Nicola Russell describes her work as a Nutritional Therapist and what inspired her to specialise in gut health.
Nicola is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who specialises in gut health (after suffering with IBS herself for many years). She runs a personalised 12-week programme that restores gut health and starts with an initial consultation that reviews your health history, diet, lifestyle and nutritional status and uses functional testing to get to the root cause of her client’s symptoms. To find out more, please visit: www.nicola-russell.co.uk
To book call Nicola: 07789 881622
What inspired you to become a Nutritional Therapist and why did you decide to specialise in gut health?
I started suffering with bloating, wind and constipation in my teens following a bout of food poisoning which then escalated into gastroenteritis (see my website for the full story). The doctors signed me off with IBS but I was still left looking pregnant most days, feeling unwell and no energy – the only benefit was being offered a seat on the tube! I went down the route of seeing a wide range of alternative and complementary therapists and spent a lot of money hoping for a quick fix, but it wasn’t until I saw a Nutritional Therapist that everything clicked into place.
Initially she got me to run a comprehensive stool test which revealed I had a parasite (potentially from the food poisoning or from travelling) and my microbiome was all over the place from years and years of taking antibiotics. Once I had addressed this, I felt so much better however I still suffered with bloating mid-afternoon. We therefore went on to concentrate on what I was eating and how I was conducting my life which, at the time, really wasn’t great (stress at work, lots of wine, the occasional cigarette and microwave meals featured heavily). Once I’d finished my programme with her, I realised sadly I just can’t tolerate milk in big quantities without blowing up (which is really annoying as I love latte’s) and if I’m stressed/busy I also notice I can become a bit less regular (that’s me being polite for the blog by the way) usually because ironically, my own nutrition will slip and I’ll drink less water etc.
After I had such a positive reaction to the care I received from that Nutritional Therapist, I decided to train as one myself. It was a no brainer to then specialise in gut health as I can certainly empathise with my clients, and we have no issues discussing bowel habits (as I have been there and so seen everything!).
Why do you think gut health has become so topical and why are people taking much more of an interest in it?
There’s no denying that Dr Tim Spector has raised the profile of the importance of the gut and overall health, and because he’s a doctor, has a bigger platform, so everyone is suddenly listening! It’s quite frustrating for our profession as we have been talking about this for a long time however; we take heart that we offer a more personal approach so there is support out there for everyone depending on how they’d like to receive it.
Can you describe your training?
So, as I mentioned, I decided to train in this field after the amazing care I received from the Nutritional Therapist I saw so I sought her advice as to the best route to take. She recommended doing a degree (very daunting at the age of 37) as there are lots of people out there purporting to be trained in nutrition but in order to be properly regulated by a professional organisation such as BANT and the CNHC, you need a degree. As my youngest had only just started school I decided to go down the Open University route and studied from home (apart from the final year where we had to be monitored in clinic) and finally qualified when I was 42.
You learn a myriad of things on this course, and you can go down many rabbit holes on the internet when doing research, but ultimately you learn that you are what you eat, the lifestyle you live and the environment you live in and therefore your health is ultimately a reflection of that.
As Nutritional Therapists we help guide and steer you on a better path to hopefully prevent chronic illness in the future. We are also usually the last resort for people who have come to the end of the line in regards to the medical route – sometimes, as it was with me, you are told you “just have to live with it” which we just don’t agree with. You do however have to want to help yourself and do the work which is why I find those who have sought me out themselves are the best clients.
What symptoms generally indicate poor gut health?
I mean, in my opinion, all symptoms are due to poor gut health! Acne, eczema, weight gain, depression, fatigue, poor immune status are probably not what you would normally attribute to poor gut heath but everything is linked. Typical symptoms however would be constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, bloating etc.
What are your tips for having a healthy gut?
The microbiome (the bacteria in your gut) thrives on colour and variety so try and switch up your meals – don’t just stick to the same thing every week. Try looking at a seasonal calendar for inspiration. The aim is to eat 30 plant foods every week which can be easier than you think as this includes spices, herbs, nuts and seeds as well as fruit, vegetables and legumes. I’m not saying become a vegetarian (I’m a big meat eater), just add vegetables at every opportunity and you’ll make a huge difference.
Do you have a diverse range of clients of all ages
Yes! They range from 14 to around 80! Sadly, gut issues effect everyone from all ages but what I love about my clients is that because the bowels are quite a sensitive issue to talk about, barriers are broken down quite quickly and I end up being friends with quite a lot of them because we have to laugh. I think my down to earth approach (I do tend to swear a lot – I blame all my years working in advertising) really helps here.
And finally, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
So, without wanting to sound like I’m having a mid-life crisis, I’ve just taken up playing the drums again (I learnt when I was at school). So funny; in my head I’m so rock and roll. In reality, I’m a middle aged, slightly greying, peri-menopausal mum trying desperately to look cool in front of the teacher!! I do also love a Netflix binge .Back to News