With the UK National Health Service (NHS) in crisis, people succumbing to preventable diseases at an ever increasing rate and the medical establishment having had precious little effect on solving either problem, it’s time to ask people outside the healthcare system for their views. We decided to ask nutritional therapist Amelia Freer for hers. With a track record of having relatively painlessly and successfully whittled down the waists of A-list celebrities, along with many others, Amelia has herself achieved celebrity status. Her two books Eat.Nourish.Glow and Cook.Nourish.Glow are bestsellers and another is on the way. What we love most about Amelia, is that she has remained true to the principles she is passionate about and she’s found a unique way of communicating big changes to people’s eating habits in ways few others have managed. Oh, and she can make you glow in the process!
Over to Amelia……
My own journey
When I began my journey of discovery about natural health, I had emerged from a period in which I had been bounced from doctor to doctor in what turned out to be a fruitless (pun intended) search for solutions for the debilitating health conditions from which I suffered. A high pressure working life coupled with a diet of highly processed foods took its toll on my body. I suffered severe fatigue and exhaustion a lot of the time and my immune system was on the floor. Any cold or other infection would find its home in my body. To top it off I also battled with acne and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Amelia Freer FdSc, Dip ION, mBANT
Doctors began to repeatedly prescribe roaccutane – the drug linked to causing severe birth defects in pregnant women and ineffectively given to people with depression. Well, guess what? My mood would spiral down each time I went on the drug, not having realised at the time there was any alternative to this horrendous side effect.
Then my flatmate suggested I see a nutritionist. Armed with the advice I received, I gave my diet a long overdue upgrade and the results out-performed any drug I’d taken. The penny then dropped in a big way. My new medicine involved cutting out some of the things that many others have found to trigger intolerances – such as gluten, gluten-containing grains, dairy and added sugar. I replaced these with nutrient-dense, less energy-dense whole foods including a lot more veg and little bit more fruit, some healthy protein and fats. It wasn’t high science in any way, but it worked like nothing I’d ever tried. This led me at the age of 28 on my road to study nutrition, and subsequently practice my patient-centred and holistic approach to nutrition that I use today. Over time, I’ve of course modified and refined my approach, but I can tell you that I am 100% symptom free today and bounding with energy!
Can people like me make a difference?
So, how applicable is the approach that I practice to the population at large? My own view is that it’s entirely applicable! This isn’t an approach that’s only for celebrities, it’s for almost everyone, with few exceptions. For me the key has not been to put people on incredibly strict diets that people struggle to comply with. It’s about creating a really positive relationship with your food and the people around you. It’s about eating in a way that still gives you pleasure, without the things you pay for or feel guilty about down the road.
In the UK alone, there are probably around 40,000 nutritional therapists, like me, that are still seen as being, at best, on the fringes of healthcare. At a practical and community level, these nutritionists have a unique set of skills that could really help to transform people’s health, especially if they were better promoted by the NHS, GP clinics and the government.
With mounting research showing that the risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as obesity, heart disease, certain mental health conditions and even some cancers can be prevented, managed or even reversed using specific changes to diets and lifestyle, it’s a travesty that more access to this type of healthcare isn’t made a priority. Late in 2015, millions watched an NHS GP who had re-trained in functional medicine, Dr Rangan Chatterjee, reverse cases of type 2 diabetes and obesity in 30 days in BBC’s Doctor in the House. Recognition of these therapies by the mainstream is long overdue. People are desperate for solutions that are simple and practical – and I think that’s a big reason why there’s been a lot of interest in the recipes and other information I provide.
Keep it simple
I’m a big supporter of the work of the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), which represents a wide range of interests from consumers, practitioners and companies. They’re at the forefront of helping to re-shape healthcare by trying to push nutrition and lifestyle modification into the place it deserves: directly at its heart. We need to defend the right to natural healthcare choice and non-drug based solutions. I support the ANH Food4Health guidelines, as reflected in my own recipes that are gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. You can get an idea about how to combine and balance vegetables, healthy fats and protein-rich foods in many of my recipes, including, for example, Tuna on Spiralized Courgetti, Spiced ‘Z’atar’ Lamb & Cauliflower Bowl, and Chicken Nuggets with Mango & Avocado Salsa.
It’s of course not just what you eat, it’s also how you eat. I’m a big believer in eating slowly, chewing carefully and avoiding snacks between the 3 main meals of the day.
I strongly believe we’d see a huge benefit if, as a society, we made much better use of the army of nutritional therapists out there, who could work as community-based nutrition and lifestyle guides, working alongside GP’s, tackling many of the issues that have become a burden to the NHS, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. As more people become aware of the importance of physical activity, as well as diet, there are exciting collaborations developing between nutritional therapists and personal trainers, along with other fitness professionals.
A bit about the ‘P’ word
I’m excited to hear that ANH is now playing a leading role in the All Party Parliamentary Group for Integrated Healthcare with a view to gathering more support among Parliamentarians and the government for better integrating of nutrition, lifestyle and other alternative health practices into mainstream healthcare.
I’m no politician, but what I do know is that to see some of the changes we need in this area, we need not only the right scientific climate — which I think is already with us — but also the right political climate. There’s work to be done here and I’m relieved to hear ANH is in the hot seat on this one. I gather the parliamentary group is working on a position paper, which I hope to endorse when it’s out in the Spring.
Many of the clients with whom I’ve worked have benefitted from carefully selected therapeutic doses of vitamins and minerals. For example, I often find that my clients are deficient in vitamin D, and the imbalance that’s made worse by the northern climes and our fear of skin damage and cancer from unprotected sunlight exposure needs to be addressed. To allow this freedom to use therapeutic doses of nutritional supplements, I am pleased to see that ANH has helped to stall EU-wide restrictive maximum levels for vitamins and minerals. It’s also good that the new method that’s been developed takes into account the benefits to the majority, and not just the risks to a few, which, when they occur, are usually minor and reversible.
Should we ignore what happens in the real world?
Another challenge we all face is that the results that I, or any other practitioner gets in their clinic, is not on the radar of the medical establishment. That’s because the ‘evidence-based medicine’ approach that dictates what is and what isn’t accepted by the mainstream, now looks almost exclusively at experimental, clinical studies – not what happens in the real world. I’m again relieved to see that ANH is leading another initiative here, that’s about gathering big data from clinics using the kinds of approach that I and thousands of other clinicians use around the world. The idea is to create a citizen-owned health data cooperative that allows individuals to enter key bits of data about how they feel at regular intervals to capture trends in their health. My work has always been about empowering and engaging people to take care of their own health, and people being able to access data like this could not only be an empowering tool for individuals, it could also be very persuasive to those who’ve not yet understood just how powerful dietary and lifestyle medicine can be.
Always the optimist…
I’ve followed the work of ANH-Intl for many years now, and I’m well aware that its supporters are its life-blood and that any donations, however small, are always greatly appreciated. Despite all the challenges we face in healthcare, I remain optimistic. That’s mainly because I think we already know how to deal with most of the biggest challenges we face in healthcare, especially in relation to reducing the burden of chronic diseases. Now, we just need to make it happen!
Amelia’s new book, Nourish & Grow: The 10-day Plan is due out March 2017 and is available for pre-order