Nutrition Awareness Month: Integrative Health & Nutrition Services

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By Jandra Mueller, DPT, MS, PHRC Encinitas


March is Nutrition Awareness Month and we’d love to share the services we offer here at PHRC and talk about why nutrition is so important, especially for those with pelvic health conditions. 


What is Integrative Health and Nutrition? 


In contrast to conventional medicine, which places emphasis on treating a disease, integrative practitioners focus on the whole person, getting to the root cause of people’s symptoms and optimizing health. An example of this as it relates to gut health and nutrition is treating IBS. A conventional doctor may focus on prescription and over-the-counter medications to help ease someone’s symptoms.. More often than not patients report this approach ‘did not help’. In contrast, an integrative practitioner may focus on why that person is having issues to begin with – high stress levels, poor activity levels, inadequate nutrient intake and utilization, etc. While these practitioners may work together, the emphasis and view of treatment is slightly varied. 


In our society, diets can consume many people’s lives and many are left so confused as to what is THE right diet. We are bombarded by the media about so many diets every day, and are so consumed by health that it is often overwhelming finding out accurate information. Some questions that are extremely common are: 


  • Why are there so many conflicting diets, which one is the right diet?
  • I can’t eat this food, it’s bad, but it seems healthy? 
  • Why do I feel so terrible, but I eat so healthy?


The answer is, there is no “right” diet for any one person. There are diets that can be extremely beneficial for one person, and terrible for the next person. A diet or way of eating that once served you, may now make you feel awful. This is where personalized nutrition is key, and working with a provider that understands this is often the best place to start. Food is complex and is impacted by many factors including the quality of the food, our genetics, our stress levels and the way we feel about food, our upbringing around food, society and media, cultural influences, and a number of other factors. Food can provide our bodies with the nutrients we need to run the thousands of functions that are required of our cells every day. But it is not just what we are putting in our body, it is the thoughts and beliefs behind those choices, and the overall state of health we are currently in. Sometimes, you can be eating the highest quality, nutrient dense food, but your body is not able to extract the proper nutrients because of an underlying issue. This is where getting to the root cause and figuring out the foods that are best for you, is KEY to achieving optimal health. 


Our program


We are excited to offer nutritional services to our patients and are using this blog to explain more about the program. Working on optimal health takes time, it is not a quick fix to years of yo-yo dieting focused on weight loss. It is focused on finding what is right for you, now, and in the future, emphasizing behavior change, and reversing years of ‘what you thought was right,’ helping guide you to understand what makes you feel best. 


It is not designed to give you a protocol of exactly the same thing the next person gets, which is essentially what we are bombarded with on a daily basis from the media and society. The focus of these changes are emphasized to put you more in touch with your body so that you have the tools in the future to know what is right for you. There may be times where we use therapeutic diets that are evidence-based but are also customized to your needs. 


The program focuses on optimal health, not on weight loss. While weight loss may occur as a result, it is not promised nor is ever the focus. Instead, we optimize the foundations of health, and focus on ways to improve the diversity of food you are eating and improve your relationship with food. 


Foundations of health


This program is not just about the food you put in your body. It is about how food and other key lifestyle components can help you live your best life. In our program we may also discuss: 


  • Sleep
  • Healthy relationships
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Mental and spiritual health


Because we are complex beings, disruptions in any of these areas may have an impact on our overall health and thus may need to be addressed. When it comes specifically to food, I often refer to the hierarchy of food needs seen below.

Hierarchy of Food Pyramid

  • Enough food: Before jumping into any eating plan, it is important that first we build foundations and that you are actually getting enough food. This will often come before fine-tuning to be gluten-free, dairy-free, picking organic food, because you simply may not just be getting enough nutrients to maintain your body’s needs. 
  • Acceptable food: After the foundations are in place, we move onto more of your preferred foods or acceptable foods. This may be the gluten-free bread, or the fancy coconut yogurt you may prefer.
  • Reliable access to foods: This is important because the foods you like or prefer, may not be readily available all year long or you may have to source them from places where the quality goes down because they are harder to access, this is time where we need to change it up. 
  • Good tasting food: Now your cooking skills may be up, you’re used to eating on a regular schedule, you’re no longer skipping meals, now we become creative in making these choices better tasting to your palate, we get a bit more creative. 
  • Novel food: You may or may not be ready to try new foods, but when we are, we start adding in things you previously thought you hated, simply because they were poor quality, you did not know how to properly prepare or cook them, etc. 
  • Instrumental foods: Here is where we really start fine-tuning things. Is your food the BEST quality you can afford that is available to you, does it have minimal processing, is your fish the lowest mercury you can find or are there better alternatives?


