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An initial appointment with a clinical nutritionist can go for up to 90 minutes, depending on the clinic you’re attending. This is a very different experience from a standard 15 minute consult at your GP where you’re in and out in a flash!
The benefits of having a longer consultation time are that it allows us to get to know you and it allows you to get to know us. A good relationship between a practitioner and their client has been reported to increase therapeutic outcomes by up to 70%. It also allows us to gather a full picture of your health, including your health history so we can try to pinpoint the root cause of what has brought you in. We operate under a holistic model of health and consider all bodily systems and environmental factors. This is to improve overall health and not band-aid a symptom and cause another. By gathering all this information, we are able to develop an individualised plan for you!
An initial consultation involves a lot of questions being asked, but please know the information we gather will be used to assist in formulating your treatment plan. The more information you can provide, the more informed we can be about your health.
Every practitioner is different but here’s a general guide of what to expect from an initial consultation.
There will be a form for you to complete prior to your initial consultation to get the ball rolling. This will cover why you’re coming in, what medications you’re taking and what symptoms you have previously or are currently experiencing.
We will generally start by talking about why you’ve come into our clinic. This will include questions about the location of your concern, when it started or how long you’ve been experiencing it, if there’s anything that makes it better or worse, does if it flare up and go away and if so for how long, if you’ve spoken to other practitioners about it and we’ll also ask what you think might be happening. We value your input in our consultations as your lived experience can guide the treatment plan.
Following this, we’ll start a deep dive into a few of the body systems. We will generally start with one that is related to why you’ve come into our clinic, but if we believe the root cause of the concern lies in another system we might start there. By asking a lot of questions we can find out if a system is working well or if there’s something else we need to be considering.
The gastrointestinal system is interconnected to so many systems in the body and is known as the ‘second brain’ due to the way it can act as a control centre. We will often ask a lot of questions about the digestive system to make sure it’s working as it should be. This will include questions about appetite, indigestion, burping, bloating and bowel movements. Don’t be surprised if we ask you a lot of questions about the colour, frequency and texture of your stools – it can tell us a lot of information!
We will then move on to talking about your health and family history. It is important to let us know anything medical that has happened to you, including the use of medications and antibiotics, previous or recurring illnesses, cancers, if you’re prone to food poisoning, and any allergies or intolerances that you have. If you identify as female we will ask about hormonal contraception use and any past pregnancies. This information can be indicative of the root cause of your concern now and inform us of weaknesses in other systems the body might be compensating for.
A family history covering immediate family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins can alert us to illnesses or conditions we may need to screen for and consider prevention of in the future.
The fun stuff (and why you’ve probably considered seeing a nutritionist)! There are different ways we can ask about what you’ve been eating. From asking what you ate yesterday or what you eat on a typical day to asking “how many times a week do you eat fish”. We’re looking for ways your diet could be exacerbating your health concerns and how we can minimise that impact. We will also ask about cravings and foods you don’t like, alcohol, smoking or vaping and illicit drug use (past and present). Please be as honest as possible, we’re not judging you!
Food is very social and for most people is about more than just fuelling their body. We understand it is important for you to have that social outlet with friends and family and won’t tell you that you can’t enjoy your favourite foods anymore, unless there is evidence it is contributing to your health concerns. There are many factors we take into consideration before recommending a restrictive diet. We are determined to work with you to improve your health and therefore our treatment plan has to work for you as well.
The last part of the questions surrounds lifestyle factors that impact health. Exercise, sleep, stress, work and living arrangements are discussed in this area of the consultation. These factors can impact your overall health and wellbeing and provide valuable information to us in relation to what can be reasonably implemented in a treatment plan. This is a great opportunity for you to tell us what you want your life to look like when your health concern is resolved.
And finally, we get to the treatment plan! This is developed with you and if there is anything that won’t work for you or you’re uncomfortable with, just let us know and we’ll work around it. Your treatment plan can include dietary advice, lifestyle advice on topics such as stress management or sleep hygiene, referrals for further investigations, pathology requests for functional testing, prescriptions for supplements and handouts or links to resources with more information. Please ask as many questions as you need about your treatment plan!
Sometimes we won’t get time to ask all the questions we normally would in a consultation because we’ve gone in-depth on a particular area. So if you feel like something hasn’t been covered as much as you would like, let us know and we will make sure we discuss it with you at your next consultation.
If you have any questions about how consultations work or what to expect, please don’t hesitate to contact me.