Nutrition wasn't a major feature of Dr Liz Giles' (BA, MA (Cantab), MBChB, MRCOphth, GDipION) medical training; but it would become a key part of her practice. Dr Giles tells us how her interest in diet and health led to ION's Graduate Diploma in Integrative Functional Nutrition and a different career path in healthcare. 

How did you become interested in nutrition?

“I was lucky that my mum was interested in nutrition so it’s importance was part of my life as a child. I remember her bringing a juicer back from a family holiday to the US 40 years ago and making carrot, apple and beetroot juice for us as children.

“Nutrition wasn't a major feature of my early medical training but I became attuned to the importance of it again while doing some neurodevelopmental training in Australia in 2012, when some of my wonderful course colleagues brought it back to the forefront of my attention. Applying what they were telling me to my own family brought really significant benefits and I was hooked from then.”

How do you incorporate nutrition into your practice?

“I am currently practising exclusively nutrition and aim to integrate this with my neurodevelopmental work in the future.”

Why did you choose ION’s Graduate Diploma in Integrative Functional Nutrition?

“The ION Graduate Diploma appealed to me for a number of reasons. It acknowledged my previous training, so I was able to gain a university-accredited qualification in one year, rather than undertaking a longer course not designed for existing healthcare professionals. It was also available for remote learning, which made it feasible around my family and work commitments.”

What was your favourite part of the ION experience?

“I was part of the first full time Graduate Diploma cohort. We were a small group but this enabled us to build strong connections, support each other and we remain in contact after graduating. Between us we have a diverse range of healthcare experience and I really value this group.”

How has the course changed you as a practitioner?

“The course has enabled me to join NatureDoc, an established group of naturopaths and nutritional therapists specialising in children’s and women’s health headed up by the amazing Lucinda Miller. Lucinda has many years of experience in working with neurodiverse children and so the course has opened up the invaluable opportunity for me to work with and be mentored by her.”

You specialise in neurodiversity – can you tell us what this means and why it became an area of interest?

“Neurodiversity refers to anyone for whom development of the nervous system has not followed a typical course. It covers a wide range of conditions and diagnoses including but not limited to dyslexia, developmental coordination, sensory processing, attention deficit and autism spectrum disorders. I developed an interest in brain development early in my medical training and completed a Masters in Experimental Psychology as well as lecturing Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology for undergraduate university students. I went on to specialise in Ophthalmology which further developed my interest in vision and the brain.

“When one of my own children began to experience difficulties with learning, I turned my attention and previous knowledge to seek practical approaches to support neurodevelopment. Neurodiverse children can be affected by a range of underlying imbalances in their body and brain biochemistry, and I learned first hand that progress happens much more quickly for them when these imbalances are addressed and nutrition is optimised. If you can offer the right support at a young age. It really can alter the trajectory of their lives for the better, and there are few things more rewarding than helping young people achieve their full potential.”

Do you have a particular food philosophy?

“I wouldn't say I have a particular philosophy. I've found it is really important that food is enjoyable and delicious, in order to engage children and maintain their engagement. I’ve enjoyed seeing my own children develop an interest in food, where it comes from and how to cook it, and hope that my interest in nutrition and cooking from scratch has fostered that - although their love of YouTube cooking videos has played a significant role in them learning to cook and I am now frequently told I’m not doing it right. If I can help some of my clients develop knowledge and interest in cooking from scratch, that would be amazing.”

What would you say to other medical practitioners who have an interest in nutrition?

“Go for it. Our healthcare systems are overwhelmed by people suffering from chronic conditions, and nutrition offers a real avenue to support them to improve their health. The amount of emerging nutritional research is vast and awareness is growing. However, the number and diversity of diet trends is confusing and overwhelming for many people, so to be able to help them is rewarding. I am really enjoying my nutrition consultations. It is such a pleasure to have the time to fully explore and understand the background to a client's concerns. The range of additional testing that is available is also fascinating, and I am enjoying the challenge of understanding the emerging theory as well as applying it in a practical and appropriate way to support my clients.”

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