulin. Meaning, you will naturally eat as much as your body needs. However, there may be specific cases where a focus on nutrient content is required.

Dietitians often work in hospitals, including with patients on feeding tubes who need just the right number of calories and other nutrients. Athletes will sometimes follow strict diets and only consume a specific number of calories and particular macronutrient ration.

When it comes to a dietitian vs holistic nutritionist, it’s not about one profession being right or wrong, or better or worse than the other, it’s just two different approaches.

We probably agree more than we disagree. In the end, we all have the same goal: to help our clients live a healthier life. However, it’s important to understand the difference, so that you work with a practitioner whose views align with your own.

4. Holistic Nutrition is not Allopathic Medicine

Allopathic medicine is the opposite model of holistic. It’s all about addressing the problem at hand with a focused solution. It is the model for modern medicine: addressing a medical ailment with either a drug or surgery intended to treat a very specific problem.

Contrary to popular belief, most holistic nutritionists believe that this is something very necessary in society. We actually are not against the medical community. For acute problems, you want focused solutions. You wouldn’t want a brain surgeon poking around your gall bladder.

In general, the allopathic method works best when applied to acute issues and the holistic method works best when applied to chronic problems. However, you can use both at the same time.

For instance, if someone has migraines, there is nothing wrong with them choosing to take pain medication, while trying to address the root cause of the migraines.

We never shame clients for alleviating symptoms with drugs and never EVER tell a client to stop taking a medication. We do however, require that a client inform us of all medications they are taking to ensure that they do not contraindicate with any recommended supplements.

The allopathic and holistic methods can coexist. The main issues arise when we try to apply the allopathic method to holistic solutions. A holistic approach is not about “one problem, one solution”, but rather an intricate collection of problems that we must gently unravel to find a solution. One herbal supplement will most likely not change your life. Just removing gluten from the diet probably will not be enough fix all your digestive issues.

This is often why holistic treatments are often deemed ineffective: because they are assessed using the allopathic model. Understanding the difference between the holistic and allopathic approach, the limitations, benefits,  and how they work together is one of secrets to long term health.

5. Holistic Nutrition is not Energy Medicine

For the most part, as a holistic nutritionist we deal with the physical body. Our recommendations come from the Newtonian-based science, traditional chemistry, and biology. We focus on the tangible matter.

However, a part of our education also includes the ethereal body. It’s no secret that holistically-minded people can also be spiritual. Some holistic nutritionists are also trained in acupuncture, yoga, reiki or other practices that focus on balancing energy.

Even the most skeptical of individuals can’t deny that stress and emotions affect health.

It is certainly something we can’t ignore if we want to address the whole picture. Each nutritionist is different, and some may incorporate energy healing into their practice more than others.

My feeling on this is I do not presume to know everything about the universe. I think it’s best to go with what works for us, even if we can’t completely understand it. I love all sciences from biology to quantum physics. I also enjoy studying philosophy and metaphysics. If a client walks in and wants to discuss their chakra balance, I’m all for it, or we can talk about cortisol and insulin imbalance. To me, they are two sides of the same coin. A balanced holistic approach includes the body, mind, and spirit.

6. Holistic Nutrition is not a Buzz Word

I realized recently that I live in a holistic bubble. Most of my friends, family, or people I follow on social media are holistically inclined. Holistic health is something I have studied and have been interested in since a young age. Therefore, I was very surprised to hear that some believe that “holistic” doesn’t mean anything and it’s just a “buzz word.”

This piqued my interest, so I did a bit of research on the origin of this term. Holism and Holistic were coined by South African Soldier, Jan Christian Smut. He was a student of philosophy, politics and natural science. In 1926, he wrote a book entitled Holism and Evolution. The word holistic is derived from the Greek word holos, meaning whole.

In fact, our American brethren use the spelling “wholistic” instead.

However, the concept of holistic medicine has been around long before it was even given a name. Two of the most well-documented forms of ancient medicine are Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.

Both of these teachings have the same underlying principles as modern holistic health. The focus is on creating overall balance in the body for optimal health.  The teaching of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, focused on the use of nature to encourage the body’s own healing process. Socrates said in the 4th century B.C., “the part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

Although not everyone may agree with the principles behind Holistic health, one thing we can say is that it is certainly nothing new.

