The question I am asked most often is "do you know any medical professionals that actually 'get it' (food allergies, celiac, etc)???" They are a rare find, aren't they? So I asked my colleague, Susan Engle of Nutrition Matters, to answer a few key questions. I've gotten to know Susan quite well. She was a guest speaker at the Going Gluten Free series put on by Food Sensitivity Resources. Susan is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to food allergies, intolerance, and sensitivities and enjoys helping this special population.
1. How did you become interested in the field of nutrition? I was always interested in health promotion and disease prevention. I started my professional career as a dental hygienist and took a nutrition course during my training for that. As soon as I graduated and started working I took another course in human nutrition. Eventually I went back to school to earn my degree in nutritional sciences and become a registered dietitian. I love food and eating and enjoy helping others discover delicious foods that nourish them and keep them healthy. (You can read more about Susan's background here.)
2. What has been your experience treating patients with food allergies, intolerance, sensitivities, and celiac disease? This is one of the most rewarding aspects of my practice as a registered dietitian and nutritionist. Often when I work with these patients and help them discover the foods they are reacting to they come back to me with big smiles and gifts of thanks. They are so thankful to be able to eat without painful consequences. People with food allergies/sensitivities/intolerances need to search for dietitians/nutritionists who specialize in this area so they can get good help. Unfortunately many traditionally trained medical personnel are not specialists in this area and don't know how to help.
3. What services to you offer to help people who have dietary restrictions? It depends on what is going on for them. For people who come to me with a new diagnosis of Celiac disease or single or even multiple food allergies, I can help them with meal planning to ensure a nutritionally adequate diet. I enjoy taking people through their local grocery store and helping them find foods they can eat safely. For people who come to me sure that something they eat is causing them health problems but they can't figure out what food or foods is causing the problem - I can help sleuth this out. If it is just one ingredient in foods, fructose or lectins for example, these are found in multiple foods. Most people are not aware of the foods that contain fructose or lectins. Because I am familiar with this, I can look at a 2 week food and symptom diary and identify the food(s) that are causing the problem. My specialty is food and nutrition so I can help people find tasty foods that meet their food allergy/sensitivity needs. For example, we will talk about how to choose foods when out of the home, either on the run or at a restaurant. We talk about how to choose a variety of foods in order to provide the most nutrition for the diet. I make suggestions for what kind of vitamin and mineral supplements to take. For people who are still experiencing symptoms after a few months on the diet, I can help them problem solve what else might be going on - small bowel bacterial overgrowth? or other food allergies/sensitivities? lactose or fructose intolerance? inadvertent gluten exposure? Some people need help gaining healthy weight back, I can help with this. Reducing cross-contamination in the kitchen if there are other family members who consume gluten. These are a few of the services I can provide to people with food allergies/sensitivities.
4. How do you keep up with the latest research regarding food allergies/intolerance/sensitivities/celiac? I attend national conferences provided by nationally and internationally recognized experts on a regular basis. I teach continuing education courses to health professionals on these topics and so it is essential that I keep up to date with new research.
5. What are your thoughts about the current research going on in this field? It is very exciting. They are working on "curing" anaphylactic allergies, finding ways for people with celiac disease to tolerate small to moderate amounts of gluten, and learning more about food sensitivities and how to diagnose and treat them. I believe they will accomplish these goals and more given time.
6. What is the most useful advice you have for people new to dietary restrictions due to food allergy, intolerance, and/or sensitivities? Find out about the foods you CAN eat safely, search them out and enjoy them. Pay more attention to these foods than to the ones you need to avoid. Eating should be pleasurable even if you need to avoid some foods. Meet with a registered dietitian to ensure you are meeting your nutrient needs whenever you have to cut out a whole food group or a major source of an important nutrient (ex: milk products are our best source of calcium and Vitamin D).
To contact Susan, please click here.