What Does Effective Nutritional Counseling Really Look Like?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Nutrition April 13, 2024

What Does Effective Nutritional Counseling Really Look Like?

Considered by many to be the father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Food is truly what fuels us, and not just physically either. No, food fuels our body, mind, and soul. Unfortunately, for some people, nutrition has been overshadowed by their struggles with issues of addiction and mental health. This is where nutritional counseling can really come in, save the day, and, ultimately, save lives.

Healing at the Cellular Level

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we believe in healing at the cellular level. But, what exactly does that mean? It means to heal the whole mind, body, and soul. Yes, it means to get the underlying root/core causes of our issues in order to heal physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Healing at the cellular level is healing with an interconnected focus. This means that one cannot heal one’s body without also healing the mind and vice versa. 

Healing at the cellular level also takes a very specific approach. It requires individualized mental health and addiction care rather than broad “one-size-fits-all” recovery plans. Healing at the cellular level also requires comprehensive mental health and addiction care. This means ensuring that clients have access to all of the latest Western modalities as well as all of the options for Eastern medicinal and holistic healing. Of course, healing at the cellular level is not possible without proper nutrition.

“Food Is Medicine”

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we hold true to the maxim that “Food is medicine.” This is why we have such an intent focus on making sure that all of our clients get the essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) that they need to recover.

While we do ensure that all nutrients are replenished via pharmaceutical-grade supplements (unique to our recovery center), we also ensure that these nutrients are acquired via a healthy and satiating diet. Also, that “satiating” aspect is crucial.

Nutrition for the body is greatly diminished if it doesn’t also include nutrition for the soul. This comes from getting nutrition from the foods that one loves and enjoys. Also, this is why we here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab ensure that each of our client’s dietary needs is met in a way that is satisfying and joyful. That is why our food is prepared and created by world-class chefs and uses organic and often local ingredients. This is also why we have such a focus on nutritional counseling.

Healing at the Cellular Level With Nutritional Counseling

Nutrition is essential for healthy living. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Good nutrition is essential in keeping current and future generations of Americans healthy across the lifespan… People with healthy eating patterns live longer and are at lower risk for serious health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. For people with chronic diseases, healthy eating can help manage these conditions and prevent complications.” This includes chronic diseases of addiction and mental illness.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we have some of the best-certified nutritionists and elite-licensed dieticians in the country. Our nutritional staff ensures that our clients’ dietary needs are met and that they learn the skills they need to meet their dietary needs long after they leave our recovery center.

What Does Effective Nutritional Counseling Really Look Like?

So, what exactly is nutritional counseling? According to the Journal of Clinical Medicine, “Nutrition counseling is a two-way interaction through which a patient and the member of the medical team interpret the results of a nutritional assessment, identify patient’s nutritional problems, needs, and goals, discuss ways to meet these goals and agree on future steps and the frequency of monitoring. It aims to help patients understand important information about the impact of nutrition on their health status and focuses on practical measures to cover nutritional needs. Moreover, it strengthens the importance of behavioral change.”

So, what exactly does effective nutritional counseling look like? The primary answer is that it should look “hands-on.” Nutritional counseling should be a very active process. It should constantly and consistently show clients the foods that will help them recover and maintain a healthy lifestyle while also teaching them how to prepare those foods.

Effective nutrition counseling will also focus on the lack of nutrition that one’s addiction and/or mental illness has caused. Many people don’t realize just how diminished their nutrient levels are due to addiction. According to the peer-reviewed journal Alcohol, Clinical, and Experimental Research, “Chronic alcoholic patients are frequently deficient in one or more vitamins. The deficiencies commonly involve folate, vitamin B6, thiamine, and vitamin A. Although inadequate dietary intake is a major cause of vitamin deficiency, other possible mechanisms may also be involved. Alcoholism can affect the absorption, storage, metabolism, and activation of many of these vitamins.” 

These nutrients must be replenished. Now, the good news is that, in doing so, a multitude of benefits can arise.

The Benefits of Nutritional Counseling

Nutritional counseling offers a myriad of benefits. These are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that can help people heal at the cellular level. The following are some (but certainly not all) of the benefits of nutritional therapy:

  • Physical benefits which include lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and reduced cardiovascular complications
  • Less potential for acquiring chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
  • More energy and an elevated mood
  • Lowered stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Elevated self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-respect
  • Improved body image
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Less potential for acquiring disordered eating or an eating disorder
  • Reduces cravings for alcohol or substances
  • Helps provide a longer and higher quality of life

Nutritional Counseling and Nutritional Therapy

A major part of nutritional counseling is the use of nutritional therapy. Now, many people have the misconception that nutritional therapy is all about what one should eat. However, it is also of paramount importance that one focuses on what one should not eat.

According to the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, “Nutritional Therapy uses food to prevent and reverse diseases that plague most western societies: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. For food to be therapeutic, it must be nutrient-dense, measured in part by the nutrients and anti-nutrients, contained in consumed foods. Nutrients are plant and animal sources providing macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat), micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, probiotics), and fiber,” and “Anti-Nutrients are food products that have no biological necessity.” Nutritional therapy is also about communicating the feelings that one has regarding food.

Many other means, methods, and modalities can help make this communication more accessible and possible. One exceptional modality for this is ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Nutritional Counseling and Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy

Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy is an ideal way to help people with some of the “blockages” to their emotions that they may not even know they are holding onto. Many times, these blockages can be associated with food and an individual’s relationship to food. This can be especially true for someone who is already finding relief and progressing from nutritional counseling. Adding ketamine-assisted psychotherapy can really push that progress to the next level.

Unfortunately, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy suffered the negative effects of many years of stigma. The good news is that, in recent years, more and more interest has come back to ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. One of the reasons for this is that studies continue to show many benefits from the treatment.