7. Holistic Nutrition is not a Diet Fad

It is natural for the diet craze to seep into the holistic world. Different products and diet plans come and go in popularity.  It is easy to get caught up in fads, however, true holistic health is about following your intuition and not the latest trend.

A common misconception is that in order to be healthy or to lose weight, you need to have a label on your diet. Either you’re vegan, paleo or keto.  However, holistic nutritionists generally do not promote specific diets. Instead, we will guide you on finding a diet (or eating plan) that fits your specific needs.

If a client wants to follow a specific diet, for instance veganism, we will be happy to help them with healthy and balanced choices within the parameters they have set for themselves.

However, it’s also important to understand that fads come from somewhere and sometimes they have merit. Eileen, founder of Essential Balance Holistic Health, has been a healthy vegan for fifteen years and would hardly consider it a fad.  A holistic nutritionist should not only keep up with the latest trends, but also the latest scientific studies and journals. Not only will they be able to better address their clients’ questions, but also ensure that they aren’t becoming too set in their ways.

A part of healthy living is also about having fun and trying new things.

8. Holistic Nutrition is not a Pseudoscience

Often holistic health is considered to not be science-based.

I wish someone had told me this before I spent all those years studying chemistry, pathology, symptomatology, anatomy, and physiology. It would have saved me a lot of time.

A holistic nutritionist will base recommendations on empirical data and scientific studies. Science is all about asking questions and we are always happy to explain the scientific reasoning behind our recommendations to our clients.

We believe in inspiration through education. It’s not about just knowing that a food is healthy for you; if you know how and why, you will be more excited to eat that food.

9. Holistic Nutrition is not a Miracle Cure

There is a not an herb, food or vitamin that will cure the body. All they do is enable the body to heal itself. In the end, it is you that has to put the work in.

Embarking on a new healthy way of living takes hard work and dedication. However, that’s why we are here.

While we cannot eat the healthy food for you, we can help to guide and encourage you along the way.

We are here to work with you at your own pace. We always ask clients about their job and family. We aren’t being nosy. It’s because we want to help you fit healthy eating into your life.

If you’re a parent, we can help you with meals for the whole family. If you’re a busy executive, we can help you with quick and easy meals, or a healthy meal delivery service in your area.

We can’t promise miracle cures, but we do promise to be as dedicated to your health as you are.

10. Holistic Nutrition is not a Last Resort

Too often, we see clients coming to us after they have tried everything else. The holistic approach can take time and effort and it becomes more difficult if you are already sick and tired.

It’s important to listen to your body and try to address issues as soon as possible.

Nutrition works great with subclinical ailments. This means that tests and blood work appear normal, but you’re still just feeling generally imbalanced.
Perhaps you’re always tired, or having digestive issues or headaches. The hope is that by incorporating preventative lifestyle changes, you may be able to correct an imbalance before it becomes a chronic problem.

It goes back to the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Holistic health has grown in popularity over recent years. Growing up, I used to read a lot of books on holistic health. Now with the internet and social media, it is easier to access health information. The downside to this is sometimes more information isn’t always beneficial. It’s not often wrong or intentionally misleading, but rather only providing one perspective and not the whole picture.

For instance, a company that sells supplements may post a lot of content around the benefits of the supplements that they sell. It is not done maliciously, and the information may not even be wrong; it’s just not the whole story. A social media influencer who has had a lot of personal success with a particular diet may be promoting a certain way of eating, but that might not be what works best for our body. It can get easy to get lost in the sea of information. This can be overwhelming and often discouraging.

It is important to sift through all of this and get down to the root of what holistic means and how it applies to your life personally.

A holistic nutritionist can help you do this. In order to truly benefit from this way of living, we must take a holistic approach to holistic health!

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Kirsten Colella, CNP is a Holistic Nutritionist who graduated from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition with high honours. She is also a certified yoga teacher and studied chemical engineering at the University of Toronto. Kirsten has had a lifelong passion for holistic health and all it encompasses; she believes in a practical well- balanced approach that also involves having fun. As a mom of three, she enjoys making healthy food for and with her children.

 Eileen Fauster is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who graduated with high honours from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She is also a Registered Acupuncturist and an accomplished martial artist. Eileen’s passion for healthy eating began in high school and this passion continues to drive her.  Eileen enjoys eating healthy and living healthy.

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