Of course each person may be starting at a different baseline, and throughout your sessions, we discuss components of each of these categories and it isn’t always linear. However, if you are someone that is used to skipping meals simply because you do not know what to eat or choose so you choose nothing, we really have to build the foundation because that may have a greater impact than going straight to “whole paycheck” and spending all your cash on foods that just may go bad. 


PHRC’s Program: The Details


Many people are eager to jump into a new program that is intended to improve their health, but assessing your level of commitment and readiness is important. It is important to know that these things take time. Thus, you can expect that working together can easily be six months to a year, and not everyone is ready for that type of commitment. 


First Step: Discovery Call


We begin with a quick discovery call, where we talk about your goals and make sure we are a good fit for each other and I can answer any questions you may have. 


Nutritional Evaluation

Next comes the evaluation. This visit is primarily information gathering so that we can understand more about your current health condition, previous or co-existing health conditions, what works for you and doesn’t work for you, preferences, and any lab work you may have had done within the past few months that can give insight into how to best help you.. The next step is to generate a treatment plan or order more testing if we need it.


Getting Started

Next visit we discuss the plan and get started! Based on what we come up with, we start slow at what seems to be the biggest driving factor and come up with interventions that will help meet those goals. We start to see what works and what does not work for you, and make modifications as needed. Interventions that may be used include mindful eating techniques, food quality and selection, education about conditions, breaking down the science behind various diets, nervous system calming techniques, optimizing sleep schedules, meal planning, functional lab testing, and supplements. These changes are not given all at once, but will be introduced throughout the course of our time together. 


Follow-up Sessions

The frequency and duration will very much depend on the goals we set, and the complexity of your case. In the first few months, we have more frequent visits – every one to two weeks and the appointments are roughly 45 to 60 minutes. As things get in place, this will likely change in frequency and length of time of your session. You will always work one on one with me and will not be handed off to another provider to fulfill your treatment plan. 


For more information on our services, availability, and costs, please contact our Encinitas location at 760-487-5118. 


Are you unable to come see us in person? We offer virtual physical therapy appointments too!

Due to COVID-19, we understand people may prefer to utilize our services from their homes. We also understand that many people do not have access to pelvic floor physical therapy and we are here to help! The Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center is a multi-city company of highly trained and specialized pelvic floor physical therapists committed to helping people optimize their pelvic health and eliminate pelvic pain and dysfunction. We are here for you and ready to help, whether it is in-person or online. 

Virtual sessions are available with PHRC pelvic floor physical therapists via our video platform, Zoom, or via phone. For more information and to schedule, please visit our digital healthcare page.

In addition to virtual consultation with our physical therapists, we also offer integrative health services with Jandra Mueller, DPT, MS. Jandra is a pelvic floor physical therapist who also has her Master’s degree in Integrative Health and Nutrition. She offers services such as hormone testing via the DUTCH test, comprehensive stool testing for gastrointestinal health concerns, and integrative health coaching and meal planning. For more information about her services and to schedule, please visit our Integrative Health website page

PHRC is also offering individualized movement sessions, hosted by Karah Charette, DPT. Karah is a pelvic floor physical therapist at the Berkeley and San Francisco locations. She is certified in classical mat and reformer Pilates, as well as a registered 200 hour Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teacher. There are 30 min and 60 min sessions options where you can: (1) Consult on what type of Pilates or yoga class would be appropriate to participate in (2) Review ways to modify poses to fit your individual needs and (3) Create a synthesis of your home exercise program into a movement flow. To schedule a 1-on-1 appointment call us at (510) 922-9836

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