According to the Journal of Pain Research, “The use of Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) can potentially fulfill the unmet clinical need for an effective treatment for multiple complex and often comorbid pain, psychological, and substance use disorders. Ketamine’s demonstrated ability to produce antidepressant and anxiolytic effects likely interacts with the processes involved in psychotherapy, ideally as a conduit for rapid change, increasing treatment engagement and adherence, building the therapeutic alliance, and lowering defensiveness by providing reprieves from distressing symptomology while inducing transpersonal experiences at higher doses. Continued engagement in psychotherapy after ketamine administration may prolong the often-transient effects of ketamine…” Also, utilizing other modalities may increase the benefits of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Nutritional Counseling and Nature Immersion Therapy

Just as nutritional therapy can benefit from more neuroscientific therapies like ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, it can also benefit from experiential therapies. One ideal experiential therapy to add to nutritional therapy is nature immersion therapy.

Yes, nutritional therapy offers essential vitamin replenishment. However, one vitamin is best replenished by being outdoors and engaging with nature. This is the vitamin D that one gets from being out in the sunshine.

According to the peer-reviewed journal Issues in Mental Health Nursing, “Recently, vitamin D has been reported in the scientific and lay press as an important factor that may have significant health benefits in the prevention and the treatment of many chronic illnesses. Most individuals in this country have insufficient levels of vitamin D. This is also true for persons with depression as well as other mental disorders.” These vitamin D levels can be replenished with nature immersion therapy. However, this is not the only benefit.

Nature immersion therapy offers a myriad of benefits. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,  “[A]cross more than one hundred studies on nature/wildlife exposure, stress mitigation has been shown to be one of the most consistent and important psychological benefits [of nature immersion therapy]. Besides improvements to physical and psychological well-being, exposure to natural environments has been shown to bring about positive impacts on cognitive functioning.” Also, “While cognitive restoration and physiological well-being are the prominent and renowned benefits of nature exposure, there is one important construct that is often overlooked in environmental psychology research studies – that is, the human-nature relationship; also known as connectedness to nature (CN).”

“Connectedness” to nature can also be essential for nutritional therapy. This is especially true when that natural connection literally has to do with growing the food that one is going to be nourished by.

Nutritional Counseling and Horticulture Therapy

Horticulture has been something that has been used for thousands of years as a way of calming the mind and reducing tension in the body. However, in recent years, people have taken this reality a step further and incorporated horticulture into mental health and addiction recovery.

Horticulture therapy offers an abundance of benefits. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “People’s interactions with plants, through goal-orientated horticultural activities in the form of active gardening, as well as the passive appreciation of nature, could be therapeutic to people with mental disorders in many ways. First, horticulture could have emotional benefits, such as reducing stress, reducing psychiatric symptoms, stabilizing mood, and increasing the sense of tranquility, spirituality, and enjoyment. Second, it could help people to reduce fatigue and restore attention and cognitive ability.”

Also, there may be no better place to engage in horticulture therapy than at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab on Hawaii’s Big Island. Walking onto Exclusive Hawaii Rehab’s luxury 30-acre property, clients will find rows and rows of citrus and coconut trees, abundant guava bushes, packed pineapple patches, and overflowing vegetable boxes. These are all waiting to be cultivated so they can then bring local nourishment and unique dietary options to their menus.

Nutritional Counseling, Yoga, and Meditation

It is also very important that nutritional therapy be paired up with physical activity so the physical self can continue to heal and grow. One ideal physical activity to participate in for recovery is yoga

As with horticulture, yoga has been used for thousands of years as a way to quiet the mind and connect with an “Inner Resource.” Originally, this was solely for religious and spiritual purposes, but it has since moved into the realm of recovery.

Yoga offers an exceptional array of benefits. According to the International Journal of Yoga (IJOY), “Regular practice of yoga promotes strength, endurance, flexibility and facilitates characteristics of friendliness, compassion, and greater self-control while cultivating a sense of calmness and well-being. Sustained practice also leads to important outcomes such as changes in life perspective, self-awareness, and an improved sense of energy to live life fully and with genuine enjoyment. The practice of yoga produces a physiological state opposite to that of the flight-or-fight stress response and with that interruption in the stress response, a sense of balance and union between the mind and body can be achieved.”

Just as nutritional therapy can benefit from yoga, both yoga and nutritional therapy can benefit from meditation. Also, like ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, meditation can help create the mindset that people require to fully engage in active nutritional therapy. However, these are not the only benefits.

The benefits of meditation can be so vast and varied that it can be hard to put a finger on just how many there are. According to the International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda (AYU), “During the process of meditation, accumulated stresses are removed, energy is increased, and health is positively affected overall. Research has confirmed a myriad of health benefits associated with the practice of meditation. These include stress reduction, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, reduction in pain (both physical and psychological), improved memory, and increased efficiency.” 

Healing at the Cellular Level With Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

With nutritional therapy and a combination of the modalities discussed (which are just a small few of the ones offered at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab), one can truly begin to heal at the cellular level. Also, this is true, not just in the moment, but can be for a lifetime to come.

Hippocrates is also to have famously said, “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” This is what life and recovery are all about – finding a sacred balance, and Exclusive Hawaii Rehab is the perfect place to find it.

Many people don’t realize the immense importance of nutrition for recovery. Also, many people struggling with active addiction are very nutrient-deprived and need full replenishment if they are to recover at the cellular level. Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we believe in the maxim, “Food is medicine,” which is why we employ some of the best nutritional counselors in the country. If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with issues of addiction, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders, we can help you heal at the cellular level. For more information about what good nutritional counseling looks like, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.