Why Are You Relying on Your Doctor (or Nurse) for Nutrition Advice?

I would like to perform brain surgery on you.  Would you let me?  No?  Why not?  The answer is obvious.  Although I am a healthcare professional, I have not been trained in brain surgery.  Ok.  Well, I’m not a doctor either, so maybe this is not a fair question.

So, how about your general practitioner or your primary care provider?  That person is a doctor.  Would you let them perform brain surgery on you?  No?  Why not?  The answer is just as obvious.  We do not rely on a healthcare professional to do something OUTSIDE of their training OR to provide us with advice OUTSIDE of what they have been educated in and are experienced in.

Then why are we relying on our doctors (or nurses) to provide us with nutrition education, when they have not been educated to do so?

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Doctors are NOT educated in absolutely everything they need to do to help people achieve good health.  In fact, medical education is geared toward recognizing symptoms and matching disease process with MEDICAL (not nutritional) treatments.  According to the American Medical Association, only 27% of the medical universities in the U.S. offer the recommended 25 hours of nutrition education.  But even for those receiving such education, it does not include extensive advice about healthy eating.

For Registered Nurses, nutrition is not a requirement.  Surprised?  (Some BSN programs do require one nutrition class).  When I took nutrition in nursing school, it wasn’t about how to eat healthy.  It was about how metabolism works, digestion, absorption, etc.  It approached nutrition from a chemistry standpoint, ie, what happens to a carbohydrate (or protein or fat) when it is consumed, how does it break down in the body and what type of processes does the body use to metabolize that nutrient.  If  there was any information about “healthy eating” at all (maybe a chapter or two), it would have been the same standard, outdated, dis-proven low fat, low cholesterol, low calorie mantra.

So, why are we relying on these healthcare professionals for nutrition advice?  A more pointed question is, why are these healthcare professionals OFFERING advice when they really have not been educated to do so, (KNOWING that patient’s treat advice from their healthcare professionals as GOSPEL?)  Isn’t giving advice about something you know nothing about, a form of malpractice?

This really grinds my gears because often when giving nutritional advice to family members or friends, they will say, “well, I will see what my doctor has to say.”   Ugh!!!  OK, while you are at it, please ask them how they would perform brain surgery, because you are likely to get just as accurate an answer.

That is not to say that there aren’t doctors (and nurses) out there who can rightly give nutrition advice.  But is it advice that they learned in school?  No.  Doctors and nurses who are educated in nutrition (specifically to prevent, treat and reverse chronic disease) have taken it upon themselves to receive that education.  I have been pleased to find a few handfuls of these great docs and healthcare professionals around the world who not only challenge the current nutritional status quo, but also to make it their practice of using nutrition as medicine (for a list of such healthcare professionals, see HERE).

As a nurse, I have spent more time in nutrition self-education, and the use of nutrition to prevent, treat and reverse chronic disease, than I did on my original nursing degree, that is to say, THOUSANDS of hours.  And even with this, I don’t have all the answers for all people and every disease process, as our knowledge of nutrition is ever-evolving.

Don’t get me wrong, I do occasionally see my doctor.  She is awesome.  She does just what I expect her to do with how she has been trained to care for me.  I am not against the medical establishment.  In fact, I am a part of it.  But, I use it for what it was designed to be used for.  For example, if I have strep throat, yes, I see my doctor.  If I cut myself with a chain saw, yep, I’m going to the doctor.  But most of what people see their doctors for today is for chronic, lifestyle-related diseases…those that need a nutritional (not a medical) solution.  For that, your doctor most often cannot help because they have not been trained on the nutritional treatment of disease, UNLESS they educated themselves.  (In fact, have come to know SO MANY people that are not even healthcare professionals that have become SO knowledgeable about health and nutrition that I’d be more willing to listen to one of them, than my doctor on this subject.)

So please, unless you have a physician or nurse who has taken it upon themselves to become educated in the use of nutrition to prevent, treat and reverse disease, I suggest that you educate yourselves.  I would NEVER ask my doc a nutrition question.  In fact, when I go to see her (once or twice a year for labs), I TEACH HER.

Your best bet is to become your own nutrition and health expert.  It’s ok to be the most knowledgeable person in the room (about preventative health and nutrition) when you are sitting in your doctor’s office, lol!!  No one will be a bigger advocate for your health and wellness than YOU!  And no one will know what advice best suits you, except YOU.  When you try nutrition advice out on yourself and you see how it affects your health markers, you become the expert of YOU.

So please, don’t rely on life saving advice from a person who is not in a position to give it.

Be happy and healthy!