Why I Use Herbal Supplements in Clinical Practice
Part of bringing on more staff, first Kelsey and now Megan to be part of Nourishing Minds Nutrition team, was detailing how and what supplements we use at NMN and why. As I wrote out my training protocol, I realized we had over 50 supplements, herbs and vitamins we utilize in our practice for health conditions like hormonal imbalances and digestive issues. Woah.
My thoughts on supplements have changed dramatically since when I was first a dietitian. Over seven years ago when I first became a RD, I was absolutely petrified of using supplements. I rarely even recommended a vitamin in fear of interactions or fear I was overstepping my boundaries as a RD.
And no wonder I was scared, everything I had been taught in undergrad and my dietetic internship was centered around fear mongering supplementation! Now in my eighth year as a dietitian and fully confident in my expertise, knowledge and ability to utilize supplements in clinical practice, I want to explain why I use herbal supplements in clinical practice, and why I hope more dietitians begin to utilize them.
Utilizing herbal supplementation is one of the best ways we can use food as medicine, especially since I use intuitive eating with my clients and we can often do not discuss gentle nutrition until the very end of working together, and with some clients not at all. I can use herbs that have been well studied or used traditionally for hundreds and thousands of years. I can use herbs that when encapsulated, are found in way more potent forms that just eating it.
Take for example, the all powerful turmeric. Turmeric is THE anti-inflammatory root. The hype around turmeric is well deserved, its not only been used traditionally for years but also well studied to repair intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut), improve inflammation and autoimmune conditions such as arthritis, improve brain function, improve blood sugar regulation and so much more.
When in supplement form, we can utilize 2-5,000 mg or more in one sitting of the active compound in turmeric called curcumin, allowing it to better facilitate healing. Honestly, sprinkling it on your eggs just cannot compare to using it in supplement form. For a client with an irritated gut, or to reduce symptoms of PMS, and even to help with headaches- I love recommending turmeric.
I have found herbal supplements to be powerful as well because I can truly focus on IE principles by using herbs. For example, a client who may have disordered eating causing their digestive issues, I can still utilize enzymes, gut motility agents and specific strains of probiotics to help ease their symptoms as their work through the principles. As they have internal healing, we can slowly ease off the supplements but it allows for better and faster facilitation of this process.
In cases such as SIBO of hormonal imbalances such as PCOS and amenorrhea, I want us as dietitians to feel more comfortable using targeted supplements. We are so well trained in understanding interactions and our ability to read research, I find we can better understand and utilize supplements because of this. If we as dietitians do not get more comfortable recommending and utilizing supplements in our practice, others will take this job. Its already happening. And its not to say others cannot give credible advice in this area as well, but I hope as dietitians we can step into this role more and reclaim our ability to help via supplementation.
Lastly, doing your research with brands is of course very important. At NMN, we use Fullscript to ensure the reputability of the supplements we are using and I love that they have my favorite brands that I trust and use regularly. Brands such as Integrative Therapeutics, Metagenics and Pure Encapsulations.
Tell me: If you are a dietitian or health care provider, do you use herbal supplements in your practice?