I thought I’d write this post out to clear up any confusion you may have. Maybe you’ve heard of what a dietitian does, and maybe you’ve heard of fertility specialists – but perhaps this is the first time you’ve heard of a fertility dietitian.
So here we go. I’m going to break down exactly what a dietitian is, what we do, and how we work on fertility. I’m also going to talk about my unique approach with integrative and functional nutrition, as well as what you can expect from your first call with me.
What is a dietitian?
An RD, or Registered Dietitian, is someone who has at minimum a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics and 1200 clinical training hours. RDs must pass a comprehensive national exam (in the United States) and have continuing education hours every year to ensure we remain current on the latest science, research and best practices.
Only a person who has met these stringent requirements can use the title “Dietitian.” In 2020, the requirement to be a dietitian will also require a Master’s degree.
Becoming an RD requires completing a rigorous academic program that includes courses in food science, clinical dietetics, community nutrition, lifecycle nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, education methodology, biochemistry, microbiology, social sciences, human anatomy and physiology, and other culinary and nutrition-related classes.
As a side note, my undergraduate degree was not at all science related – in fact, I studied International Relations and my career prior to becoming a dietitian was in international development and anti-hunger policy work!
A Dietitian is a Nutritionist, but a Nutritionist is not a Dietitian
A nutritionist, is not a regulated term, and thus anyone can call themselves one. Because of this, the nutrition world has become saturated with misinformation. You could take a 6 week course online and reasonably call yourself a nutritionist.
Now, I know this is super confusing, especially because as dietitians, we ARE nutritionists – meaning we can provide nutrition information to individuals and communities, but we also can provide medical nutrition therapy in a hospital or acute setting (think feeding tubes, diabetic diets, diets for specific disease states like heart disease, renal disease, or cancer). A nutritionist cannot do this.
Formal training and credentials are vital for achieving your nutrition and health goals, as what may work for one person, could be ineffective or even harmful to another. That’s why working with a Registered Dietitian is so important.
What is a Fertility Dietitian?
A fertility dietitian is an RD who specializes in helping women (and men) optimize their diet for fertility. Women with specific hormonal imbalances such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can benefit from working with a fertility dietitian, or those who have been trying to conceive for 6 months or more with no results.
A fertility dietitian will tailor a program specifically for you – whether that means weight management to reach a healthy BMI, reduce insulin resistance, balance hormones, support egg health, regulate cycles, or work on more in-depth conditions such as IBS, Crohn’s, or Hypothyroidism.
In my own practice, I take an integrative and functional approach to nutrition, utilizing specific lab tests to get to the root cause of your fertility struggles.
What is Functional Nutrition?
Functional nutrition is a component of functional medicine, which is a framework that some doctors use to address the root cause of a disease. It is a model that looks at the whole patient (mind, spirit, body) and works WITH the patient together to address underlying causes of disease by evaluating biological systems.
Functional nutrition “emphasizes the importance of high-quality foods and phytonutrient diversity to address clinical imbalances and move people to the highest expression of health.” (Institute of Functional Medicine – https://www.ifm.org/learning-center/introduction-to-functional-nutrition/).
Functional Approach to Fertility vs. Conventional Approach
The main difference between a functional approach to fertility vs. a conventional approach is that a functional approach will look at the underlying issue (starting to recognize a pattern?)
A functional nutrition approach to fertility will look at why your hormones are off balance, what body systems are off, how inflammation impacts fertility, gut health, sleep, stress, and much more. We work with you to uncover the root cause of your fertility struggles, rather than prescribing synthetic hormones to mask the problem.
Conversely, a conventional approach to fertility would likely include a prescription for hormone replacement therapy such as Clomid or Letrazole, either IUI or IVF, often including several rounds of each. While IVF has about a 40% success rate (and costs tens of thousands of dollars), it also does nothing to address the root cause behind what was going on before.
If you’re looking to address the underlying issue and prefer a more holistic and natural approach, then functional fertility nutrition is for you.
What to Expect From Your First Call with a Fertility Dietitian
During your introduction call we’ll discuss you’re eating patterns, medical history, any blood tests or procedures you’ve had, discuss your medications and supplements, sleep patterns, stress levels, menstrual cycle, and bowel movements. The goal is to get a pretty complete picture in order to know which treatment protocol is right for you.
We’ll also discuss your specific health goals, which can range from regulating menstrual cycles, weight loss, improving energy, reducing PMS symptoms, and of course – getting pregnant.
After our first call, I’ll send over your treatment proposal and suggest certain functional lab tests to help uncover some of the root causes behind your symptoms. The reason I weave in functional lab testing into all my programs is because it allows me to give you a specific, customized recommendation for you – rather than a broad approach.
Functional lab testings also allows us to:
- Save time and money by eliminating the need to guess and check
- Expedite finding the root of the issue
- Personalize interventions and recommendations
- Have a roadmap to help you succeed
- Put puzzle pieces together
- See what the eye can’t see
If you’re interested in scheduling a free 30 minute discovery call – you can do so right here, to see if we’re a good fit to work together.
So, what questions do you have? Leave a comment below and let me know!