Nutrition is an evolving discipline concerned with more than just food and nutrients. Although nutrients from food sustain life, nutrition is concerned with interactions between living organisms and food. Nutrition also includes psychosocial, cultural, spiritual, ecological, political and technological factors, all of which influence food choice.
Imagine what our ancestors ate for over 100,000 years, before even farming became commonplace. Since then, our genes have changed only about 0.05%. Yet how much has our diet changed! Whereas in the past the mainstay of the human diet contained a vast variety of fruit, berries, leaves, roots, nuts, fish, insects, birds and mammals, agriculture introduced grains and dairy products into our diet which now have replaced a lot of the 'nutrient dense' foods our ancestors relied on for good health. And only in the last 50 years has agriculture and the food industry relied on chemicals. Variety is now limited to what can be profitably produced commercially - a fraction of what we used to eat. And never before have people suffered from diet and lifestyle related diseases as they do now.
Therefore, nutrition plays a vital role in promoting health and wellbeing, the prevention of lifestyle diseases as well as in the treatment of many health conditions. Health improvement is not going to last if it is not based on sound nutrition. In order for our cells and organs (including our brain) to work optimally the right balance of macro- and micronutrients need to be present. (Starches/sugars, fats and proteins are termed macronutrients because the body needs a lot of them, while vitamins, minerals and other substances of which the body needs only small amounts are termed micronutrients.) All of these nutrients serve important functions in the physiological processes and biological actions within the body.
Although all of the macro- and micronutrients are essential to health and should be provided by sound nutrition, there may well be a need for supplementation in our modern day living. It can't be taken for granted any longer that our soils contain all the nutrients needed for optimal plant development and therefore optimal human nutrition. Stress in all its different forms uses up nutrients within the body faster than they can be supplied even with the best of diets. Genetic and lifestyle factors will influence the need for certain nutrients above the average requirements. Toxins in the environment need extra internal resources to be neutralised. We live with many electronic gadgets now which create 'electro-smog' - we don't know for certain yet what kind of effect this has long-term. Existing illnesses or tendencies towards certain health problems may require additional nutrient resources.
A naturopath or nutritionist will have the training and knowledge to understand the complexity of these influences and interactions (keeping in mind the unique requirements of each person) and will more likely to be able to prescribe on an individual basis the right diet and supplemental nutrients.
Updated: 24 November 2014